Installing a Material Handling System in your Cooler or Freezer? Here’s What You Need to Know

Operating conveyor in a freezer is not the same as everywhere else. It’s cold in there. REALLY cold. Just like your car prefers not to operate in sub-freezing temperatures, neither does other mechanical equipment. With temperatures under 0 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s a lot to take into consideration when installing your freezer solution.

If you’re considering automation for a cooler or freezer environment, you’ll need to take into account everything from air condensation to motor temperature ratings. To ensure optimal performance of your automated system, you’ll need to take all of these into account and be ready to implement solutions.

Choose motors rated for the proper temperature, having bearings with the proper clearance and proper lubrication. In addition, some conveyor types requiring slightly more horsepower to start after extended periods of not running; consider that when sizing the drive. Gearing used in the drive train, whether it be reducers or gear motors, will need to be supplied with lubrication to meet the ambient temperature.

All lubrication in the system will need to be specified for the low temperature environment. This includes roller bearings, mounted bearings and chain lubrication. As mentioned above, any reducers and gear motors will need to include this low temperature lubrication.

Untitled-2 In a pallet handling situation, sub-freezing temperatures can create the need for specialized equipment that is able to effectively and reliably operate. To choose a conveying solution for your needs, first know your product; then, know the high and low temperature ranges of the product needing to be transported. Learn more by downloading our whitepaper.

3Critical Fasteners
Although not absolutely necessary in all cases, critical fasteners such as setscrews in bearings and sprockets will benefit from being re-torqued once the system is brought down to the actual operating temperature.

You may not notice the humidity in the air, but in your freezer application, condensation can be a real problem. Without getting too geeky, the dew point is the temperature at which water vapor in the air condensates into liquid, and changes with the relative humidity and air temperature. To help shelter your application from that condensation, you can use an interlock: a space or transition from one temperature zone to another. You can also use air curtains or air vestibules (two doors separating temp zones) to reduce condensation and ice build-up on equipment. The use of limit switches in lieu of photo sensors may be beneficial for critical areas, since condensation can give false reads on photo sensors.

Always use conveyor belts that are rated for the temperature. V-belts and timing belts must be rated properly to ensure performance. Note that the minimum pulley diameters may increase in size for low temperatures. Increasing the size of the timing belt sprockets may prevent surface cracking of the belt which may affect the actual life of the belt.

For Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) or lift system, cable that is just freezer-rated isn’t good enough – it also needs to be rated for the flexibility that goes along with moving up and down continuously. Carefully evaluate the application of each component making up a system.


If this seems like a lot to consider, that’s because it is! When you’re considering any application, a professional supplier can help to steer you in the right direction. As part of your supplier evaluation be sure to ask for freezer or cooler references, and make sure your system goes off without a hitch.

While not all-encompassing, this list is a good checklist of things to keep in mind. What would you add to this list?

About John Clark

John is responsible for Marketing and Business Development at the North American headquarters of viastore systems in Grand Rapids, MI.

He has over 20 years of broad hands-on experience in all aspects of marketing and communication, including writing, content marketing, advertising, design, trade show and event planning, public/media relations, website, lead generation and management.

Prior to viastore, he has held marketing management positions at TGW Systems and Dematic, both global material handling automation companies.


  1. I hadn’t ever really thought about installing something like this in the freezer that we have at work. It would be such a great solution, since it can get unbearably cold sometimes in there, especially when you are hauling in a lot of things. If I could get a material handling system put in the freezer, I am sure that would help so much. I will be sure to consider the temperatures to be sure that the motors will still work in the freezer. Thank you for these great tips! I will probably refer to them often until I get this system put in.

    • John Clark says:

      The labor savings is a big reason for these solutions in a freezer…so the people don’t have to be in there.

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