If You Can't Stand the Heat

One feature with consider-
able energy demands on any campus is food service facilities. Refrigerators, freezers, cooking equipment, ventilation, dishwashers, lighting, and air conditioners must be monitored and controlled to provide energy- and money-saving benefits. This look at HVAC and energy-management initiatives for food service facilities offers insight on developing energy-efficient food service operations.

“There are many bonuses to operating a green kitchen beyond energy savings,” says Richard Young, senior engineer and director of Education at The Food Service Technology Center (www.fishnick.com), an unbiased energy-efficiency research program funded by California utility customers. The San Ramon-based program has been involved in evaluating commercial kitchen appliance and system performance for 25 years. “Some of these benefits include greater food production, better cooking uniformity, and a cooler, quieter, less smoky kitchen.”

Kitchens waste mass amounts of water, and with water prices rising faster than inflation, this is an area where a significant amount of money can be saved.

“You pay for every drop of hot water three different ways,” says Young. “You pay for the actual water, you pay for the heating of the water, and you pay for the sewer charge when the water is disposed of. Even the smallest of drips can cost up to $1,000 per year.”

Installing low-flow spray valves, fixing leaks promptly, and turning down dipper wells are three easy ways to save water and money.

“You often see walk-in cooler doors in commercial kitchens that do not close properly,” says Young. “A leaky refrigerator wastes energy and money 24/7. The thing to remember about refrigeration is it is the process of removing heat from a box. You are not putting cold air in; you are removing heat. Once you realize that, you look at refrigeration differently.

“We suggest paying close attention to what we call ‘4 on the Door,’” says Young.
Ensure the automatic door closer is working properly. It should pull the door closed the last few inches automatically.
  2. Make sure the gaskets are in good shape so the door is sealed all the way around.
  3. The door must be properly aligned so it will shut completely.
  4. Install some type of barrier, like a plastic curtain, to help hold the cold air inside when the door needs to be opened to remove items.

“There are many ways to save energy in a refrigeration system, but properly setting the temperature is the cheapest and easiest,” says Young. “Often, the temperature is set too low, which is a waste of energy and money. Properly setting defrost, primarily on freezers, is also important. Often, you find the defrost is set too high, so the box is heating itself up and then has to cool back down.”

Proper maintenance of evaporator and condenser coils is also essential. “There are coils located on the roof, behind the soda machine, on the deli table, etc. Anywhere items are kept cool, you will find these coils,” says Young. “In order to exchange heat effectively, these coils must be kept clean and free of dust.”

Another way to save money on cooling is to install ECM (electronically commutated motor) motors on evaporator and condenser fans. “ECM motors do the same amount of work (move the same amount of air) but at a third of the amount of energy,” says Young.

Appliances are huge energy guzzlers. One no-cost change that can save money is to create a schedule for appliance use. “We find that appliances are often run much longer than they are needed,” says Young. “Many people turn on appliances hours before they are needed, thinking they take a long time to heat up, but in actuality it only takes about 15 minutes.”

Also, be mindful of what appliances remain on even when they are not being used. “Be sure to turn off holding cabinets, coffee machines, conveyor toasters, steam tables, plate and food warmers, and heat lamps when not needed,” says Young. For example, one coffee warmer uses 90W of energy.

“Purchasing energy-efficient appliances and maintaining them is a big, big deal,” says Young. “Not all appliances are the same; purchase your equipment wisely. Thousands of dollars can be saved by buying more energy-efficient appliances.”

There are a couple ways to find which appliances are more energy efficient. One is to buy ENERGY STAR products. Visit www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_find_es_products to find commercial energy-efficient appliances.

The ENERGY STAR program only 
covers the following eight categories of 
appliances, however:
hot food holding cabinets
  • ice machines
  • ovens
refrigerators and freezers
  • steam cookers
“California has an amazing rebate program,” says Young. “California has more categories under their rebate classifications, including convection ovens, kitchen ventilation control, glass door freezers, solid door freezers, and more. Go to the rebate site on www.fishnick.com/save
energy/rebates for more information on these other categories. While the rebate information is only good for California, the product information is universal.”

Replacing existing lighting with 
energy-efficient lighting can save up 
to 75 percent in energy and costs. 
“One important thing to keep in 
mind,” says Young, “is that in July 
2012, T12 linear fluorescent lights 
will no longer be available due to new 
federal regulations. These lights are 
found in many commercial kitchens. When those lamps burn out, you will 
be forced to upgrade. Replacing those lamps now may allow you to take 
advantage of government rebates. 
If you wait until the federal law kicks in, 
those rebates disappear.” 

Danielle Przyborowski is a Dayton, OH-based freelance writer with experience in educational and architectural topics.

About the Author

Danielle Przyborowski is a Dayton, Ohio-based freelance writer with experience in educational and architectural topics.

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