Best commercial under counter fridges and freezers 2023: Buyer's guide

buyer's guide

What’s inside this buyer’s guide


  1. Introduction
  2. Under counter fridges and freezers
  3. Dual-temperature under counter fridges
  4. How to choose an under counter fridge or freezer
  5. Under counter fridge and freezer height
  6. Under counter fridges and freezer sizes
  7. Under counter fridges and freezer clearances
  8. Under counter fridge and freezer door and drawer types
  9. Other features to consider
  10. Benchtop and prep fridges and freezers
  11. Chef bases
  12. Best under counter fridges and freezers
  13. Used under counter fridges — worth considering?
  14. Frequently asked questions
  15. Under counter fridge and freezer glossary
  16. Keep your cash, use ours!



In the bustling heart of New Zealand's commercial kitchens, under counter fridges and freezers hold the fort. They quietly but efficiently underpin your culinary operations.

Glitch-free streamlined processes, all fresh ingredients at your fingertips, perfectly preserved and instantly accessible — that’s the convenience and practicality that these units bring to your kitchens.

Cafes, bistros, restaurants, food trucks, schools, or aged care centres — there’s always an under counter fridge or freezer that will fit it perfectly.

If the plethora of options in the market leaving you confused, here’s what you need to know to make the right choice. So put on your decision-makers hat and read this guide to buy the best commercial under counter fridge or freezer for your business.


Under counter fridges and freezers

Commercial under counter fridges and freezers follow a core design principle, both aiming to extend the lifespan of perishable items.

The primary differentiation is their individual temperature controls and cooling systems, which determine their specific temperature ranges.

An under counter cooler maintains a temperature roughly between 0.5°C and 4°C, the ideal range for storing perishable goods like meat, dairy, and vegetables.

On the other hand, an under counter freezer operates at substantially lower temperatures, typically between -17°C and -23°C, which allows the freezing of items and prolongs their shelf-life.

However, these temperature ranges may vary based on the specific freezer model and the distinct storage needs of the food items.



Dual temperature under counter fridges

These special variants incorporate both a cooling and freezing compartment within the same unit, offering an effective solution for limited spaces.

Nevertheless, these models are not that common.

Individual sections for cooling and freezing within a single machine provide easy access to both types of stored items without the need for separate units.

This turns out to be an ideal solution for businesses operating within limited spaces or those requiring flexible storage options.



How to choose an under counter fridge or freezer

When searching for the most fitting under counter fridge or freezer for your venture or service, take into account the following considerations to prevent post-acquisition disappointment and guarantee you achieve the best value for your investment.


Measure your space

Determining the dimensions of the space where you plan to install the commercial under bench fridge or freezer is an essential step in making sure the model you select fits perfectly.

Consider the width, depth, and height of the location where you intend to place your under bench cooler or freezer.

Be mindful of any potential obstacles, such as pipes, switches, power points, or other fixtures, that could affect the installation.

Choose a unit that comfortably accommodates within the dimensions you've gauged.


Consider how you’ll use it

Will the fridge or freezer be consistently utilised in a high-traffic setting, or only during sporadic periods of high demand?

Will it serve the purpose of supplementary cool storage in your kitchen, or will it be integral to your routine operations?

The responses to these questions will assist you in identifying the precise type of commercial under bench freezer or fridge you need, including the necessary volume and temperature spectrum.


Do your research

After identifying your requirements, spend some time investigating the choices on offer.

Scrutinise the manufacturer's spec sheet for different models to uncover the top options that match your needs.

Check information such as size specifics and clearance needs, volume, temperature range, energy efficiency, compressor variety, door style, shelving choices, and warranty for refining your options.


Under counter fridge and freezer height

Commercial under the bench fridges and freezers generally come in three distinct heights.

Depending on your particular needs and the space available to you, you can select from these.



The standard height for commercial underbench fridges or freezers, including the legs, is 36 inches.

These units are marginally taller than standard countertops, which are generally 34 inches tall.


