5 Tune-up Tips for Energy-saving Equipment
Restaurants use more energy than any other type of commercial establishment1. The massive amounts of electricity and water needed to store, cook, and serve food means that utility bills account for some of the highest daily expenses restaurant owners incur. Investing in energy-efficient equipment goes a long way, but there are several day-to-day steps you can take to help shave some dollars off of your utility bills.
- Turn Off Equipment When It Isn't Needed
Letting equipment "idle" is one way to make sure that it's ready when cooks need to use it. Sure, some equipment, like griddles and ovens, needs to stay preheated to avoid time wasted by waiting for it to come up to temperature, but equipment like broilers, hot plates, and range burners are only wasting energy unless they're being used to cook or warm food. If your equipment has an idle, low-power, or energy-saving mode, take advantage of it to help keep energy consumption in check. Furthermore, all equipment should be turned off completely at night. Communicate clear equipment shut down and startup procedures to employees so they know how to prepare for closing every night and opening the following day.
- Maintain the Proper Equipment Clearances
One simple step in maintaining energy-efficient restaurant equipment is giving it room to breathe. Many types of equipment require sufficient airflow around their sides and backs to run safely and efficiently. Refrigeration equipment must have room to breathe in order to expel heat and maintain safe holding temperatures. Cooking equipment like ovens, ranges, and fryers need clearance to maintain proper cooking temperatures, and to avoid damaging surrounding equipment or becoming a fire hazard.
- Check Door Gaskets
Any piece of equipment that's designed to keep heat in or hold it out depends on a gasket along the perimeter of the door to form an airtight seal between its interior and the outside air. Gaskets are generally made of rubber and they're not designed to last forever, so they must periodically be replaced. Leaky door gaskets can let heat pass, causing the equipment to use much more energy to hold the right temperature. A good way to check to see if a gasket needs to be replaced is to close the door on a piece of paper. If the paper stays put with the door closed, then the gasket is probably fine. If it seems loose or falls, it may be time to replace the gasket.
- Properly Care for Door Hinges
- Keep Up With Your Equipment's Maintenance Schedule
If your equipment shows no obvious signs of distress, you may see an opportunity to save a little money by skipping your scheduled annual service call. Unfortunately, saving a little cash on a routine tune-up can end up costing you a lot more in the long run. Poorly maintained equipment can suffer from reduced energy efficiency due to several factors, ranging from its worn out seals that let heat escape to clogged burner ports that prevent gas from flowing efficiently. Keeping to a regular maintenance schedule can save you money on utility bills and will almost certainly extend the life of the equipment. Energy-efficient equipment will also cook faster and provide more consistent results.
Just like old gaskets, worn out hinges can prevent doors from sealing properly, wasting electricity by compensating for heat that's lost through the gap. Hinges on well-cared-for doors should never have to be replaced. The key to keeping your hinges intact is to make sure that your staff is trained on proper usage. In other words, don't let your kitchen be the source of those horror stories we hear involving cooks using oven doors as step stools to reach and clean the hood baffle filter. Also, train employees to resist resting heavy pans on open oven doors when that can be avoided.
"ENERGY STAR Guide for Restaurants". EPA. Accessed: 23 April 2015.