Could a Walk-in Freezer Double As a Space Heater?

walk-in freezers and cold storage

The UK government is currently looking at a cutting-edge space heating principle that would extract heat from the cold waters of rivers and canals to provide space heat in local areas during the winter months. Although the idea does not directly relate to what we do at Icecool Trailers, it is intriguing enough to make us wonder whether a walk-in freezer could double as a space heater for some applications. We'll try to explain.

The principle of refrigeration is quite simple. A chemical known as a refrigerant extracts heat from one environment, expands it, pressurises it to generate more heat, and finally, passes it through a second environment from which the heat is released and the refrigerant returns to its natural state. In the case of a walk-in freezer, the refrigerant is extracting heat from the inside of the unit and releasing it outside.

The idea the government is looking at involves essentially the same process. The only difference is that the goal is not to freeze local bodies of water, but to use the heat in the water to keep local buildings warm. The technology uses equipment similar to a heat pump rather than the compressors we use for refrigeration. Other than that, the rest is pretty similar.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change recently released a map showing the areas of the country where the most heat is used to keep buildings and businesses warm. The map also includes targeted rivers, streams, canals, and other bodies of water that could be utilised for heat extraction. Now it is a matter of applying the heating and cooling principle on a grand scale.

rivers to power olur buildings?

The key to making it work is finding a refrigerant capable of providing the most benefit with the least amount of risk. Ammonia is the refrigerant of choice for a project already successfully implemented in Norway. However, is ammonia practical everywhere? More importantly, is it practical for what we do.

The Space Heat Questioned

With current technology as it is, your average walk-in freezer does not produce enough warm air to be a major provider of space heat. Nevertheless, that could change in the future if the right refrigerants are found. Imagine having a walk-in freezer and a few refrigeration units in your restaurant or catering business capable of also generating all the heat you need during the winter. There would be no need for a boiler – at least in theory.

We may be a way off from realising this sort of technology. Nonetheless, we see no reason we could not develop it if the energy sector can find a way to effectively implement the government's goals for using water for space heat. If they can make it work for entire communities, we should eventually be able to make it work for local businesses.

In the meantime, we invite you to contact us at Icecool Trailers any time you need a walk-in freezer or cold room for your business. We provide service throughout Greater London, the Thames Valley, and across most of England itself. In addition to walk-in rooms, we also offer several different sizes of freezer and refrigerated trailers for exterior cold storage.


1. Quartz –