The foodservice industry is among the most energy-intensive industry around. Between cooking equipment, air ventilation systems and large-scale refrigeration needs, a restaurant may rack up energy bills in the thousands of dollars each month.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways for those in the foodservice sector to lower their energy costs.
A free seminar last week, hosted by Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy and the City of Minneapolis, looked at various energy- and money-saving opportunities for restaurants and other foodservice providers.
Keynote speaker Richard Young, an engineer with the Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon, Calif., laid out some ways foodservice operators can lower their energy cost. He emphasized that those that follow the guidelines discussed at the seminar often see energy efficiency measures pay back within a few years or less.
Here are some of the main energy-saving areas Young outlined:
Lighting. Too many restaurants still use incandescent light bulbs, which each suck 60 or 100 watts of electricity per hour. Instead, restaurants can shave their lighting costs by 75% or more by switching to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) or even LEDs (light-emitting diodes). Young noted that while LEDs are still expensive, many utilities now offer rebates to help reduce the upfront costs. (LEDs are also a better choice for dimmable fixtures.)
Energy-efficient kitchen equipment. Cooking and warming equipment zaps a lot of power. Carefully managing how the equipment is used – making sure it’s turned off when not being used – is the first line of defense. But beyond that, upgrading to high-efficiency ovens and steamers can greatly lower energy use. Many Minnesota utilities, including Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy, offer rebates for businesses that upgrade to high-efficiency foodservice equipment.
Ventilation. The kitchen “hood” – the ventilation system that exchanges smoke-filled kitchen exhaust with fresh air – hogs energy. There are some basic ways restaurants can reduce its energy use. One easy, no-cost solution is to push cooking equipment against the wall to prevent air from being trapped behind it, Young said. Another strategy: Put a sidewall on the hood to more efficiently push air upward through the ventilation hood. Restaurants can also purchase “on-demand” hood systems. This system cycles the hood on only when it’s needed thereby significantly reducing the number of hours the hood is on.
Refrigeration. Some basic maintenance with refrigeration equipment can help keep it running efficiently. These include: checking the rubber gaskets that keep refrigerator and freezer doors locked tightly and replacing any torn or loose ones; making sure the temperatures on refrigerators and freezers are sized appropriately for the amount of food stored inside; and cleaning the refrigerator vents to prevent blockage.
Need help lowering your restaurant or foodservice operation’s energy use or would like to pursue utility rebates? Contact Energy Smart at (651) 292-4652.