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Cool it!

Man it's hot!  My air conditioner is working overtime to keep people, pets, and even furniture from wilting in the heat. Add to it large equipment and dozens of people and the resulting utility bills, and the local restaurants are in a perpetual state of heat shock.

In the United States alone, the food service industry consumes more than $10 billion of gas and electricity a year — five times as much energy per square foot as the average office or retail operation. And food preparation represents the largest single component of energy costs. Even those who use them every day may not realize that griddles, fryers and ovens can eat up as much as 35 cents of every dollar spent on gas or electricity.

Since we can't cook without grills and ovens, can't see without the lighting, and can't keep customers without maintaining a cool environment, all we can do is conserve in small ways that can add up to some savings on the monthly bills. Some, like those listed below, are no- or low-cost, and make good sense any time of the year. Others may a bit more work or investment but pay off in the long run. We've provided a list of these.

Provided by our local utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric, here are tips to get you get started using less and saving more:

Lighting:

  • Turn off lights in unoccupied areas like walk-in's, storage rooms, and empty break rooms or offices. Savings = 0.2%
  • When there is adequate daytime lighting, turn off lamps and overhead lighting. Savings = 1.0%
  • Make sure lighting controllers (time clocks and photocells) are working and properly set. Make sure exterior lighting is off in the daytime. (!) Savings = 1.0%

HVAC:

  • Turn off exhaust hoods when appliances are turned off. Savings = 1.0%
  • Set thermostat at 78 degrees for cooling and 68 degrees for heating, use "unoccupied" or "night" settings when restaurant is closed, and turn off HVAC fans at night. Savings = 2.0%
  • Make sure that HVAC economizers are working properly and are set to maximize "free cooling." Savings = 1.0%
  • Make sure that evaporative cooler fan, pumps, and evaporator pads are working properly. Savings = 0.5%
  • Perform scheduled maintenance on units including cleaning condenser coils, replacing air filters regularly, and checking ducts and pipe insulation for damage.
  • Clean condenser coils and replace filters regularly.
  • Insulate water heaters and supply pipes.

Cooking Equipment:

  • Implement daily start-up and shut-down schedule for kitchen equipment. Pay close attention to broiler, griddle, range top, pasta cooker, rotisserie, conveyor oven and fryer — the biggest energy users. Turn off back-up appliances when not needed. Savings = 2.0%
  • Implement daily start-up and shut-down schedule for kitchen "plug loads." For instance, turn off holding cabinets, coffee machines, conveyor toasters, steam tables, plate and food warmers, and heat lamps when not needed. Savings = 1.0%
  • Consider replacing some or all electric cooking equipment with comparably sized gas-fired equipment.
  • Preheat cooking equipment no longer and at no higher setting than the manufacturer's recommendation.
  • Use cooking equipment to capacity. Fully loaded equipment utilizes energy more efficiently.
  • Filter fryer oil at least once a day to extend the oil life.
  • Don't overload fryer baskets beyond the recommended capacity. Overloading increases cook time.
  • Make sure oven doors fit tightly and gaskets are in good condition.

Sanitation:

  • Reduce dishwasher usage — fully load, maintain the elements, and turn off the tank and booster heaters when facility is closed. Savings = 1.0%

Refrigeration:

  • Maintain refrigerator doors — replace worn gaskets, align doors, enable auto door closers, and replace damaged strip curtains. Savings = 0.5%
  • Clean clogged and dirty condenser and evaporator coils at least once every quarter. Savings = 0.3%
  • Perform scheduled maintenance on units.
  • Use night covers on display cases.
  • Disconnect anti-condensate heaters.
  • Keep refrigerators full (water jugs make good fillers).
  • Lubricate refrigerator and freezer hinges and latches. Tighten loose hinges to prevent air leaks.
  • Maintain refrigerant charge and make sure there are no leaks in the refrigerant lines. Save up to $500/yr.

Keep reading for more energy-saving tips and a link to a great tool to give you an in-depth analysis of your energy use.

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