How to avoid energy traffic jams

The law of supply and demand is perhaps society’s most basic principle. When supply exceeds demand, prices fall. Conversely, higher demand leads to higher prices. In restaurants, that principle underlies “happy hour” and “early bird” specials based on bringing in customers during slow portions of the day. In some areas of the country, your utility may price energy the same way, using what is known as “Time of Use” (TOU) pricing. Under TOU pricing structures, when the demand for energy is highest, generally from noon til 6 p.m., the cost per kilowatt-hour is higher than during late-night and early-morning hours.

Check with your local utility to find out what’s happening in your area. With knowledge comes power, of course, so use your newfound knowledge to save money. If you are in a region with TOU pricing, here are a few tips to help you save.

  1. Ice Machines: Here's one of the easiest changes to make. Determine how much ice your operation uses during an average day, and (assuming you have ample storage capacity) make that ice during the overnight hours. It’s just like storing energy. And because the heat that results from the ice-making process won’t be emitted into the kitchen during peak hours, the kitchen cooling load is also reduced.

  2. Non-Essential Equipment: During mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when there’s a lull in business, turn off your heat lamps and set steam tables, conveyor toasters, broilers, etc. on standby. You’ll be able to bring them back to up full power quickly when needed, but in the meantime, you’ll reduce electricity usage considerably. Because the heat emitted from this equipment will be reduced, you’ll also save on air conditioning.

  3. Off-Peak Cooling: Use off-peak hours to “pre-cool” your restaurant when electricity costs significantly less. While 74 degrees Fahrenheit may be your target temperature, consider pre-cooling to 70 degrees in the early morning when rates are low. Then, when you hit peak hours, you’ll have a good temperature cushion that will help keep your establishment comfortable for a significant length of time before your thermostat triggers more air conditioning.

  4. Peak-Time Cooling: During peak times, turn the aforementioned formula on its head. When the weather is hot, set the thermostat to 76 degrees and let your system ride out the most expensive part of the day.

Both cooling strategies can be easily managed with a programmable thermostat. To ensure that no one changes your program, you may want to consider enclosing and locking down the thermostat.

Control and monitoring are critical to these energy reduction strategies. It’s easier to create and enforce temperature set points if the thermostat programming can be done remotely, with a system that allows a company to determine how the thermostat set points are changed and by whom. Once the cycles have been set, monitoring is key to ensure the system is operating correctly. One option that quickly pays for itself is an energy control and monitoring system that allows you to tap into your energy usage in real time so that you can make adjustments “à la minute.” For more information on these systems, visit Powerhouse Dynamics.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

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