Countertop (disability friendly)

Countertop models typically measure 34 inches in height, aligning perfectly with standard countertops.

They merge seamlessly with standard countertops, creating a level counter surface.

This height is also appropriate for individuals with disabilities.


Low profile

Low-profile under the bench fridges and freezers stand around 32 inches high, making them ideal for placement under the counter.

These models allow the existing countertop space to be fully utilised without sacrificing any counter area to accommodate the appliance.



Under counter fridges and freezer sizes

Under counter Fridge

Commercial undercounter refrigerators and freezers are available in a variety of widths to fit any kitchen space.

They can be as narrow as 20-24 inches and as wide as 72 inches or more.

The number of doors depends on the unit's width.


Single door

Typically have a width of 36 inches or less.

They are compact and suitable for low-volume food services.


Two door

Usually measures between 36 and 72 inches in width.

They are common in commercial environments because they offer a good balance of capacity and space.


Three door

These models have a width of 72 inches or more.

They are designed for large food service establishments that need a lot of refrigerated storage space.

The size specifications of commercial undercounter refrigerators and freezers vary depending on the brand and model.

Some manufacturers may also offer customisation options to meet your specific needs.


Depths (shallow & deep)

The depth of a commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer is important to consider when choosing a unit.

In New Zealand, most commercial models have a depth of 24 to 33 inches, but this can vary depending on the manufacturer and model.

Smaller, single-door models typically have less depth than their larger, two or three-door counterparts.

Shallow units are more suitable for counters with less depth, while deeper units offer more storage space, they need larger counter depths to fit.

When choosing a unit, it is important to measure the available space and choose a model that will fit comfortably.



Under counter fridges and freezer clearances

When installing an undercounter fridge or freezer, ensuring ample clearance is crucial for the unit's smooth operation.

These appliances are designed to fit snugly under a countertop, so adequate space for proper ventilation is vital.

Typically, you'll require a few inches of clearance on all sides.

This space enables air to flow, preventing the appliance from overheating.

Disregarding the clearance prerequisites can strain the unit, potentially leading to unanticipated breakdowns and unnecessary repairs.

Depending on the position of the air exhaust, under the bench chillers or freezers can be classified as side/rear breathing or front breathing.


Side/rear breathing

In these models, the air exhaust is located on the side or rear of the unit, but the air inlets may be located on the front, side, or rear.

These models require additional clearance on the side or rear for adequate ventilation.


Front breathing

Here both the air exhaust and inlet are at the front. Consequently, they can operate with less side clearance, making them more suitable for tight spaces.

Before installation, always check the manufacturer's stipulations for clearance requirements.

With the appropriate clearance, your appliance will function efficiently for years and keep your food at the optimal temperature.



Under counter fridge and freezer door and drawer types

Under Counter Fridges

Commercial underbench refrigerators and freezers can have various types of doors or drawers.

Each of these has benefits and constraints unique to it.

Bigger units with more than one door may incorporate a combination of different door types or a mix of doors and drawers.

Select a door style that best caters to your needs.


Solid doors

Solid-door undercounter refrigerators and freezers are commonly used in commercial settings.

They help prevent heat loss and maintain precise temperatures efficiently, without putting a strain on the compressor.

Additionally, they are more durable and easier to clean.

Solid-door units are ideal for back-of-house applications.

However, they do not offer the convenience of being able to see the stored items without opening the door.


Glass doors

Glass-door undercounter refrigerators or freezers are a popular choice for commercial settings where visibility is important.

The glass doors allow you to see the contents of the unit without opening the door, which adds to the convenience.

However, glass-door units are not without their drawbacks.

They are typically less energy-efficient than solid-door units, as the glass doors allow heat to escape.

Additionally, glass-door units can be more difficult to clean and maintain than solid-door units.



Undercounter refrigerators or freezers with drawers are a popular option for commercial settings.

Drawers offer a number of benefits – accessibility and organisation being the top of the list.

