Refrigerated Van Guide

Refrigerated Van Guide

25 February 2022 | Kate Kozlowska | 16 min read

A refrigerated van is a vehicle designed to transport perishable goods at specific temperatures.  There is a wide range of industries that rely on refrigerated vans for their business operations, from butchers to fishmongers to caterers to pharmaceutical companies.

What types of refrigerated vehicles are there, and how do I choose which one is right for my business?

There are a number of refrigerated vehicles designed for the transport of perishable goods. Different vans are designed to generate different storage temperatures; there are also different shapes, sizes and functions. You can rest assured that our refrigerated van specialists will provide you with a refrigerated van deal that meets the specific needs of your business. 

There are 4 types of refrigerated vans

  • Insulation-only van
  • Chiller conversion van
  • Semi-freezer conversion van
  • Full-freezer conversion van

What is a refrigerated van conversion?

A 'conversion' van can be described as a regular van transformed into a refrigerated van. 

How thick is the van insulation and what is it made of?

The thickness of insulation varies. The most popular thickness of insulation is 50mm. However, some refrigerated vans that are designed to keep their temperatures cold, can require insulation as thick as 100mm. The insulation is made of polymer foam with an extremely high density. In order to be effective as an insulation material, the material contains millions of microscopic air bubbles.

Let's now discuss the different types of refrigerated vans in more detail.

Insulation-only van

Businesses transporting non-perishable goods commonly use insulation-only vans. Vans with insulation-only linings are basically that- their loading area is lined with 50mm thick insulation. This type of commercial van is ineffective for transporting perishable goods such as food or specific medicines since it lacks refrigeration.

Chiller conversion van

These vans have the same 50mm thick insulation lining as the insulation-only vans, but on top of that, they also have a chill refrigerator. As a result, chiller vans can maintain temperatures between 0°C and -8°C, which makes them the most popular refrigerated van leasing choice for a variety of businesses.

Semi-freezer conversion van

Standard chiller conversion vans will not suffice if you need to transport frozen goods. You need a vehicle that can operate at lower temperatures and that's the job for a semi-freezer van. Semi-freezer conversion vans have thicker, 75mm insulation in the cargo area, which allows them to maintain temperatures as low as -15°C.

Full-freezer conversion van

Last but not least, full-freezer conversion vans use 75 mm of insulation, similar to those in semi-freezers, along with a reverse cycle or hot gas defrosting mechanism. For enhanced temperature retention at depths of up to -20°C, these freezer vans feature reinforced side and rear doors.

How does the refrigerated van work?

The refrigeration system operates from a power source separate from the engine or uses carbon dioxide as a cooling agent. There are three major components of a refrigeration system:

Condenser: The condenser of the refrigeration unit converts hot gas into liquid refrigerant.

Evaporator: Once the liquid refrigerant has served its purpose, it is evaporated in this part of the refrigeration unit, allowing the cycle to continue.

Compressor: A compressor is the heart of the refrigeration system. It pushes the refrigerant from the evaporator to the compressor. As each element of the refrigeration system works together, it removes heat from inside the vehicle, so the product can remain at the required temperature. 

Is the overnight standby function available on refrigerated vans?

Electric standby add-ons can be utilised by those customers who wish to store their goods in the van overnight. If the schedule changes unexpectedly or delivery is delayed, having this feature can be very useful.

Electrical standby refrigeration is a system that relies on an external power source to maintain the temperature inside the storage unit or pre-cool the cargo before loading the goods. This can reduce the amount of energy used by the vehicle to generate the desired temperature, and is also more friendly to the environment. 

What temperatures can be achieved and how will I know what temperature my refrigerated van is at?

There is a wide range of vehicle types for a variety of purposes within the cold supply industry, as described above. Temperature ranges for the four types of vans are as follows:

  • Insulation-only vans keep storage areas 'cooler' in the summer months, but because they only come with a 55mm thick insulation layer, the temperature depends on external conditions and cannot be guaranteed.
  • Chiller conversion van can achieve temperatures as low as -8°C due to the combination of 55m thick insulation and a chill refrigerator.
  • Semi-freezer conversions increase the insulation to 75mm with the coldest achievable temperature of -15°C.
  • A full-freezer conversion van combines insulation of 75mm with reverse cycle or hot gas defrosting, reinforced side and rear doors and can reach temperatures as low as -20°C. 

These are the three classes:

Class A: Refrigerated vans equipped with a cooling system capable of maintaining a temperature range of +12°C to 0°C.

Class B: Refrigerated van equipped with a cooling system that enables a storage temperature to be set between +12°C and -10°C.

Class C: Refrigerated van with a cooling system and adjustable storage temperatures, between +12°C and -20°C.

There are temperature readers fitted to all refrigerated vehicles in order to display the temperature of the storage unit, so you know what temperature your refrigerated van is at at all times.   

Are your vans available with dual compartments?

A refrigerated van with dual-zone automatic climate control allows two separate sections to maintain different temperatures. When businesses transport various perishable goods, this is especially relevant. Since our refrigerated van leasing deals can be customized to your specific needs, nothing is impossible. We'd be happy to discuss this with you to find the right vehicle for your needs.

Is it possible to tow a trailer with a refrigerated van?

