Food truck owners in Northern climates are rejoicing. Spring is here and with that means increased foot traffic and nice weather. At the same time it also means higher temperatures inside their food truck kitchens. Because of this fact, more vendors will be using their air conditioning units just to keep their truck kitchens bearable to work in.
The typical food truck air conditioner is a fairly simple device that transfers heat from the inside of the truck to outside. As anyone who has worked in any commercial kitchen knows…the hotter it gets, the tougher it is to work in that environment. With that said, this simple piece of equipment can help keep a food truck’s kitchen from reaching above 100 degrees.
So how do you keep yours working? There is very little maintenance involved with a food truck air conditioner but it is important that you take the steps necessary to prevent any problems and keep your kitchen as cool as possible.
Keep Filter Clean
The process of cooling the interior air requires that it passes through a coil to remove the heat and is then returned. The only protection to prevent the coil becoming dirty and clogged is the interior filter so it is extremely important to keep the filter clean. Some filters need to be replaced with an exact match while others are made of a common filter material that can be cut to fit.
Check Thermostat Location
Poor thermostat can create cooling problems for your truck. A bad location cans cause the interior temperature to become too hot, too cold, or cause frequent cycling of the air conditioner. If your thermostat is in the direct sun, directly below the air distribution you will need to take measures to correct this condition.
Check Installation Bolts
Most rooftop air conditioners are secured from the interior of the truck using 3 or 4 bolts that go through the interior ceiling assembly and pull down on the upper unit which “sandwich” the A/C onto the roof. The upper unit has a 1″ thick foam gasket that gets compressed to about 1/2″ against the food truck´s roof during installation and prevents water from intruding.
A common problem comes from bolts that either weren´t properly tightened by the builder or have become loose from the vibration of travel. It´s a good idea to check these bolts during every filter cleaning. The bolts should be snug BUT NOT OVER TIGHTENED. If the bolts are over tightened, the gasket can become over-compressed and cause the drain holes on the bottom of the AC to rest directly on the roof of your truck. This can cause the drain pan to drain too slowly and water to overflow into your kitchen.
Troubleshooting Your Food Truck Air Conditioner
A/C Not operating – 1) Verify power from the generator by checking any wall outlet for 110v. 2) Check the AC breaker in the truck’s electrical breaker panel. 3) Check for a blown12v fuse in your fuse panel. Although the air conditioner operates on 110 volt, the electronics that operate the thermostat and other functions operate on 12 volt and are required for operation.
AC hums but no cold air blowing out – 1) The compressor is running and the fan is not which would indicate the fan motor is bad or 2) it may have insects that have gotten inside and caused problems. 3) The coils have iced up not allowing the air to pass through.
AC keeps humming after it is turned off – This is an indication of a thermostat or electronic control problem that will require a technician to diagnose.
AC runs but won´t cool – There are several possibilities here. It could be that the air conditioner cannot keep up with the outside temperatures. The easiest way to verify proper cooling would be to run for 20 minutes and then test the temperature of the intake air at the filter and then test the outgoing temperature at the closest outlet to the air conditioner. There should be a temperature difference of 18-22 degrees. If there is, the air conditioner is working as hard as it can.
If your food truck doesn’t have a/c, check out this article on how you can stay cool: Keeping Cool in Your Food Truck without AC