And save a little money while you're at it. Big energy cost increases, estimated at a whopping 12.3 percent this year compared to just 2.9 percent last year—plus mounting pressure to be environmentally friendly—make energy saving a priority. Here are five up-and-coming ways to trim your power load.
Right now, the buzz in energy-saving lighting is compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, but LED (light-emitting diode) lights will soon outshine CFLs in applications far beyond their current uses—largely limited to things like exit signs, flashlights, microwave ovens and theater aisles. In an application like decorative pendant lights, for instance, LED lamps use 2 watts compared to CFL bulbs’ 9 watts and incandescent bulbs’ 40 watts. In ceiling-mounted spotlights over tables, LEDs’ 4 watts compare to halogen bulbs’ 40 or 50 watts. “You’ll soon be able to light with one tenth the energy and go for 10 years or more without having to change the bulb,” says Richard Young of California’s Food Service Technology Center (www.fishnick.com). Upfront costs (three to four times that of incandescent bulbs) and lower intensity are still barriers to widespread usage, but with costs comin down at a rate of about 15 percent a year and intensity doubling roughly every 18 months thanks to technological advancements, LEDs are expected to be mainstream within the next few years.
New control systems feature temperature sensors mounted in the exhaust duct and infrared beams that span the length of the exhaust hood. These automatically signal the ventilation system to power up or down based on the level of heat and smoke or steam coming off the cook line. No cooking, no energy expended on ventilation. Young says energy savings of up to 50 percent are possible. The controls can be retrofitted to existing exhaust systems and rebates are available in some states. A leading manufacturer, Young notes, is Melink Corporation (www.melinkcorp.com). Costs vary greatly depending on capacity, but in a pilot study done at a retail foodservice operation with three cook lines, installation was $18,000 with a payback period of 1.9 years.
As of October, commercial dishwashers joined other categories of commercial equipment available with Energy Star certification. Qualified models must meet maximum gallons per rack requirements during the final rinse and use less energy while idling between wash cycles. The savings? An estimated average of $850 per year on energy bills and more than $200 per year on water.
Effective January 1, Energy Star ice machines are available from many leading manufacturers, as well. The machines on average are 15 percent more energy-efficient and 10 percent more water-efficient than standard models. They’ll save you about $110 per year on utility and water bills.
Energy management systems.
They’ve been around a while and have yet to gain significant traction in foodservice, but advancements in technology and computer systems promise to make them viable soon, according to Young. He equates them to point-of-sale systems, which serve as central repositories of all sales and financial transaction data in a restaurant. So, too, will energy management systems centrally control and monitor via computer all kitchen equipment, refrigeration and lighting systems. There’s no single killer application in the category yet, Young says, but a number of companies, including Echelon Corp., Prenova and Arecont Systems, have introduced versions for foodservice and major chains, including Burger King and McDonald’s, have them in test. One Burger King franchisee reported spending $15,000 per unit for a Web-based system that manages lighting, ventilation and video surveillance. Manufacturers say total system costs vary greatly, depending on the extent of networking and controls desired, but that payback periods can average two to three years.