Generally, yes. We can add a towbar to most of our refrigerated van deals, allowing you to tow additional goods. Be sure to ask when you contact us for a quote. 

Do you offer additional services for fridge van leasing?

We do, indeed! Since most of our refrigerated van leasing clients are in the foodservice industry, we know their needs very well. Our customers can add a range of services and extras to any van leasing deal to make the whole refrigerated van leasing process easier. Our goal is to deliver your vehicle exactly the way you need it to be.   Upon your request, we can include:

Shelving and racking

We recommend adding shelving and racking not only to ensure that your van is well organised and looks professional on the job but also to protect your load while on the road. 

Strip curtains and partitions

During loading and unloading, this will help maintain the van's interior temperature.

‘Wet Load’ or ‘Slip Resistant’ floors

This will ensure operator safety and load stability by keeping the floor of the van free of excess moisture and other hazards.

Signwriting 

We offer complete vehicle wrapping and signwriting services, and you can spread the cost over the term of the agreement.

How do I look after my refrigerated van?

To keep your van in top condition, follow these tips:

Maintain it regularly

Maintaining the oil and coolant level of your refrigerated vehicle on a regular basis, as well as keeping your oil clean, is vital to ensuring that it runs smoothly at all times. To ensure optimal performance, you should change the oil approximately every 3,000 miles. As compared to standard vehicles, refrigerated vans are more vulnerable to dust, dirt, and moisture which can affect their ability to maintain a consistent temperature in the load area. Check the refrigeration unit for contamination during regular tune-ups. Contaminated units also can fail to maintain the desired temperature.

Have regular expert inspections

Get your vehicle checked out by an expert mechanic on a regular basis. In general, you can drive over 100,000 miles without an inspection if you have a brand new or fairly new van. However, this all depends on different factors such as driving conditions. Regular checks are recommended around every 25,000 miles if you've been driving in particularly tough conditions.

As with any vehicle, it is important to have regular maintenance done to keep it in good working condition. A mechanic is the best person to spot minor problems that could advance over time if not rectified soon enough. Maintenance is crucial to keeping your commercial van running optimally.

Don't forget that your funder can keep your fridge van in perfect working order for a small additional fee that is added to your monthly rent if you opt for a lease agreement with full vehicle maintenance.

Check your vehicle before each trip

This may seem like too much hassle, but we feel it is very important to check your vehicle before every trip so everything is running properly. The last thing anyone wants during delivery is a problem with a loaded van that could've been avoided if it had been checked before loading and leaving. Here are some tips:

  • Clean the load area to avoid goods contamination
  • Look for cracks in the walls that could affect the temperature 
  • Check the locks and seals on the doors
  • Make sure the temperature is set correctly
  • Make sure the drains are clear
  • Check the oil and coolant levels

Keep the storage area clean at all times

Contamination must be avoided at all costs. Whenever food products are transported, it is crucial to thoroughly clean all surfaces of the load space after every trip, especially when transporting raw goods such as meat. The same principle applies for preventing cross-contamination of ingredients that are known food allergens, which should be taken into account every single time.

Don't delay check-ups

Does your refrigerated van take longer to cool down than usual? Does it make strange noises? When you notice anything out of the ordinary in your chiller van's performance, take it to an experienced mechanic as soon as possible to get it checked. You should always be aware of any changes from standard performance and warning signs of a potential breakdown, and address these issues before it's too late.

What's better: buying, hiring or leasing a refrigerated van?

There are many businesses that aren't even aware that they can lease temperature-controlled vans. Here are a few things to consider when looking into this option for your company:

How much can you spend? 

As long as you have the money, you could purchase a refrigerated van. If you are starting a business, hiring is probably your most sensible option. This is because you can hire the refrigerated van on a rolling basis but bear in mind this would be more expensive in the long run. Leasing makes sense for many reasons. It does not require a lot of money to be spent all at once; just an initial rental followed by equal monthly rentals. Furthermore, the cost of the refrigerated van conversion is included in the monthly rental and spread out over the term of the agreement. You can also customise the van to your specifications. If you choose full vehicle maintenance, you won't have to worry about anything else. When the agreement is up, you return the van and are free to order a new one. Alternatively, you can choose a leasing agreement with a purchase option, such as Business Hire Purchase

How long do you need the refrigerated van for?

 For those looking for a short-term solution, renting is a viable option. If you plan on using your refrigerated van frequently, leasing it for a longer period of time will be more cost-effective for you. CVC offers 2- to 5-year refrigerated van deals, with the longest term typically offering the best value. 

Specifications

If you buy a refrigerated van that matches your current specifications, but your operation outgrows them after some time, then selling the van is inevitable and most likely for a loss. If you work in a fast-paced industry, leasing or renting could be a more viable option.

 

The process of choosing a refrigerated van for your business might be straightforward when you're already familiar with the industry. However, if you are brand-new to this, it might be a bit overwhelming. We hope this article brought you up to speed, but if there is anything else you're unsure of, please contact us. We have knowledgeable refrigerated van specialists on hand to guide you and help you find the best fridge van deal. We can convert almost every small, medium, and large van into a chiller, freezer, and fridge-freezer van.

If you have a preference for an exact model, we will customise the van to fit your exact needs. Give us a call on 01424 863456 or contact us today.

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