However, they will take up a bit more storage space and are often pricier. 

Some manufacturers offer the option to customise the door style of undercounter refrigerators and freezers.

This can be a good option if you have specific needs or requirements.



Other features to consider  

If you're searching for a suitable commercial under bench fridge or freezer for your business kitchen, there are a few additional factors that you should consider to ensure that you choose the most appropriate option.


Forced-air vs static cooling

In commercial refrigeration, two principal cooling methods are commonly used - static and ventilated cooling techniques.

Both function to maintain low temperatures, yet their mechanisms differ.


Static cooling

The static cooling technique centres around compressed air being propelled through the evaporator coils embedded in the fridge or freezer's walls (and occasionally shelves).

This cools down the interior walls (or shelves), which consequently cools the air inside.

There might also be a fan inside the appliance for distributing the cold air.

This type of system is known as a fan-assisted static-cooled system.

Static cooling is energy-efficient and an excellent option for commercial refrigeration units that aren't opened frequently.


Forced air cooling

In contrast, forced air cooling systems utilise one or more fans to force cold air into the appliance and extract warm air.

These systems cool down the interiors extremely fast, making them ideal for bustling commercial kitchens and food services where the fridge or freezer door is constantly opened.

However, they consume more power, could be pricier, and might incur higher repair costs.

Consider factors such as the appliance's location, contents, storage duration, and door opening frequency before choosing the most suitable cooling method for your needs.


They offer convenience in operation and high control precision.


Temperature range

Typically, a commercial under the bench fridge maintains a temperature between 2°C and 8°C, as temperatures below or above this range could freeze or spoil the food, respectively.

For freezers, the standard temperature range is from -15°C to -28°C.

However, different brands might have their specific temperature ranges, which can also vary between models.

Think about what you'll store in the appliance to decide on the appropriate temperature.

Appliances that allow you to adjust the temperature based on the external temperature or the amount of food stored offer greater flexibility.

Additionally, some dual-temperature commercial undercounter refrigeration units have distinct fridge and freezer sections, each preserving different temperatures within the same appliance.


Automatic defrost

Currently, most commercial under bench fridges and freezers feature an automatic defrost function, although some models still require manual defrosting.

In frost-free models, the interior coils are periodically warmed to prevent ice accumulation, ensuring optimal cooling.

However, because the heating element operates in a cold environment, these fridges consume more energy.

Manual defrost systems, conversely, lack automatic heating elements.

You'll need to initiate the defrosting process manually, usually via a switch or button inside the appliance.

The frequency of defrosting depends on how often you open the door, the kitchen's humidity level, and the moisture introduced into the unit via the stored food.

It can also vary depending on the appliance's brand and model.

Failing to defrost a manual system timely can disrupt the cooling process and potentially spoil the stored food.

Therefore, for commercial kitchens, automatic defrosting is generally more convenient.


Digital temperature controller

A temperature controller or thermostat modulates the temperature inside the fridge or freezer by switching the compressor on and off to adjust the temperature as per user requirements.

Commercial refrigeration units can feature either a mechanical temperature controller or a digital temperature controller. 

Mechanical temperature controllers are cost-effective and easier to maintain, but they aren't as accurate at maintaining temperatures as digital regulators and have a shorter lifespan.

On the other hand, digital temperature controllers use circuit electronic technology for temperature adjustment.

They offer convenience in operation and high control precision.

However, they are pricier, and their repairs could be more expensive.


Energy rating

An energy-conserving commercial under the bench fridge or freezer might come with a more considerable initial cost, but the long-term savings in energy expenditures and contribution to lower carbon emissions are significant advantages.

In New Zealand, these appliances must meet the energy performance standards outlined by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

According to New Zealand regulations, commercial under counter fridges and freezers should display a Mandatory Energy Performance Labeling (MEPL).

Products that do not meet the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) are not eligible for sale in the country.

However, these standards do not apply to used commercial under counter fridges or freezers. 

