History of the Reefer Container

The refrigerated container, sometimes called reefer container, is a fundamental part of shipping and storage today. How did we get to this point? Let’s take a look at the history of the reefer container.

19th Century

By all accounts, some forms of refrigerated shipping by the early 1800’s. Up until this point, any cargo that could spoil, like seafood, was only shipped to nearby locations. But in the early 1800’s some ships were utilizing ice and salt in their cargo holds to reduce the amount of spoiling that occurred. Fishing boats were also known to carry ice with them to keep fish fresh as they were caught. Where did they acquire the ice? People in the industry would sometimes cut it from frozen lakes in cold areas like Scandinavia or Maine.

By the late 19th century, a few notable experiments with refrigerated containers occurred. In 1876, Charles Tellier, a French engineer, created an ether-based refrigeration system that allowed containers to maintain a temperature of 0 degrees Celcius. Additionally, in 1877, French engineer Ferdinand Carre improved upon Tellier’s system and successfully shipped 150 tons of frozen meat from Sydney, Australia to the United Kingdom over 50 days.

20th Century- Reefer Containers Arise

Several other notable innovations, like the portable air cooling unit and mobile refrigeration specifically for fruit, emerged in the early 1900s. Refrigerated shipping of meat and fruit became more and more common through the middle of the century. By the 1960s, insulated containers on ships were fully developed. In the 1970s, the first refrigerated containers with integrated cooling units were also produced and used.

More and more attention was being given to the containers’ ability to be easily transported in mass. For example, containers were designed for transportation on large cargo carriers. Self-contained, insulated containers were stacked onto ships and then plugged in to the ships’ power systems.

In the 1990s, new refrigerated containers with atmospheric controls rolled out. These units have carbon dioxide and oxygen sensors that can balance the amount of the two gases to slow fruit ripening. They also can pump nitrogen into containers to help do so.


Reefers continue to be improved today. Some recent innovations include monitoring systems for real-time tracking, a move towards more 40 foot units to increase efficiency, and advanced security technology. In the future, we can expect reefers to become more and more trackable, with customers wanting shipping information and companies wanting immediate information on the state of goods during transportation.

The cold chain is now a crucial supply chain across the world. Importantly, this has an impact on many industries. Some of the upcoming coronavirus vaccines require specific container temperatures during transportation and storage. This will only be possible with the advanced technology of reefer containers today.

Moon Mini Refrigeration offers flexible rental periods, multiple container sizes, great prices, and top-notch customer service. With our great options and excellent service, we can help you find the reefer container that’s perfect for your needs! To rent a refrigerated container today, give us a call at 502-205-1624.

Reefer Containers: How They Work

A reefer container is a common term used to refer to a refrigerated container. Reefer containers are used around the globe in various supply chains. They are incredibly effective for cold and frozen storage, both in transportation and for short and long-term storage. The demand for reefer containers has surged in the past few years, and their technology continues to improve on energy efficiency, quietness, and maintenance overhead.

How do they work? Read along to find out more.

Reefer Containers: An Overview

Reefer containers are temperature-controlled containers for transportation and storage. Like non-cooling shipping containers, they are often made for transportation in their construction. They are often mass-shipped on cargo ships, so their size and exterior construction is made for easy stacking and transport.

Reefers keep goods cooled by distributing cold air within each container. They do not actually reduce the temperature of goods- they maintain temperatures of already cooled or frozen goods. They also need a power source to maintain cooling and freezing. Generators are the solution for this. They This is typically achieved through a generator that’s attached to a reefer. Generators may run on gas, electric, or a combination of both. Moon Mini’s Refrigeration’s units run entirely on electricity, providing a lower-cost cooling solution that also avoids the need for constant refueling.

The Science of Cooling in Reefer Containers

Depending on the desired temperature for goods in a container, the way you stack boxes varies. For containers with chilled goods, airflow must constantly circulate around and between goods. This is because the goods themselves, in addition to the exterior of the container, may be a heat source. For instance, fruits and vegetables undergo respiration processes and produce carbon dioxide and gases that can create heat as they are being shipped. Goods like these that may produce heat and need chilling should be stacked with overlaps that create air pockets between boxes. This allows airflow around the outside of boxes during shipping and keeps goods cooled.

In cases of frozen cargo, the approach is different. Frozen goods do not release heat, and reducing surface area exposure to heat sources is critical. This means stacking boxes together with no gaps. There just needs to be airflow between the outside of exposed boxes and the container wall, to cool any warm air from the exterior.

Other Important Functions

Reefer containers have numerous other features that help keep cargo cooled. For one, they often have fresh air ventilation that helps replace overly-humid air from containers (this is common when shipping fruits and vegetables). Additionally, there are tools that help measure air temperature and humidity. There are also fans to help circulate air properly. Plus, like all shipping containers, reefer containers have secure doors that allow for safe shipping and storage.

Moon Mini Refrigeration offers flexible rental periods, multiple container sizes, great prices, and top-notch customer service. To rent a refrigerated container today, give us a call at 502-205-1624.

refrigerated container

Refrigerated Container Cleaning: 4 Things to Know

When you own or rent a refrigerated container, it’s important to keep it clean, especially in between storage jobs. Here are 4 things you need to know about cleaning your refrigerated container. 

There are multiple levels of cleanliness

Clean doesn’t have one meaning for refrigerated containers. There are 3 common levels of cleanliness: physical, chemical, and microbiological. Physically clean containers appear clean to the naked human eye. To get your container physically clean, you may just need to sweep front to back, vacuum, and wash the container. The next level of cleanliness is chemical- in this case, you need to take steps to eliminate residues that could allow the growth of microorganisms. This may involve more significant cleaning procedures like using additional solvents and chemicals. Lastly, microbiologically clean containers are truly and completely clean- this thorough level of cleaning ensures there are no residues or microorganisms left. 

Cleaning steps depend on what is being stored

Depending on what you are using in different storage situations, different cleaning steps are necessary. For many situations, high-pressure hot water washes or steam cleans are a common standard for cleanliness. But this may not cut it sometimes. 

If your container has previously held dangerous or hazerdous materials, you need to take some extra steps. A preliminary assessment of potential dangers from the container is crucial, so the cleaning team can wear the proper personal protective equipment. For instance, there may be potential chemical reactions between the hot water or steam wash and chemical residue in the container. In addition to a baseline clean, there may need to be additional cleaning steps taken. As mentioned above, different levels of cleanliness are appropriate for different situations. 

Cleaning isn’t always enough, though. In some cases, using containers for some things can even make the containers not suitable for other uses in the future. Food grade containers, for example, can’t have been used for many lower grade materials. Always plan your container use based on what you know you’ll need to store in the future. 

Some large-scale cleaning projects use robots

For some companies that have a large number of containers to clean, it can be more efficient to invest in a robotic cleaner. Robotic technology can be programmed to specific cleaning needs, dialing in on a high degree of precision. These machines can clean mass numbers of containers much more quickly than humans. Plus, using them can be much safer when dangerous materials are present. 

There are ‘green’ cleaning options for refrigerated containers

In some situations, there are some environmentally-friendly cleaning options. For example, some people use apple cider vinegar or white vinegar to rub down and treat rust patches. In general, you should always try to use the least environmentally-harmful methods that meet your level of cleanliness. If there’s a less harmful but equally effective substitute for that solvent you were going to use, it’s your responsibility to choose the less harmful option. 

Moon Mini Refrigeration offers flexible rental periods, multiple container sizes, great prices, and top-notch customer service. To rent a refrigerated container today, give us a call at 502-205-1624.