A recent post on our social media accounts prompted many questions about our walk-in freezer - the Trusty Blue Bell.
That’s right, in a former life, it was a Blue Bell freezer truck body, and two years ago it found a new purpose in life here at the ranch. In place of a traditional evaporator, these freezers are built with "Cold Plates." Cold plates are heavy steel plates with refrigerant coils running through them to create a large heat sink. During the night, the trucks are plugged in to charge the cold plates and bring them down to -20 degrees. This allows the trucks to drive around town all day long while keeping the ice cream frozen.
However, after several years of service, they begin to lose their efficiency and struggle to keep the ice cream frozen during delivery routes. At this point, Blue Bell must retire the vehicle. A good market exists for the truck, but few folks want to deal with the freezer body, so Blue Bell takes the body off the truck and sells them cheaply. We bought ours for $1,500!
As we leave them plugged in all the time, the reduced efficiency is of minor importance. However, after two years of continuous operation, it had difficulty maintaining temperatures below zero due to ice buildup on the cold plates. Ice and frost can act as insulators, and even though I occasionally scraped off what I could, there was still a substantial amount of ice covering the plates.
Since our inventory was very low, I decided it was time to do a defrost and a deep clean. We packed up all of the frozen meat into a few freezer chests, opened the doors, and installed some fans. It took 36 hours for all of the ice in the freezer to melt. After having pressure washed the inside, we reinstalled fans to dry it out. The whole ordeal took 3 days, but now the Blue Bell is once again operating at peak performance.
I still tremble thinking about the day we brought it home. Lifting it off the trailer and into its permanent location was quite the challenge. Check out our newsletter from April 2020 to find out more. If the Trusty Blue Bell ever stops working, I’m not sure how I’ll get it out of here, but until then we’ll keep cool and carry on.