MEPL offers a straightforward and easy interpretation of the product’s energy efficiency.

The Energy Rating Label displays the Star Rating of the equipment at the top (the more stars the more energy efficient) and also illustrates energy consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh) per annum, enabling a comparison of energy usage among diverse models.

So, when in the market for a new under counter fridge or freezer, ensure you inspect the Energy Rating Label.

This could yield considerable savings in the longer term and also enable you to contribute towards a greener environment.


LED lighting

Sufficient interior lighting is an essential aspect of commercial fridge and freezers.

A lack of adequate light can make arranging and identifying stored goods a difficult task.

Also, for units with glass doors, poor lighting can diminish their visual appeal.

Older commercial fridges and freezers typically used incandescent or halogen lights for internal illumination.

However, contemporary models have transitioned to using Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) or LEDs.

CFL bulbs are energy-saving and cast a cool glow, which can enhance the appearance of the food inside – a quality that's particularly advantageous for display units.

However, their drawbacks include a vulnerability to intense cold and moisture, which can lead to shorter lifespans and decreased performance in chillier settings.

LED lights, in contrast, thrive in such conditions.

They are highly energy-efficient, emit consistent and bright light, and are known for their durability.

Furthermore, an LED's brightness and colour can be customised, offering more versatility.


Self-closing doors/drawers

One particularly beneficial feature of commercial under counter fridges and freezers is the presence of doors and drawers that smoothly secure themselves after being opened.

This helps to retain the appliance's internal temperature, protect the stored food from spoilage, and prevent energy loss.

With these auto-shut doors and drawers, you won't need to worry about accidentally leaving the fridge or freezer open.

The doors of these chillers and freezers incorporate a seal fitted with a magnetic strip.

This strip draws the door back to a secure position, even with a gentle nudge.

Some models are purposefully designed with a slight backward lean to allow gravity to assist in closing the door.

Additionally, certain commercial under bench refrigerators and freezers feature an alarm that sounds if the door is left open for too long.

For self-closing drawers, a spring-loaded mechanism is usually in place to ensure prompt closure.

This feature is invaluable in busy commercial kitchens where staff may unintentionally leave the doors open due to the fast-paced nature of their work.

It's also crucial in settings where multiple customers might be using the appliances.


Noise level

Like every other piece of equipment, a lower sound output is generally favoured for commercial undercounter fridges and freezers.

Noise levels are quantified in decibels, and a lower decibel number signifies a quieter appliance.

In New Zealand, the management of noise control is usually overseen at the local level, with city or district councils establishing their own regulations.

New Zealand does maintain a broad standard for noise emission from machinery employed in commercial and light industrial applications, although it doesn't specifically pertain to refrigeration units.

It's always prudent to choose a model with a quieter operation.

The sound output from commercial chillers may increase during the start of the compressor or during defrosting cycles.

However, the advanced models, outfitted with the latest technology, tend to operate with reduced noise.

Choosing a less noisy chiller or freezer will undoubtedly result in a more comfortable environment for both your staff and customers.



Benchtop and prep fridges and freezers

Under Counter Fridges

These refrigeration solutions are similar to under counter fridges and freezers, but are not meant to be housed beneath a counter.

Instead, they offer a functional counter surface atop, merging cold storage and a work surface into a single compact unit.

Benchtop and preparation models frequently come fitted with a splashback to protect the wall or surrounding area from food debris.

The splashback might be either affixed to the main body or an integrated element of the unit's design, depending on the specific model.

Certain preparation chillers may also present supplementary storage compartments on the benchtop.

The upper surface of these appliances can serve numerous functions, such as dicing vegetables, prepping salads and various other meals.



Chef bases

Chef bases are experiencing increased popularity within the hospitality sector, as they provide a practical cold storage solution adjacent to the cooking area, promoting an efficient workflow in busy but compact kitchens.

These appliances merge an underbench fridge or freezer with a robust benchtop capable of bearing different countertop cooking devices, such as hotplates, deep fryers, or chargrills.

