— By Tom Szafranski —
Managing energy efficiency in a commercial kitchen.
Energy efficiency can often be an overlooked component of commercial foodservice equipment; in reality, an energy-efficient unit is not only better for the environment, but better for the bottom line for the owner/operator. According to ENERGY STAR®, the EPA’s
program to promote and certify energy efficiency, restaurants use around 5 to 7 times more energy than any other commercial facility. Additionally, energy costs for commercial foodservice establishments — such as restaurants, hotels and quick-service eateries — make up around 25% to 30% of total operating costs. With that in mind, implementing energy efficiency equipment and measures can reduce operating costs, improve recovery and cooking times and help the equipment last longer.
There are several ways to manage commercial kitchen equipment for better energy efficiency, but two major ways to do so are by:
- Selecting energy-efficient equipment.
- Maintaining energy efficiency through various best-practice tasks.
Both of these methods can work together for maximum energy efficiency as well, which can ultimately lead to a better bottom line and a positive long term impact.
How to Choose Energy-Efficient Commercial Kitchen Equipment
There are thankfully many tools and hallmarks to utilize while trying to select an energy-efficient commercial kitchen unit.
The easiest route to take is to utilize the official ENERGY STAR® product finder for commercial units. These pieces of equipment have been certified by ENERGY STAR® based on three main factors:
- The unit provides significant savings on energy.
- Energy usage and performance can be measured and verified.
- The unit must have the same features as their non-certified counterparts for ease of use.
Once a piece of commercial kitchen equipment meets these guidelines, they are certified with the ENERGY STAR® seal, making it easy for anyone to identify which units are energy-efficient and cost-effective.
If a particular type of equipment needed isn’t available on the ENERGY STAR® list of approved units, the California Energy Wise’s Design Guide and Try Before Your Buy program can also be of assistance.
Which Pieces of Commercial Kitchen Equipment Should Be Upgraded First?
In general, selecting energy-efficient equipment can be done based on basic factors and knowledge, like what types of equipment to prioritize over others, and what features they may have. This makes the decision on what type of equipment can be swapped for a more energy-efficient unit, and which ones are already relatively efficient.
For example: air-cooled ice machines are recommended over water-cooled units because they use less water, thus reducing water consumption and energy needed to pump the water through the system.
Other pieces of commercial kitchen equipment that commonly use high levels of energy include fryers, warewashers, ovens and griddles. When prioritizing which pieces in a commercial kitchen to swap, choose these first. This will help narrow down the search and prioritize where to allocate funds for new equipment.
How to Maintain Energy Efficiency in a Commercial Kitchen
Whether the equipment is ENERGY STAR®-rated or not, there are steps that can be taken to help reduce energy costs and boost the efficiency of any commercial kitchen.
General Energy Efficiency Tips
There are several universal energy-saving tips that can be implemented in any commercial kitchen to aid in the energy reduction effort, including:
- Conducting Planned Maintenance Routinely: This ensures that equipment is regular-ly being checked and monitored for damage, leaks or unnecessary energy usage that can lead to higher energy outputs.
- Regularly Clean the Equipment: If equipment isn’t regularly cleaned, this can cause the unit to work overtime to reach or maintain proper temperature, leading to additional problems or premature failure.
- Check and Replace Seals and Gaskets: Ensuring that all gaskets and seals are in working order prevents food spoilage and improper cooking/temperature while also protecting the equipment and diminishing energy usage.
- Reduce Idle Time: Keeping equipment running while not in use is a massive energy drain, so reducing this idle time will greatly reduce energy consumption. Shutting down equipment partially or fully when not in use for prolonged periods of time can aid in energy usage.
- Fully Load Unit When Possible: While equipment should never be overloaded, loading to the manufacturer-recommended specification can help reduce energy as the unit is being used to its fullest potential. Utilizing the space provided to prep, cook, drain, hold or wash improves general food output, but also makes energy usage much more cost-effective.
Additional Tips for Energy Efficiency
In addition to the general aforementioned tips, there are a few pointers for specific types of units that should be kept in mind. Some of which include:
- Equipment that utilizes water (steamers, combi ovens, dishwashers, ice makers, etc.) should be inspected and cleaned of any lime scale buildup, as this can impede water flow and cause the unit to overwork itself. Additionally, adding a water filtration system will help equipment run more efficiently as the filtration system can remove mineral deposits that cause buildup.
- Hot side equipment such as fryers and ranges should be recalibrated to make sure they’re operating at the proper temperature.
- Walk-in freezers and refrigerators should be equipped with LED lighting to reduce heat and energy used by incandescent bulbs, along with an automatic door closer.
- Cold side equipment should always have their doors closed to maintain proper temperatures.
- Food debris should be thoroughly scraped off dishware prior to being loaded into a dishwasher.
Implementing these basic changes can be done by training staff and operators to incorporate them into daily tasks, and once a routine is established, the change should be readily noticeable.
— Tom Szafranski is the senior vice president of manufacturer partnerships at Parts Town, the market-leading distributor of genuine OEM foodservice equipment parts. For more information, visit www.partstown.com.