Food is the mainstay of any restaurant, which is why it is no surprise that kitchen equipment uses up the most energy in all of them. It accounts for about 30% of the energy billsâ€“not including refrigeration, which can tack on roughly 15% more. With water, dishwashers and exhaust added on, you are looking at a huge portion of your energy costs coming directly from the back of the house. Fortunately, as in your home, you can go a bit greener in your commercial kitchen with energy saving equipment.
Energy efficiency is a money-saving, responsible goal for the modern restaurant owner. Energy Star labels are the gold standard for energy efficiency, and they are not just on housewares. Plenty of commercial equipment comes with the Energy Star seal of approval. Other organizations are adding their marks to green commercial equipment as well, such as the Food Service Technology Center and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, so look out for their test results and ratings too.
Kitchen equipment accounts for 30% of the energy billsâ€“not including refrigeration.
The EPA only gives Energy Star approval to eight types of kitchen equipment. They include dishwashers, fryers, steamers, refrigeration units, ovens, ice makers, holding cabinets and griddles. Using them can lead to a reduction in energy bills of 10-30%, not to mention the positive impact you will have on the environment. If that’s not incentive enough, your area may offer tax credits and rebates to business owners who use energy efficient equipment. The amounts are significant.
Check the Energy Star website for energy efficiency incentives. It’s as simple as entering your zip code in the rebate finder to find rebates, credits and special offers in your area. Your entry will give you a list of rebates on specific equipment offered by local energy companies. They can include thousands of dollars back on the purchase of refrigeration units, dishwashers and more. Every restaurant owner should take advantage of these money-saving opportunities when purchasing new equipment. They leave little reason to go with less efficient products.
Most restaurants have only one dishwasher, though they may also have a small dishwasher exclusively for cups in the front of the house to keep the back from getting slammed. Even though there are few of them in a restaurant, even one or two energy efficient dishwashers can make a huge difference.
Commercial dishwashers that meet Energy Star standards are 40% more energy efficient as well as 40% more water efficient. They “must meet maximum water consumption requirements during the final rinse and use less energy while idling between wash cycles.” Technology that achieves this is eligible for an Energy Star label and can save you an average of $3,000 a year on energy and water bills.
Save More Money Running Your Dishwasher
- Always run conveyor dishwashers on auto mode.
- Always run your dish racks with a full load of dishes. This keeps the number of washes down, which saves on electricity and water.
- Make sure the psi on your dishwasher’s pressure gauge is 25 or below. You should be good at about 20 psi. When the pressure is higher, you waste water.
Energy Star standards are 40% more energy and water efficient.
Transitioning to Energy Efficient Equipment
You may not be ready to start buying new equipment for your restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready to choose energy efficiency when the time comes. Create a replacement plan for when your current equipment stops working or needs an upgrade. Your plan should include all of the resources you need to locate and purchase the exact model you want on the fly. That way, if your main refrigeration unit stops working, you don’t have to shop around. You already know where and how to get what you need.
A simple way to have an energy efficient backup plan is to create a bookmarks folder on your Internet browser. Bookmark the links for your favorite equipment and the rebate finder in your appliance upgrades folder. Come back to it at least once a year to make sure the equipment there is still your first choice. You may find a new model that you prefer or your budget may change. Also make sure to check available credits and rebates often because they could impact your decision.
Finding energy efficient kitchen equipment online is very simple, especially when it comes to Energy Star. It’s a major selling point and money saver, so it is naturally included in product descriptions. You will also find information on the websites of Energy Star and other organizations that rate industrial kitchen equipment for energy savings. Make sure to look at the website of the organization that has incentives in your area. Most of these incentives are specific to the organization rating your equipment.
Train Your Staff to Be More Eco-Friendly
You cannot reach your full energy-saving potential unless your employees are on the same page. Therefore, every restaurant that makes a commitment to go green should make it a part of employee training. If it’s part of the job and not an afterthought, it will be easy to implement.
Whether you’ve installed Energy Star equipment or not, you can start using green practices right away. First, figure out what your employees can do to help you conserve energy and water. Examples include running full racks of dishes only, closing refrigeration units promptly and taking in deliveries quickly on cold or hot days. Meet with your managerial staff to come up with a reasonable action plan.
Call a mandatory paid meeting for every member of staff to get everyone up-to-date on your plans for a greener business. Make it accessible to all team members, which might mean having two meetings at two different times of day. Let your staff know that you are making the decision to go green, and that from there on out, green practices will be part of staff training. Fill them in on all of the practices you have come up with and invite them to suggest their own ways of making your restaurant greener.
As the transition moves forward, make sure to reinforce the new practices by rewarding staff for doing a good job, telling them how much money they’re saving and reminding everyone how important it is that your business be eco-friendly. Add incentives like free staff meals or gift cards for those employees you catch being eco-friendly most often. Soon, being energy efficient will come naturally to everyone.
Energy-saving equipment is just one piece of going green, but it’s a big one. There is no reason to hesitate before making this important decision. When you are ready to upgrade your kitchen equipment with eco-friendly alternatives, you will get the same tools that you are used to having in your kitchen. In some cases, you will get even better equipment than you have now. The only things that will change are your energy bills and your impact on their environment.
It takes a little ingenuity to create energy efficient products that meet the EPA’s Energy Star standards. Ice machines, commercial dishwashers and refrigerators that meet these standards have special features that keep them from wasting energy during everyday use.
Restaurants tend to have at least one ice machine, though many have two or more. There is usually a large one in the kitchen and at least one near the drink machine. This means lots of energy saving potential.
Manufacturers can make ice machines more efficient by using harvest assist devices that make harvesting faster. This change can bring you, the restaurant owner, up to $1,300 in savings over the lifetime of the machine. Incentives for buying ice machines range from $20-$2,400. With a good rebate and years of use, energy efficient ice machines can easily pay for themselves.
Using Even Less Energy With Ice Machines
- While your instinct may be to buy a smaller ice machine, larger ones are actually more energy efficient. You won’t pay much more for one, either.
- Install a timer on your ice machine that keeps it from making too much ice during the slow shifts.
- Water-cooled ice machines actually add to your operating costs by using up much more water.
Refrigerators and Freezers
Refrigerators and freezers are all over your restaurant. Walk-ins and reach-ins are staples in the restaurant industry. You have the potential to save a bundle of money by switching them over to energy efficient units wherever possible.
Energy Star compliant units use uniform cabinet temperatures and advanced fan blade technology to improve their efficiency. They have ECM evaporators and condenser fan motors, high efficiency compressors or hot gas anti-sweat heaters to keep everything at the right temperature without expending as much energy as a traditional unit. A single energy efficient refrigerator can save you about $900 to $1,000 in energy over its lifetime. A freezer can save you a whopping $2,000 to more than $4,000. Initial rebates on refrigerators and freezers range from $25 to $1,000.