The chilled base can accommodate a wide range of fresh or frozen ingredients, from meats to garnishes and even ice cream, depending on your necessities.

These appliances allow for easy access to ingredients, minimise the need for regular movement within the kitchen, and optimise your kitchen space.



Best under counter fridges and freezers


Skope Logo

Boasting over half a century of service, Skope Refrigeration is a trusted name in New Zealand's commercial refrigeration industry.

A family-founded enterprise, Skope has flourished to become an internationally recognised provider of top-tier cooling solutions designed with a diverse range of industrial needs in mind.

At the heart of Skope's operations is the groundbreaking ActiveCore 2 system.

This high-tech refrigeration mechanism combines cutting-edge electronics with an eco-friendly hydrocarbon refrigerant, yielding optimised performance and energy efficiency.

Several of Skope's models come equipped with Bluetooth wireless connectivity, facilitating enhanced operational control.

A sought-after option within Skope's portfolio is the ReFlex range's 1500mm double door model.

This unit is a firm favourite among high-traffic restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, educational institutions, and elderly care facilities across New Zealand.

For those who favour drawer-style storage in their underbench refrigeration, Skope offers a six-drawer model that is sure to fit the bill.




Polar Logo

Renowned for their commercial refrigeration solutions, Polar Refrigeration has successfully served New Zealand and the global market for over a decade.

The brand's presence extends to more than 100 countries worldwide.

Polar's cooling equipment range covers blast chillers and undercounter bar fridges to prep counters and ice makers.

Polar's portfolio is organised into three distinctive series: C, G, and U.

The C series is tailored for routine commercial applications and general storage in less strenuous environments.

For more challenging professional contexts, the G series proves a worthy fit.

At the top end, the U series is engineered for maximum commercial demands, providing unrivalled performance.

Within the C series, the 150-litre under counter fridge in white stands out as a favoured choice for small Kiwi enterprises.

For those in need of a robust solution, the U-Series two-door, 282-litre counter fridge comes highly recommended.




Thermaster Logo

Temperate Thermaster by FED has become a trusted brand for commercial refrigeration solutions, including different types of under counter coolers and freezers. Known for durable construction and energy efficiency, their products efficiently cater to the diverse commercial settings of New Zealand.

Among their acclaimed models are the 208-litre compact under bench glass door bar cooler LG-138HC, ideal for smaller establishments, and the robust two-door, stainless steel under counter freezer TL1500BT, preferred by larger operations.

The brand continually innovates to provide superior temperature control, maximising freshness and minimising energy use. Thermaster's long history of quality and innovation has solidified their place in New Zealand's commercial refrigeration market.




AG Logo

An Australia-based premier manufacturer and retailer of commercial kitchen equipment, AG Equipment provide a wide range of commercial cooling solutions.

The best quality components, competitive pricing and dependable service are the three primary pillars of the brand.

A star player in their portfolio is the under-counter two-door display fridge from the X-series with 290-litre capacity, electronic temperature control and fan-forced ventilated cooling.

Their 417-litre three-door under bench freezer with all premium features also garners attention for larger operations.



Skipio Logo

Skipio is a Korean brand with its headquarters in Seoul.

The company is a well-known global manufacturer and supplier of commercial refrigeration.

Their product line covers refrigerated cabinets, bakery showcases, blast chillers, ice-makers, and the list goes on.

They also specialise in custom-made products.

Manufactured in facilities equipped with the latest commercial cooling technologies, Skipio products are known for the highest level of quality and efficiency, along with satisfactory after-sales service. 

The under counter dual temperature refrigerator-freezer, SURF12-2, is a popular model, ideal for kitchens with versatile refrigerated storage needs.

The 505-litre three-glass door under counter refrigerator is another popular choice for businesses looking for a large display fridge.



Used under counter fridges and freezers — worth considering?

Spending thousands of dollars on a new commercial under counter fridge or freezer can put a strain on your budget and cash flow.

