Overview of the Different Styles of Insulated Shipping Containers

Depending on your type of transport needs, there are two types of containers you can use, refrigerated (or mostly known as Reefers) or non-refrigerated (known as insulated).  We will dive into the differences of each so you have a good understanding of what will be best for you and your transport needs.

The refrigerated shipping containers are known in the industry as “Reefers”.  These containers are set to keep goods at a subzero temperature.  The best uses of this type of container is fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen foods.  When you are looking at the amount of fresh food at your local grocery store that is NOT in season, you may wonder where it comes from.  Since it is off season your local growers would not have these foods available to sell to the grocery stores.  Therefore, these items come from other parts of the country or parts of the world that were shipped in a reefer.

Bananas are a good example of this. They are harvested while still green and hard, kept in a cool shipping container and will ripen as they are transported.  By the time they reach the store, they are ready for consumption.  If the shipping containers are not refrigerated, the bananas, along with other produce items, would rot and become inedible by time they were brought to the store.

There are two types of refrigerated shipping containers, internal and external.  The internal containers have the electrical unit built into the storage unit itself.  This can be controlled on the outside, but it is affixed so that it is part of the container.  For example, if a container is 20 feet wide, only 18 feet of the inside is used for storage, the other 2 feet is the refrigeration unit. Because it is flush and is the standard 20’ size, it can be easily stacked with other 20’ storage containers during transport.

The external refrigerated system is not recommended for transport because the actual refrigeration unit is on the outside of the container, much like an “add-on”.  This unit needs to be supported underneath and is not an ideal design to use when transporting produce across the ocean.  This external system is best for a fixed storage container that would not be moved. So, a container 20 feet wide container would utilize all 20 feet for storage, and there would be 2 feet of the refrigeration unit protruding from the side of the container, technically making it 22 feet wide.

The alternative is the insulated container.  This type of container is not refrigerated, has no electrical cooling device attached on the inside or the outside. This style will keep the temperature of product regulated.  So regardless of the elements and temperature outside, the goods on the inside will not get too hot or too cold, they will not rot, decay, buckle or be affected by external factors.

There are several types of insulated containers:

  • Foam
  • Blankets
  • Insulated Panels
  • Eco-Friendly


Depending on your budget, spray foam is a great choice.  It is highly recommended over the other types of insulation.  The reason is because the spray foam will get inside every nook and cranny on the inside (or if sprayed on the outside and underneath) and gives you a seamless vapor barrier.…

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