Energy-saving Tips for Restaurants*

Food preparation uses by far the most natural gas (over 50% of all consumption) in a typical restaurant. While using the most energy efficient equipment is a great way to save on natural gas over the long-term, there are a number of operational changes and low-cost retrofits that can save significantly on energy usage in the kitchen area.

  • Do not preheat steam tables, grills, broilers, etc. For preheating ovens, 15 minutes is generally adequate, depending on the appliance and desired temperature.
  • Use microwave ovens when possible. Microwave ovens use significantly less energy than other cooking equipment and can be used for thawing, partial cooking and reheating food.
  • Keep equipment clean. Carbon and grease build-up make your cooking equipment work harder and use more energy.
  • When feasible, do not use the range top. Instead, use other equipment, such as steamers and ovens that use less energy and add less heat to the kitchen.
  • Cover all pots, which reduces heat loss and causes the food to cook faster.
  • Do not use two ovens when one will do.
  • Do not use large ovens when cooking small amounts of food.
  • Schedule cooking times to utilize ovens fully and shorten daily operating times.
  • Do not operate fryers higher than 350º. Higher temperatures are less efficient.
  • Pre-cook foods such as potatoes and chicken in a steamer before frying. Steamers are much more energy efficient.
  • Integrate controls that turn down the heat input with sensors that determine when food is not present. A large percentage of food equipment continues to run (idle) at high heat input rates even when food is not present.
  • Consider upgrading to high-efficiency ENERGY STAR® rated equipment. Other energy saving upgrades to consider include using combination ovens that use superheated steam for browning and surface cooking, and installing demand ventilation, which modulates the range hood and makeup air fan speeds.

Water Heating
A 125-seat restaurant serving 225 meals per day uses about 200,000 gallons of water per year, according to a University of Florida study. Because a large percentage of this usage is hot water, taking steps to conserve hot water will help to reduce energy costs.

Dishwashing is the most significant use of hot water in a typical restaurant setting. Here are some dishwashing energy-saving tips.

  • Run the dishwasher only with full loads.
  • Keep dishwasher temperature at the proper level. Standard temperatures are: 140° F, wash; 160° F, power rinse; 180° F, final rinse. Using hotter water wastes energy.
  • Consider substituting chemical rinses for hot water rinses if codes allow. A chemical solution, such as a bleach-type product, can possibly be used instead of 180° water for final rinse.
  • Turn off booster heaters. Turn dishwasher water heaters off when machine is not in use and at closing. It costs money to heat the water, whether it is used or not.
  • Check power rinse. Make sure that the power rinse on the dishwasher is turning off automatically when the tray has gone through the machine.
  • Clean the dishwasher regularly. Check wash and rinse jets after each use. Empty scrap trays frequently. Use a delime solution regularly; lime build-up clogs the wash and rinse jets.

Invest in low-flow, pre-rinse spray valves to save energy, water, and sewage costs. The typical spray valve used to wash dishes by hand runs four gallons of water a minute. Plus, the restaurant pays for the energy to heat the water, the cost of water, and the cost of sewage. A low-flow valve, which costs about $40, consumes 1.6 gallons a minute.

Also consider the following ideas:

  • Install aerated faucets to reduce the amount of water used during hand washing.
  • Turn down water heaters when the restaurant is closed. Optionally, install timers to turn down water heaters near closing and turn them back on again before re-opening to reach desired temperature.
  • Make sure that hot water pipes and tanks are properly insulated and regularly maintained.

Space Heating
Heating is another major energy use in both fast food and sit-down restaurants. You can lower natural gas bills by taking a few simple energy-saving steps.

  • Install smart thermostat controls to operate the HVAC system according to occupancy schedules and nighttime temperature setbacks.
  • Make sure that the system is clean and inspected on an annual basis and change filters regularly.
  • Use kitchen exhaust fans only when needed and at speeds no higher than necessary. Exhaust fans are important for air quality, but they waste energy by pulling large amounts of heated air out of the building.
  • For long-term energy savings consider energy efficient retrofits such as new, efficient burners, temperature and pressure reset controls, and boiler economizers.

*Information courtesy of Questline Tech Resources, Columbus, Ohio.

Articles of Interest
Restaurant - Hospitality Magazine

Industry Links

National Restaurant Association
American Gas Association

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