Build your own walk-in cooler?

Fundybayfarm(z5westernN.S.)September 16, 2007

Hi Everyone,

For those of you who have taken a corner of your barn, or some building, and built your own walk-in cooler, I would love to have some suggestions on what materials are needed, and also how efficient these are to run. I am at the point in my business where a cooler would be very beneficial for holding my flowers a bit longer. Especially in-between market days and also for florists. I find when all the lilies are coming in, that's when the heat hits and I just watch all those beautiful lilies blow open in the field. It seems the hottest, muggiest weather hits when I would prefer it didn't. Good for the annuals, not so good for the lilies.

I'd like to build this thing right the first time around, so would appreciate some suggestions from those of you who have been using one for a while. Thanks very much, and I hope all of you have had a great season, and are still cutting!


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Go to this farm site
and read about CoolBot in the "Innovations" listing. The site containsdetails on room size, insulation thickness, etc.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 9:32AM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

The marketfarming listserve has lots of info in the archives about building your own. But, I went with a used walk-in this year! The "cooler guy" had the best advice...stake out your spot (i.e. size you want) and put buckets in it, leaving room to walk and room for the thickness of the walls and concrete pad). I had thought 8' x 10' would have been sufficient! I'm so happy I went with a 10' x 12' instead (9' tall with the compressor on top)! I fill it up...five buckets of sunflowers take up lots of room!

I think a good refrigeration person can really help. Coolers are designed for different applications! Flowers like a bit of humidity...soda/beer do not! So, specifying flowers is key!

The cost of this cooler was approximately 50% of the cost of a new one, including a roof and concrete.

I can now pick lilies as needed, and other filler flowers and have them when I need them instead of "losing them" in the field when I don't have time to pick them or sell them!

Another thought - look for a used floral cooler from flower shops closing...I also have a small two door Bush floral cooler...which has saved me for a long time...I use it now for "short" stuff and wedding/special order flowers!

Good luck,

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 1:52PM
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Hi Wendy: I am interested in your new cooler as I am in the planning process myself. What did your cooler guy do about the humidity issue for your cooler? SusanM

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 1:58PM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

He installed a special coil that generates more "humidity" - on hot days, it fills up a 5-gallon bucket! The fans also need to be really good! I found one had quit and boy did the statice get mold in about 4 days...and it shouldn't have! We also have muliple thermometers throughout the cooler to monitor the temperature.

I now am figuring out the best shelving arrangements/configurations!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 2:40PM
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That was excellant advise. I would not have thought to take buckets and figure out the size. Plus, you eliminated my thoughts of going to the pepsi plant to find out about those coolers. Thanks very much. Do you mind me asking how much it costs you to run your cooler for the summer? It sounds like it will cost a lot to do it right, with the cement floor and all, but we do loose a lot of flowers without it. At what temperature do you keep the cooler? Thanks for all your help,

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 6:21AM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

Cheryl - I try to keep it at 38...but its warmer near the door! I think - I don't know for sure, since we don't have a separate power meter - that the cost is about $50/month to run the cooler. New coolers were around $9500 without installation, concrete, electricity. I spent around 50% of that. But - do check ebay, capital press, etc. and floral shops for used floral coolers. My 2-door cooler that I purchased 5 years ago is great and has been sufficient up until last year!
Good luck,

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 11:46AM
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Thanks very much for all the information, it sounds like you saved a lot of money and have a very nice cooler.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 6:15AM
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Wendy, I wanted to ask you what your cooler walls are made of. Did you line the inside with melamine or some other water proof material? Also, did you use one of those Coolbot things? Thanks, Kat

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 8:12PM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

Kat - I didn't build mine...found a great refrigeration guy (from Salem) who has lots of used coolers. He had a 9' model (gave me the extra panels too for "when I need to expand!") So, the inside walls are lined in aluminum I think. Now, I'll need to take a picture for you! I never did...sorry about that. It looks better now that our 3' of snow is almost gone! Glad we put a roof on it after that is 3' wider!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 12:23AM
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bfff_tx(z8b TX)

This is what I did. I checked into used everywhere I could think of and in the end, I gave up, it was frustrating and disheartening. I ended up buying brand new in April of 2007 from a Tx company on the internet. They gave me customer references that checked out great so I got a 8'x10'x7'.6"H floral cooler with a outdoor rated penthouse refrigeration unit. I also planned it out on the floor as Wendy described.
My hubby and a friend put it together for me in less than a day and hubby hooked it up to the power. It didn't cool.....
Had a refrigeration tech out here in two days, he fixed it (nothing major, freon leak) under warranty. Worked like a charm every since. Runs at 38 with 75-80% humidity.
Total cost, free delivery & ethylene filter = $4,180.00
BARGAIN. It costs approx $50/month to run.

