Refrigerated vans are very useful for a wide range of businesses, and you may have decided that your business could benefit from this facility. If you’re a DIY fan, or even an amateur mechanic, you might feel like you’re capable of adequately converting a standard light commercial vehicle into a refrigerated van. There are plenty of manufacturers of home refrigerated van conversion kits that are happy to tell you how easy it is. However, converting a van into a refrigerated van isn’t really a suitable DIY project. There are far too many things that can go wrong, and far too many variables to deal with for an amateur, especially if you are going to be using the refrigerated van to transport foodstuffs that are meant for human consumption. You should be even more cautious if you are planning to transport sensitive foods like meat, fish and dairy products. Some jobs are just best left to the professionals, and Glacier Vehicles offers a wide range of conversion services.
There are two systems that make up the refrigeration system in a refrigerated van, and they are both equally important. They are the insulation system, and the actual refrigeration mechanism. The cooling system works by trapping the heat energy that is inside the refrigerated van’s storage compartment, and expelling it into the outside atmosphere. The insulation stops any more heat from leaking in. Together they ensure that the temperature inside the refrigerated van drops to refrigeration conditions, ensuring safe transit for the foodstuffs or other products being transported.
The cooling system uses a network of pipes embedded in the roof of the refrigerated compartment to trap heat. This is known as the condenser. The pipes are filled with a special coolant fluid, which has been specially developed to suck up as much heat as possible. Once the fluid has absorbed heat, it is then transferred to the evaporator system, which is the apparatus that you can see sitting on the top of refrigerated vans. This mechanism cools the coolant fluid down, expelling all of the trapped heat into the atmosphere. It is then recalculated into the condenser for the process to begin again. The effective operation of this system is absolutely essential for the operation of the refrigerated van, and it must be very precisely designed and calibrated for the specific type of van it is installed in.
An alternative cooling system that is sometimes found in refrigerated vans is eutectic cooling. This uses heavy columns full of heat absorbing gel to absorb the heat in the insulated storage compartment. The columns are frozen overnight; using the mains electricity supply while it is running at an off-peak rate. They are then ready to absorb heat throughout the day. This system isn’t suitable for all refrigerated van uses, and the operation of the system is likely to be unsuitable for most small businesses. It’s a much more complex cooling solution than the standard method.
Of course the mechanical cooling system is only one element of the refrigerated van (click here to see more refrigerated van options). The other element is the insulation, a non-mechanical system that is no less important. The insulation is usually made of a high-density polymer foam. This foam is quite similar to Styrofoam, and could even be compared to the Styrofoam that you’d find in a take away coffee cup. However, the foam insulation used in a refrigerated van will be much thicker and much more durable. This insulation stops heat from entering the van. It’s a very poor conductor of heat, partly because of the many thousands of tiny bubbles of air that are embedded into the foam. This composition makes it very difficult for heat to permeate, and the thicker it is, the less heat will get in. The lowest possible temperature of the inside of the refrigerated van is mostly determined by the thickness of the insulation.
When the insulation is installed, the installation technicians are extremely careful to cover every last inch of the van’s loading bay interior with a thick layer of foam. This is because any gaps can cause heat from the outside atmosphere or the engine to get into the chilled compartment, rendering the entire cooling system ineffective.
Once the foam is installed, it is lined to create a hard, durable surface. This stops the insulation from being damaged by the loading and unloading process, and also means that spillages won’t get into the insulation where cleaning would be difficult.
There are two main types of lining used: wet lay and dry lay. Dry lay is a layer of hard, white plastic tiles that are arranged inside the vehicle. Wet lay involves a coating that is sprayed on wet, creating a completely impermeable, smooth and uniform surface as it dries. Most refrigerated van installation companies prefer the latter method. This is because the tiny gaps in between the dry lay tiles can often become a fertile breeding ground for mold and bacteria. This can be a huge issue, particularly when you are dealing with foodstuffs being delivered for public consumption.
As you can see, there are a huge number of delicate factors that you will have to take into account when converting a van into a refrigerated van. The wisest option is simply to let Glacier Vehicles take care of it. That way you know that you’ll get a refrigerated van that has a reliable, accurate and safe refrigeration system.