Find energy hogs hiding in your restaurant.

Are energy hogs robbing you blind? There’s only one way to hunt them down: conduct an audit of your facilities. Many utilities may be willing to do that for you. If you prefer to do the hunting yourself, however, here are a few areas to review, courtesy of the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Food Preparation: Accounts for 35 percent of energy usage.

  1. Start-up/Shut-down Schedule: Do you have a schedule for kitchen equipment, or is it left on continuously? This is an easy one. If it’s not needed, shut it down.

  2. Range tops: Are they clean and in good repair? Are pilot lights operating correctly?

  3. Ovens & Steamers: Are doors properly aligned and gaskets in good repair so that steam and heat can't escape?

HVAC: Accounts for 28 percent of energy usage.

  1. Thermostats: Are they programmed to provide comfortable ambient temperatures for guests and employees? The EPA suggests air conditioning settings of 76ºF for cooling occupied rooms and 85ºF for unoccupied areas. For heating, the recommendation is 68ºF and 55ºF, respectively. Where feasible, turn thermostats off when your business is closed.

  2. Ventilation: When appliances are powered down, are their exhaust and make-up systems also turned off? Are your appliances placed completely under exhaust hoods? Are your exhaust hood grease filters clean and in good repair? If not, it could cost you far more than wasted energy – it's also a fire hazard.

  3. Outside: Are patio space heaters and misters turned off when the area is unoccupied? Are rooftop exhaust fans clean? Are any belts loose or broken?

Sanitation: Accounts for 18 percent of energy usage.

  1. Sinks: Are faucets in good order, or are there leaks? A single faucet that drips once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water a year, but a washer to fix it would be cheaper than $1 to buy. Better yet, you can install a low-flow aerator, which will reduce water use by 80 percent. You’ll also save on the energy used to heat all of that water.

  2. Dish Washing: Is your dish room equipped with low-flow, pre-rinse spray valves? If not, the cost is about $50, and if it’s used about three hours a day, you can expect savings of about $1,000 a year in water, sewer, and energy costs.

  3. Public Restrooms: After dish washing, this is the most significant use of water. A running toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons per day – 6,000 gallons in a month.

Lighting: Accounts for 13 percent of energy usage.

  1. Back of the house: Are you using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) wherever possible? They last 10 times longer than incandescent and reduce your energy use by 75 percent.

  2. Front of the house: Are you using dimmable LED lighting that provides the utmost in both light quality and energy efficiency? You’ll pay for the change in about a year, but the LED lamps will save even more energy than CFLs and last approximately 50,000 hours – five times longer than the best CFLs.

  3. Storage rooms: Are you using motion-sensor lighting that goes on when people enter and shuts off when they leave?

Refrigeration: Accounts for 6 percent of energy usage.

  1. Reach-in Coolers: Are the doors properly aligned? Are gaskets in good shape and solidly connected to the doors? Are the doors fully closed when not in use? If not, you’re letting cold air escape. As the cooler works harder and harder to maintain its set temperature, you’re headed for a breakdown.

  2. Walk-in Cooler Doors: Check your walk-ins for the same issues. Additionally, do your walk-ins have strip curtains and automatic door closers?

  3. Condenser & Evaporator Coils: Are they dirty, trashy, or frozen? You’ll be surprised at what you find back there. Cleaning them will save money and increase the life of the coolers.

These are just a few areas to get you started. For more detailed information and a checklist to help you conduct your own energy audit, visit the website of the Food Service Technology Center. For most appliances and systems at risk for becoming “energy hogs,” cleaning and maintenance is crucial – you’d never use your car without an oil change and tune-up and expect it to run at peak efficiency. The same is true for your foodservice operation.

And, just like maintaining your car, keeping your restaurant energy-conscious requires constant vigilance. The toilet that’s working fine today may be running constantly tomorrow. Refrigeration equipment that was top-of-the-line five years ago may develop problems and start using huge amounts of electricity and you’ll never know it until the power bill arrives. Fortunately, there are options for managing this critical part of your operation. For more information, go to the Powerhouse Dynamics website.

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