It does sweat (moisture on concrete), one of the joys of the texas climate

Penthouse refrigeration Unit on top of cooler

Ethylene Filter

* Wendy - Stainless Restaurant Cart with adjustable shelves

Cinder blocks and planks - gives you two levels for buckets. The floor and the plank.

So I recommend to anyone looking for a cooler, to check these guys out. They have a wealth of info on their home page too.
Cheers Kim
Billabong Fresh Flower Farm

Here is a link that might be useful: Walk - In Floral Coolers

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 2:46PM
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Kim, if you get the odd sensation of a kind of creeping green feeling coming your way, it's me, being very envious of your cooler! Ooo, I would love one like yours. Beautifully organised too. Thanks for the link. Kat

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 10:44PM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

Kim - very nice! I like it in your shed too! We had to build a roof for ours...but glad we did, with the winter we've had!
I learned something from the site you gave..about ethylene gas filter...I don't have that! I'm going to be asking though. I know about ethylene and not storing fruit, etc. in the cooler when flowers are in it, but didn't realize there was a specific filter!

Very nice!!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 12:53AM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

Cheryl, Kim, Kat - and everyone...finally had a chance to get pictures taken, when it wasn't too messy! I have shelves, but just don't have them in the cooler yet. The cooler is 10 x 12 x 9' tall. I still don't have the lights installed, didn't get them until right before it need to get that done and fill in around the edges with more rock.
Side view of cooler

Front of cooler
href="¤t=IMG_3238.jpg"; target="_blank">
Inside w/dahlias and apples!

Water bucket-fills up on hot days!

(sorry about the sideways pics...I couldn't get them to stay rotated and posted that way!)

The "cooler guy" still needs to finish the inside bottom...he was unable to come back last fall and I had it full anyway!
Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 8:03PM
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Hi Wendy, great cooler! We have just purchased a new piece of land and are busy clearing for the market garden and the floral cooler is going to be incorporated into the basement of the house, (yet to be built of course!) but I am beginning to think that a free standing one outside is perhaps a better way to go. Access to the basement from the outside is going to be easy and there will be a workroom also so maybe inside is better, any thoughts? Tks Kat

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 12:34PM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

Kat -
My two cents...I'd love to have the cooler in a shed structure like Kim's. I'd reserve basement space for starting seeds/plants - since more than likely it will not freeze in that location! I make a mess all the time and would hate to add that to what we already track into our house! We did ours freestanding because our "barn/shed" wasn't big enough or structurally able to support it. Two years ago I actually looked at barn/shed plans and had planned to incorporate a walk-in cooler near an entrance to the shed from the field. But...that type of structure was more than my budget...some day.... :)

Hope that two cents is helpful!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 1:35PM
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Wendy, two cents is always worth so much more! Do you have a work space near your cooler where you do your bouquets and preparation? I am trying to keep everything located within comfortable manoevering distance. Keep adding the two cents, please. Thanks, Kat

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 1:15PM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

Kat - I'll try to get a picture this weekend. My "barn" is less than 10' from the cooler. I do have to have my door opens the wrong way from the barn..ties up space and takes more steps...not a good thing when Im tired! Have a great weekend.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2008 at 12:06AM
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We bought a florist building and have the flower cooler equipment - we will sell the compressor and two chiller coil units (they are virtually new and in terrific shape - $15,000 new) for $3000. We will include two heavy, insulated cooler doors and two additional coil units. Located in Charlottesville VA - must pick up!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 11:17AM
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flower_farmer(5/6 MI)


Contact Judy or Linda at the attached link. Flower farmers belong to this organization. There are several in your area. The directors of ASCFG will most likely post the information on the Bulletin Board to let growers know about this super deal.

Here is a link that might be useful: ASCFG Contact Information

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 4:58PM
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I have 2 very heavy antique wooden/insulated cooler doors and frames for sale with 2 square antique cooler windows and frames & a compressor. $4000 obo--can be purchased seperately---Manitowoc, WI. must pick up or arrange for shipment.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 8:59PM
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I have a walk-in, display cooler for sale--nice, works great(with compressor)--without floor(but so easy to build)--$2000 o.b.o.-you can see it at the Sheboygan,WI. craigslist--under business--(have moved my location and was not able to use such a large cooler :))

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 11:59AM
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