In order to talk about size, we first need to understand type. There are actually two types of refrigeration systems used in refrigerated containers:

  • Integrated (refrigeration equipment attached to and within the size footprint of the container)
  • External or Clip-on (refrigeration equipment that is temporarily attached to or otherwise placed near the end of a container, with ductwork feeding into and out of the container via portholes)

When most people think of refrigerated shipping containers, they think of the integrated type, but it’s important to understand that it isn’t the only option. However, for the purposes of this article, assume that when we say refrigerated container, we’re referring to the integrated type. Refrigerated shipping containers are available in most of the standard container sizes, including high cube (HC), so there is no issue with them interfacing with regular containers. However, what CAN be a problem is the internal floor area. Given that the refrigeration equipment is integrated into the container, it has to fit somewhere. That somewhere, as shown in the picture above, is the end of the container. Approximately the last two feet of the refrigerated shipping container is dedicated to refrigeration equipment, leaving your interior two feet LESS long.  While two feet may not sound like much, it can be up to 5-10% of the length of your container, and correspondingly up to 5-10% of your floor area! What might you have to sacrifice in your design to account for these two extra feet? A closet? A couch? While this sacrifice can be worked around, it’s certainly something to consider.


Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “What if I just remove the refrigeration equipment and reclaim the two feet of space that’s rightfully mine!?” This is an option, but not without its own issues. If you’re going to be reusing the refrigeration equipment (and we’ll address that below in the next section), you would need to fabricate a stand to hold the equipment, as the container would no longer be supporting it. You would also have to extend ductwork from the refrigeration equipment to the container. However, probably the biggest issue of removing the refrigeration equipment and reclaiming the space is how to add the new open space to the existing closed space. To start with, you’d have to cut the end cap out of the container, push it out two feet, and reattached it to the frame. Then, you’d need to get two additional feet of exterior sheeting, insulation, and interior sheeting to cover the sides, roof, and floor. Clearly, it would be a major undertaking, and you may have trouble getting your two-foot addition to match the rest of the reefer container.

Besides the two feet taken up by the refrigeration equipment, you also need to factor in the thickness of the insulation. A typical refrigerated container has 3-4 inches less interior width than a standard container. However, if you’re going to insulate your reefer container anyway (and you should!), this shouldn’t be a concern, as your self-installed insulation would likely take up about the same space.

From: Discovercontainers

TOPOLO is dedicated to solutions for reefer trailer panels with advanced materials (interior panels). Our sandwich honeycomb panels and thermoplastic composite panels can be widely used in the inner wall of refrigerated shipping containers, for temperature control transportation.


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