“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” It may be an old adage, but five minutes in a bustling kitchen leaves little doubt that it’s also literally true. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, restaurants spend about three times more on electricity per square foot than other small commercial facilities. More than a third of that cost can be directly traced to heating, ventilating, and air conditioning. Following are a few simple tips that can help you save money and boost the bottom line.
Heating & Air Conditioning
Set your thermostat wisely. When the restaurant is open, set thermostats at 68 degrees when it’s cold and 78 degrees when it’s hot. When the restaurant is closed, dial settings back by another 10 degrees, perhaps 58 degrees during cold months and 88 degrees when the weather is hot.
Consider a programmable thermostat. When properly programmed, these thermostats give you complete control over when, where, and how much energy is used. To ensure against employee “thermostat wars,” you may want to consider a tamper-proof installation or a thermostat that can be controlled remotely and locked-out with software.
Maintain your system. Have your system inspected annually and change your filters monthly during peak heating and cooling seasons. Filters cost only a few dollars – in the short run, you'll save energy, and in the long run, you'll extend the life of your equipment.
“Warm sun in.” When the weather is cold, take advantage of the southern exposure to add warmth.
“Hot sun out.” Keep out the hot eastern and western sunlight. The best solutions prevent heat from entering through the window glass with solar screens, awnings, or outside vegetation that provides shade. Although less effective, curtains or shades help mitigate impact once the heat has entered the building.
Utilize fans. Just by moving the air when it’s hot, you can maintain comfort while increasing the thermostatic temperature by 3 to 5 degrees. On days when the outside temperature is more comfortable than inside, an attic fan can help by pushing hotter air out and pulling in cooler air from outside.
Check weather stripping and caulking. The cost is minimal, but plugging those leaks around doors and windows will put money in your pocket.
Ducting – don’t install it and forget it. Anything that requires access above the ceiling (such as new fixtures, pest control, and lighting) may disturb your ductwork. Whether a complete disconnection or a small leak, you’re paying for heat that is escaping and making your system work harder.
According to the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC), “Your kitchen exhaust is one of the most complex systems in your whole restaurant. Trying to corral all that hot smoky air and get it out of the building is no easy task. Turbulence, pressure drops, cross drafts, and convective currents are some of the myriad physical forces that can cause your hood to fail.” Following are some tips to ensure that you’re optimizing your exhaust system:
Push ‘em back. By closing the space behind appliances that are under the exhaust hood, you’ll maximize the hood overhang, close the air gap between appliances and the wall, and reduce air and grease spillage into the kitchen.
Position for performance. FSTC’s laboratory has found that, by moving the lowest duty appliances to the outer edge of the exhaust hood, you’ll likely reduce exhaust requirements. To explore this option, you’ll want to work with an expert. Your local utility may be able to help you on this, as they often contract with experts like FSTC to provide services at no cost to you.
Add side panels. This is relatively inexpensive and can keep heat from spilling out from under the sides of the hood, thereby adding to the kitchen temperature and impacting air quality.
Use exhaust fans only as needed. If you’re not using the appliances under the hood, turn the exhaust fan off.
All of the above tips can help you significantly reduce your energy usage, but it does take a concerted and continued effort. To stay on top of what’s happening and how much your efforts are helping, you may want to look into an energy management system. Once relegated to large commercial settings, technology has made energy management cost-effective for smaller footprints, and smartphone apps have put the technology at your fingertips. For more information, go to Powerhouse Dynamics.