The law of supply and demand is perhaps society’s most basic principle. In some areas of the country, utility companies may price energy on this principle. Using what is known as Time of Use (TOU) pricing, when the demand for energy is highest, generally 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., the cost per kilowatt-hour is higher than the late night and early morning hours.
Check with your local utility to find out what’s happening in your area. Then, with knowledge comes power, so use it to save money. Here are a few tips to help you save if you are in a region with TOU pricing.

Ice machines. This is among the easiest changes. Determine how much ice your operation uses during a day and, assuming you have ample storage capacity, make that ice during the overnight hours. It’s just like storing energy. And because the heat that results from the ice-making process won’t be emitted into the kitchen during peak hours, the kitchen-cooling load during peak hours is also reduced.  

Non-essential equipment. During mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when there’s a lull in business, turn off your heat lamps and set steam tables, conveyor toasters, broilers, and the like on standby. You’ll be able to bring them back to up full power quickly when needed but, in the meantime, you’ll reduce electricity usage considerably. Because the heat emitted from this equipment will be reduced, you’ll also save on air conditioning.

• Off-peak cooling. Use off-peak hours to pre-cool your restaurant when electricity costs are significantly less. While 74˚F may be your target temperature, consider pre-cooling to 70˚F when rates are low in the earlier part of the day. Then when you hit peak hours, you’ll have a good temperature cushion that will keep your establishment comfortable for a significant length of time before your thermostat triggers more air conditioning.

Peak time cooling. During peak times, turn the formula on its head. When the weather is hot, set the thermostat to 76˚F and let your system continue to ride out the most expensive part of the day.

Both of these strategies can be easily managed with a programmable thermostat, and to ensure that no one changes your program, you may want to consider enclosing and locking down the thermostat.

Control and monitoring are critical to these energy reduction strategies. It’s easier to set and enforce temperature set points if management can program a thermostat remotely. Once the cycles have been set, monitoring is key to make sure the system is operating correctly. One option that quickly pays for itself is an energy control and monitoring system that allows you to tap into your energy usage in real time so that you can make adjustments instantly.

Jay Fiske is v.p. of business development for Powerhouse Dynamics, developers of the eMonitor energy, asset, and water management platform for homes and small commercial facilities. He is responsible for leading the company’s overall sales and marketing strategy, developing and growing market channels, and establishing strategic partnerships. He can be reached at jay@powerhousedynamics.com.