If you’re reading this, you probably already know that refrigerated containers are your business’ best friend when it comes to transporting and storing temperature-and-humidity-sensitive goods.
Commercial refrigeration units remain an ideal solution for many companies due to their great reliability and cost-effectiveness. However, they could turn into an expensive liability if misused and packed inefficiently.
Packing a refrigeration unit is known as stuffing. One of the first misconceptions in this context is that stuffing means cramming your unit without room for breathing. In fact, the most important factor to consider when loading a container is airflow. The only way containers function optimally and without any damage to your products is if the air is able to flow liberally.
Fun Fact: stuffing in this context refers to the skill or art of packing a refrigeration unit to maximum optimal capacity. This is opposed to shoving, cramming or forcefully filling something in.
How do we maximise storage whilst ensuring good airflow?
The first thing that influences how storage takes place is your product. Each type of product will require a suitable type of packaging. The type of packaging will tell you what your airflow requirements are.
For example, pre-chilled, blast frozen goods require sealed packaging where air circulates around the packages and not through them. In this case, the circulating air has a temperature which is higher than that of the frozen produce. Therefore, if air did circulate through the packages, heat is transferred to the goods directly and will defrost them quickly.
On the other hand, refrigerated or blast chilled produce like fresh fruit and veg release respiratory heat, which must be carried away to maintain the required temperature. This necessitates an airflow which circulates through the packages.
When it comes to storage andstowage, there are generally two cargo loading patterns to consider, block stowage and palletised stowage.
This is a common method of loading by which goods are stowed securely onto a pallet. Mainly used in the food & drink, catering, medical and pharmaceutical industries. For example, fresh, chilled produce like fruit and veg are usually loaded via this method.
The weight of the produce is supported by the pallet, so it’s vital to ensure that the boxes’ corners are aligned with the pallet’s corners. This is to avoid imbalances, packages getting squashed/damaged and things falling over.
Heat must also be carried away to maintain the desired temperatures and avoid spoilage. So, air holes in the boxes need to be aligned to support easy, free airflow through the packages and produce.
As hot air rises by virtue of physics and nature, the last thing you need is hot air being trapped in one of your packages due to the misalignment of air holes.
This is another common method of loading which ensures that goods being delivered to a specific destination are stowed together.
It’s often used for non-palletised goods, i.e. loose goods with the aim of speeding up off-loading whilst minimising unnecessary movement and disturbance of other goods within the same container.
Refrigerated Container Storage Tips
Regardless of the type of produce you’re working with or the type of loading you choose; you must ensure that the air within your refrigerated container is always circulating the way it should be:
- Never load beyond the edge of the T-floor to help ensure an even airflow.
- If you don’t have enough cargo to fill up the T-floor, resort to using a filler or dunnage to cover vacant spaces on the floor as well as between pallets.
- Never load your products beyond the load line of your container. Again, containers are designed to have enough air space above the cargo so that air can flow freely back to the refrigeration unit. Blocking this space means hot air can get trapped.
- Avoid packing too closely to the container walls as air might not flow around your packages sufficiently or effectively.
- Avoid pre-cooling your container. This may seem like a less-obvious thing to avoid; however, when a pre-cooled reefer is opened to load cargo, the warmer external air can cause condensation, which can damage your boxes and potentially the goods.
For more information about our refrigerated containers, best practices and temperature-controlled solutions, contact our expert cold storage team today.