If you’d prefer not to invest a lot of money in a new fridge or freezer, a cheaper, pre-owned appliance might be the solution you’re looking for.

SilverChef’s range of ‘Certified Used’ commercial equipment is mostly ex-rental equipment sourced from businesses we know and trust.

The equipment is typically less than two-and-a-half years old, has been fully refurbished by us, and is backed by a three-month parts-and-labour warranty.

Considering the effective, or useful, life of a commercial under counter fridge or freezer is around 10-15 years (and even 20 years when properly maintained), you can be sure our Certified Used commercial under counter fridges and freezers have plenty of life left in it.

You can either buy or finance the ‘Certified Used’ (and clearance) equipment on our website. (We’re one of the few financiers, if not the only one, in New Zealand that funds second-hand commercial kitchen equipment).

Read more about ‘Certified Used’ equipment



Frequently asked questions


What is the best under counter freezer in New Zealand?

There’s no single commercial under counter freezer in NZ that can be marled as the 'best' since it largely relies on your particular business requirements.

Various renowned international brands offer an array of commercial under the counter freezers in New Zealand.

The optimal model for you will hinge on your distinct needs and choices.

This guide equips you with all the essential details to aid a knowledgeable decision.


Where can I find the best deal on under counter fridges in NZ?

When looking for the best bargains on under counter fridges in New Zealand, you have several avenues to investigate.

Begin with large appliance retailers to see if they have any current sales or special deals on commercial refrigeration units.

Digital marketplaces could be useful for discovering second-hand or renovated fridges at a reduced cost.

However, for a reliable and hassle-free alternative, consider perusing our collection of certified pre-owned commercial under bench fridges and under bench freezers, where we ensure the best rates.


Do under counter fridges need ventilation?

Yes, under counter fridges typically do require ventilation.

They are designed with vents, usually located at the front or back of the unit, to expel warm air.

Ensuring these vents are not obstructed is essential for the appliance to operate effectively and efficiently.

The exact ventilation requirements can vary based on the design and model of the fridge, but as a general rule, you should maintain a few inches of clearance around the sides, back, and top of the fridge to ensure adequate airflow.



Under counter fridge and freezer glossary


In refrigeration units like fridges and freezers, this device is critical as it pushes the cooling agent through the system.



This part plays a key role in expelling heat from the refrigerant vapour, causing it to convert back to a liquid state.



These are small wheels fixed to the appliance's base, facilitating its easy movement across different locations.


Commercial grade

This term refers to a fridge or freezer that's constructed to withstand the heavy-duty usage typical to commercial settings.


Door gasket

It is a magnetic rubber strip that surrounds the fridge or freezer's door, providing a secure seal to prevent heat transfer.


Defrost cycle

This term refers to the automated mechanism to remove the buildup of frost or ice from the appliance's evaporator unit.



This part of the cooling system expedites the transformation of the refrigerant from a liquid to a gas, thus absorbing heat from inside the fridge or freezer.



This element, integral to the cooling system, assists in circulating cold air within the appliance.



Used in the cooling systems of refrigerators and freezers.

It alternates between gaseous and liquid states, facilitating the cooling process.



Keep your cash. Use ours!

We hope this guide has helped you better understand what you need to look for in commercial fridges and freezers, and how to choose the right model for your needs.

If you want to know more, you can always reach out to the SilverChef team.

Hospitality equipment can be expensive, and paying for it outright can put pressure on your business’s cash flow.

Our finance solutions allow you to get the equipment you want now and to pay for it in small, regular amounts out of the revenue it generates for you.

Rent–Try–Buy® not only helps you maintain your cash flow, it gives you unrivalled flexibility to adapt your equipment to the changing needs of your business.

You can upgrade or buy the equipment at any time or, after 12 months, return or continue renting it.

If you decide to buy the equipment, we’ll give you back 50% of the rent you paid in the first year and 25% of any rental payments thereafter — to put toward the purchase price.

Read more about Rent–Try–Buy.