Consider these measures to tame your energy costs.
Winter means the arrival of inflated energy bills for full-service restaurant operations battling the cold. You can fight back by considering these measures to help manage your usage:
- Insulate pipes. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, insulating hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2 degrees Fahrenheit to 4 degrees Fahrenheit over uninsulated pipes, allowing for a lower water temperature setting. Insulating hot and cold water pipes with polyethylene or neoprene foam is a simple measure that will result in low-cost energy savings.
- Evaluate installing a solar hot water system. Most restaurants can lower their domestic water heating costs by more than 50 percent with an investment of under $15,000. You should conduct an evaluation to determine if solar hot water is right for your restaurant.
- Replace dirty air filters. Don’t let your air filter get too dirty. A grimy filter will impede air flow, forcing your heating and cooling motors to work harder. Air quality for customers and employees will suffer as well. As a general rule, check and change filters at least once every three months, or every month during cooling and heating seasons.
- Evaluate installing a combined heat and power (CHP) system. Cogeneration, or CHP, is the simultaneous production of electrical energy and another form of useful thermal energy (such as heat or steam) from the same fuel source. Micro-CHP is a version of cogeneration technology aimed at the small commercial market, including restaurants. Typically, micro-CHP units run on natural gas; they have a capacity of 5 megawatts and a heat recovery rate of 20,000 btus. Currently, micro-CHP is financially viable when retail power prices reach 12 to 14 cents per kilowatt hour.
- Upgrade your walk-in. Strip curtains and automatic door closers are inexpensive, easy-to-install upgrades suitable for just about any walk-in. By some estimates, strip curtains alone can cut outside-air infiltration by 75 percent. Utility rebates that cover a big chunk of the upfront costs to purchase a strip curtain are often available. With a rebate, the payback on a strip curtain is usually well under one year.
- Allow for air circulation around refrigerators and freezers. Refrigerators remove heat from inside the box and eject that heat through the coils on the top or bottom of the unit. Don’t push your reach-ins into tight spaces where that heat will build up, or the unit will have to work harder and use more energy.
- Upgrade your insulation. Insulating the “envelope” or “shell” of your restaurant is often the most cost-effective way to improve energy efficiency and comfort. According to the EPA, by effectively sealing and insulating a building shell, owners can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, which translates to substantial annual savings!
- Better manage product defrosting. Develop a frozen food pull schedule to avoid the practice of defrosting food under running hot water. If a 2 gallon per minute faucet is used for this purpose one hour every day for a year, the cost may exceed $800.
- Consider creating your own energy onsite using a geothermal heat pump. A number of companies are starting to use geothermal heat pumps to cut costs and emissions. For instance, Phillips 66 installed a geothermal heat pump in its new Prairie Village, KS, gas station and convenience store. By connecting the coolers, freezers, and icemaker to the system, Phillips cut the overall energy use of its HVAC system 40 percent with a two-year payback.
- Use programmable thermostats. Properly using programmable thermostats in your restaurant is one of the easiest ways to save energy and money and reduce your environmental impact. Something as simple as using your thermostat to automate cooling at 72 degrees Fahrenheit and warming at 70 degrees Fahrenheit could save significant dollars.