Have You Heard About Reefers? The Refrigerated Storage Solution

February 1, 2022

If you’ve ever heard of people talking about reefer containers and wondered what on earth they were talking about, we’re here to clear up a few things about reefers – how they work, how big they are and where you can hire and buy them.

Reefer containers are also known as refrigerated containers, and they are used to move temperature-sensitive goods around the world. They are also becoming a popular way for businesses to extend their storage space for produce that needs to be stored at certain temperatures. This can be anything from ice cream, meat and vegetables to medicines and pharmaceutical items to flowers.

They are also a great option for large event organisers. Keeping festival goers fed and watered for a weekend means a lot of produce needs to be stored at cold temperatures. Reefer containers make it much easier for festival organisers and caterers to keep food fresh and safe to consume. The fact that they are portable means that reefer containers can easily be moved from one festival to another, helping to keep the summer festival goers happy and well fed.


Why are they called reefer containers?


The name reefer container is simply a nickname used to simply the real name of this type of container – a refrigerated container.


What size do reefer containers come in?


Like most shipping containers, reefer containers come in a variety of sizes depending on what you need them for. 10ft reefer containers are the smallest you are likely to find and 40ft reefer containers are typically the largest.

The most common and popular size of reefer container is the 20ft reefer container which is also known as a TEU.

At NZBox, we sell and hire two types of reefer container – 20ft and 40ft.

The 20ft reefer container is the most popular model in our reefer container lease fleet. The container provides ca. 27 m³ temperature controlled space for storage and transport use. Temperatures can be set from -40 °C up to +35 °C, depending on the reefer’s model. Reefer containers are fully insulated. Their inner surfaces are made of stainless steel and aluminium, which makes them easy to wash clean.

The 40ft reefer container (12m) provides ca. 76 m³ temperature controlled space for storage and transport use. Like the 20ft model, the 40ft reefer container can be set from -40 °C up to +35 °C and like our non-refrigerated shipping containers, all our 40ft models including the reefer container are High Cube models, providing you with approximately 30cm more height compared to standard models.


Can you hire or buy a reefer container?


Reefer containers can be either bought or hired and at NZBox, we have both the 20ft and 40ft models available for purchase or hire.

Chilled container hire has become an increasingly important part of our business, with demand continuing to grow. The flexibility of the containers and the fact that they can be transported make them great options across so many industries and different applications.


How do refrigerated containers work?


Reefer containers essentially work like large refrigerators. They are built with a shipping container refrigeration unit that delivers chilled air through the floor which is circulated internally.

The floor is specifically designed to help to distribute the cold air around the entire container. The floor grooves are a different shape to a regular shipping container and the T-shaped decking helps to allow for the consistent circulation of cold air around the container from the refrigeration unit.

When used for shipping perishable goods, the ability to keep those goods at the required temperature is essential for the successful transportation of the goods. Reefer containers are not designed to bring the temperature of goods down – they are designed to maintain the temperature at which they are supposed to be stored.

The way goods are kept at that temperature, especially during transportation, will depend on how they are packed within the container. With fresh cargo, it is crucial that air is allowed to flow between the cargo inside the container in order to ensure the steady circulation of cold air.

With frozen cargo, the cargo should be tightly packed within the container and the circulation of air around the cargo will keep the goods at the desired temperature.

Reefer containers, especially when used for the transportation of perishable goods, are fitted with temperature control gauges so the cargo can be closely monitored throughout its journey, not only ensuring the desired temperature is maintained, but also checking on other ambient elements such as humidity which can affect how the goods arrive when not maintained at the correct levels.


How are reefer containers powered?


At NZBox, our reefer containers are powered single phase (20ft and 40ft) or a 3 phase power supply unit (40ft only).

The single phase power supply (3 Pin PDL plug required) has a temperature range of +10°C to -20°C and offers a 50% power saving compared to the 3 phase.

The 3 phase power supply (4 Pin PDL plug required) is more powerful than the single phase with a temperature range of +25°C to -25°C.


What is a refrigerated shipping container used for?


As we have already touched upon, refrigerated shipping containers have a wide range of uses. They have traditionally been used for the shipping of cargo that needs to be maintained at a specific temperature, however, they are extremely versatile and they are now being used across a wide range of sectors.


Transportation of perishable goods

There are a number of industries that rely on the transportation of goods that need to be stored at cold temperatures. Refrigerated shipping containers are becoming a popular option for festival and event organisers that need to keep food and drinks cold for a large number of people. They are also practical for catering businesses that may be servicing events in different locations throughout the country.


Portable cold storage

Whilst it is not that common yet, there are some great examples of shipping containers being modified for use as swimming pools, either in private homes or by communities. Due to their depth and durable structure, shipping containers make great swimming pools, and they can be buried in the ground or kept above ground, possibly as a temporary fixture during the summer months.


Additional cold storage solution

Factories and laboratories that deal with temperature sensitive foods and materials and turning to reefer containers as a way of extending their cold storage solutions. It can often be tricky to add internal cold storage to existing building, so a portable solution like a reefer container can help to expand the space laboratories and factories have for storing temperature sensitive materials.


Disaster relief

Refrigerated shipping containers are widely used in the disaster relief sector where it is necessary to transport large volumes of perishable goods including food and medicine to destinations around the world where citizens may not have access to power, clean water or food. The size of reefer containers allows aid organisations to transport large amounts of vital food, medicine and water to places to bring relief and get these places back on their feet.





Reefer shipping containers are becoming more popular thanks to their versatility. If you need to transport or store a large volume of perishable items at cold temperatures, talk to the team at NZBox today and find out more about or reefer containers, whether you are looking to buy or hire one.





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