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Can Food Trucks Operate Without Having Air Conditioning?

Food Truck Air Conditioner Fan

The answer is YES and No, depending on a few factors such as location, climate, weather, type of menu, etc?. If you operate your food truck, particularly in warmer regions of the country, you will definitely struggle with extreme temperatures in your kitchen.

Some food truck business owners even reveal that they have had to stop business at a certain point in a day because the heat in the truck was becoming unbearable. 

Food trucks are very welcoming trucks that bring us meals on wheels. To achieve this, many food truck owners make their food or snacks in the truck. To make this possible, food trucks carry useful cooking equipment like propane ovens, cooker, toaster, cooling equipment, coffee maker and what have you.

With the combination of all these equipment stuffing up the place, you also have the cooking equipment breathing fire and heat on a regular basis. This goes to show that one of the biggest problems food trucks face is heat, especially in the summer. So what can you do to keep the temperature in your food truck kitchen cool? Should you consider air conditioning?

Do Food Trucks Have Air Conditioning?

The answer is yes. Quite a number of food trucks carry an air conditioner on board to keep things cool, and to equally keep the staff from developing a heat stroke. One of the growing trends is to retrofit a mini split air conditioner to your food truck kitchen.

If you have a sufficient power supply on your food truck, a mini split air conditioner is an easy and affordable option to keep the kitchen temperature under control.

If you aren’t familiar with a mini split air conditioner, they are made up of an outdoor unit and indoor unit. The outdoor unit can often be mounted to the outside of the truck, with the indoor unit inside the kitchen, to provide the additional cooling needed.

Some of the benefits of fitting an air conditioner to your food truck is that it can be easily installed. It can be installed when the truck is being built or retro fitted on to virtually any food truck. And the best part, it keeps the kitchen cool and comfortable. An air conditioner is a great way to make your food trucks space cool and workable for the summer season.

Is Air Conditioner the Best Option for your Food Truck? 

Air conditioner for food trucks have raised a lot of dust among food truck owners and operators. Their argument is that air conditioners are hardly the best option for food trucks.

Food truck owners have had a lot of instances where temperatures inside their food trucks have risen to over 90 degrees in the summer, even with the air conditioner working at full capacity. At this point, the air conditioner vents seem to release nothing but semi-warm air.

It is said that the wiring for the air conditioner is usually done in such a way that most of the cool air goes out of the hood of the truck. Again, the cost makes the adventure not to be worth the stress. Let’s start with the cost of the air unit. The air unit alone can cost between $1,200-$1,800.00.

Then you need to install it at an additional cost. When it comes to powering, your air conditioner requires more power than all the other things drawing on the system.

Depending on the size of unit and the number of units you choose, you could need as much as an additional 4-8 kw available on the on-board generator. That comes at a cost also to upsize the generator. Will you have enough space for the bigger generator?

Let’s just say that money and space are not a problem for your build budget. The builders are always installing the A/C units in front of the hoods in the trucks and trailers. So where does your cool air go? You guessed it – out the hood vents!

There then is no point wasting money installing an A/C unit and larger generator, if the air is going to get sucked out the hood vents. This means that you are literally creating cold air and then immediately sucking it out – that’s worse than just running your AC at home with the windows open.

Keeping Cool In Your Food Truck Without AC

Keeping cool when temperatures reach record highs isn’t just about comfort. When it’s 100 degrees outside, it can be 120 degrees or higher in your food truck. Dangerously high temperatures can result in heat-related illnesses ranging from heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

As it turns out that there are plenty of cheap, easy ways of keeping cool to beat the summer heat without beating the environment or needing to install an air conditioner. The following tips can help keeping cool all summer long:

  • Choose a shaded location

The first thing to do to help reduce heat in your food truck is to scout for a good location. If available, select a cool location when parking your food truck or cart. A spot in the shade is ideal. Make sure that any nearby trees or overhanging branches are stable and will not fall and damage your mobile kitchen.

Set up the awning (if you have one) when you are parked. The awning shades not only for the service window but the side of the food truck, protecting your customers and employees from the sun’s sweltering rays.

  • Turn off appliances when not in use

Appliances generate heat, so another rule to keep your food truck cool in the summer is to turn off as many kitchen appliances as possible. It is true that you run a mobile food business and the kitchen is where you make your money, but make sure you minimize the heat load as much as possible.

Lights, televisions, laptops and other electronics generate heat. If you are using the refrigeration unit, you absolutely need to keep this running. To limit the amount of energy used, and heat generated by the fridge, make sure the coils on the back are clean and well maintained.

  • Keep the windows open

Open the windows at night or any time there is a breeze. This will create a crosswind in the vehicle and can significantly help in cooling the temperature. Cover the windows of the truck with blackout curtains or windscreen covers. These keep sunlight and heat out.

  • Use fans

Fans are one thing that can help out in a hot sweltering food truck. Use small battery- or solar-powered fans throughout the vehicle to keep air circulating.

  • Cook outside…if possible

If it is an option in your area, cook outside. Using the oven or grill heats up the small space inside a food cart in no time. Check out what the laws in your state says before you can do this, though some cities allow it.

  • Wear loose fitting clothing

Another great method for keeping cool is to wear loose fitting clothing, especially if they are made of cotton, to draw moisture away from your body. Dress for the heat by wearing shorts, and by all means, whites instead of dark-colored clothing. The dark clothing attracts the heat and will leave you hot and steamy.

  • Get a wet towel handy

A quick and effect way to cool yourself down is by wetting a towel with cold water and wrapping it around your neck. It cools the passing blood in your veins and cools the body’s temperature. You should not hesitate though to jump in a cool shower to cool down when you’ve just had enough.

This is a great practice just before you go to bed also. It removes the sweat from your body and opens the skin’s pores to allow the body to cool.