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Energy Saving Tips for Restaurants

Energy Saving Tips – Restaurants

Commercial energy customers have needs that are unique and vary widely depending on the industry or business. Finding ways to save energy can mean big operational energy savings, a smaller carbon footprint and improved profitability. Businesses can qualify for efficiency programs and earn rebates for energy-saving purchases when they consider new machinery or appliances to improve operations and conserve energy.

Pioneer is committed to being your community-owned resource and helping our commercial customers research and implement options to save money on their energy bills. We’ve curated information from specific industries and provided energy-saving tips and tricks which reduce consumption and ultimately improve your bottom line. The government-backed ENERGY STAR program provided many of the cost and energy-saving recommendations found here.

Use Energy Efficient and ENERGY STAR Equipment

Commercial equipment has a great impact on your restaurant’s energy consumption. When replacing equipment always consider ENERGY STAR equipment and understand the potential energy consumption of all new equipment.

  • Convection ovens are the most widely used appliances in the food service industry. These are the workhorses of the commercial kitchen, with a wide variety of uses from baking and roasting to warming and reheating. In addition to traditional uses, convection ovens are used for nearly all types of food preparation, including foods typically prepared using other types of appliances (e.g., griddles, fryers, etc.). Commercial ovens that have earned the ENERGY STAR are about 20 percent more energy-efficient than standard models. An ENERGY STAR certified electric convection oven saves businesses about 660 kWh annually.
  •  ENERGY STAR electric commercial griddles that are thermostatically controlled can save businesses around 1,300 kWh per year.  Some of the additional benefits beyond energy savings of ENERGY STAR certified griddles include improved uniformity of temperature across the griddle plate and a higher production capacity.  ENERGY STAR certified electric griddles are 11 percent more energy-efficient than standard models
  • Commercial refrigerators and freezers that have earned the ENERGY STAR are on average 20 percent more energy-efficient than standard models because they are designed with components such as ECM evaporator and condenser fan motors, hot gas anti-sweat heaters, or high-efficiency compressors, which will significantly reduce energy consumption and utility bills.
  • Commercial dishwashers can clean and sanitize a large quantity of kitchenware in a short amount of time by utilizing hot water, soap, rinse chemicals and significant amounts of energy. Size requirements for commercial dishwashing machines can be calculated by estimating the number of individuals served by your business.  ENERGY STAR dishwashers are about 40 percent more energy-efficient and 50 percent more water-efficient than standard models.
  • In addition to saving energy,  ENERGY STAR certified steam cookers also save water – 90 percent or more when compared with standard steam cooker models (using on average 3 gallons of water per hour versus 40 gallons of water per hour for standard models). Certified steam cookers are up to 60 percent more energy-efficient and up to 90 percent more water-efficient than standard models.
  • An  ENERGY STAR certified hot food holding cabinet often incorporates better insulation which reduces heat loss, offers better temperature uniformity within the cabinet from top to bottom, and keeps the external cabinet cooler. In addition, many certified holding cabinets may include energy-saving devices such as magnetic door gaskets, auto-door closures or dutch doors. Most models are up to 70 percent more energy-efficient than standard models.

Perform Equipment Maintenance

Regular equipment maintenance can help ensure it is functioning per the manufacturer’s specifications. Here are a couple of important tips related to ongoing maintenance.
  • Refrigerator Condenser Coils – Dust collects on the coils and prevents them from discharging the heat. This means your unit will have to work much harder to reach food-safe temperatures.
  • Water Filters – Water filtration systems prevent calcification and mineral deposits in equipment that connects to a water line. By regularly replacing your water filters, you ensure that scale buildup doesn’t clog the internal components of your equipment.
  • For more ideas, please refer to your various equipment owner’s manuals.

Reduce Water Consumption

Restaurants require large amounts of water. There are some simple ways to reduce water consumption and lower your water bill.
  • Use Low–Flow Spray Valves  –  Replace your pre-rinse spray valves with newer models that have lower GPM (gallons per minute) ratings.
  • Install Low-Flow Aerators  –  Consider using low-flow aerators or flow regulators that limit the amount of water flowing out of the faucet and lower the GPM to save you money.
  • Repair Leaky Faucets  –  Over time, the drips from a single leaky faucet add up. Instead of wasting water and money, repair your faucets with new components.
  • Install Waterless Urinals – These devices save 1 to 5 gallons of water per flush. The maintenance is reduced and there is never any flooding.

Use Energy-Efficient Lighting

Lighting is a significant energy user—averaging 13 percent of the total energy used in a restaurant—and a great place to start an efficiency upgrade, according to ENERGY STAR.

  • Switch off lights that aren’t in use.
  • Affix “Save Energy” stickers near light switches as a reminder.
  • Remove excess lighting in areas that are too bright.
  • Maximize daylight usage. Use task light to minimize general overhead lighting.
  • Install occupancy/motion sensors to automatically control the on/off of lighting in public areas such as corridors, bathrooms, etc.
  • Install lighting zone control wherever possible to switch lighting off in unoccupied areas.
  • Keep all windows, light bulbs and light fittings clean to maintain optimum lighting performance.
  • Replace T8 and T12 fluorescent lamps with Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs or LED retrofit kits.
  • Replace screw-in CFL and incandescent lamps with Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs.
  • Replace conventional “Exit” signs with LED “Exit” signs for energy-saving and longer bulb life.

Heating and Air Conditioner

One of the highest costs in the restaurant industry is your HVAC system. Taking steps to curb this cost will make a positive impact.

  • Set thermostats at 68 degrees (F) in the winter and 76 degrees (F) in the summer.
  • Install occupancy/motion sensors to adjust temperature settings of the air-conditioning in infrequently used areas.
  • Keep the windows and doors closed when the AC is turned on and use curtains or blinds to shade against sunlight.
  • Switch off lighting and heat-producing appliances that are not in use to reduce air-conditioning load
  • Install thermometers to monitor the room temperature to avoid excessive cooling or heating.
  • Set the fan coil to “low” fan speed as the normal setting.
  • Using a ceiling fan can achieve two objectives. First, the cool air can lower a person’s body temperature. Second, the fan can evenly distribute the cool air around the room. These benefits allow the thermostat to be set a couple of degrees higher or lower which results in further energy savings.
  • Clean dust filters and fan coil units regularly.
  • Remove obstructions at air inlets and outlets of the AC and ventilation.

Decrease Heat Usage

Look for little ways to decrease the heat usage in your restaurant like using less hot water or preventing your employees from making changes to the temperature settings on your thermostat.

  • Install Smart Thermostats – Smart thermostats can be programmed remotely and are able to optimize energy use.
  • Lower Water Temps – Mandatory dishwashing temperatures in the foodservice industry are around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Double-check the requirements for your area, then optimize your water temperature so you don’t use water that’s hotter than it needs to be.
  • Unheated Hand Dryers  –  Energy-efficient hand dryers that rely on forced air instead of heated air can save up to 80 percent on energy costs.

Reduce Ambient Temperatures in Your Kitchen

When the ambient temperatures in your kitchen are too high, your refrigeration equipment works extra hard to keep foods chilled.
  • Use Induction Equipment – Induction cookers and induction equipment work without the use of a flame or burner. They transfer heat directly to your cookware while the surrounding air stays cool.
  • Kitchen Exhaust Hoods  –  Use condensate hoods above your dish machines and steam equipment to help remove the hot air out of your kitchen.
  • Use LEDs – Make sure to use LED light bulbs in your kitchen and prep areas because they don’t emit as much heat as incandescent bulbs.

Idle Equipment Shut Down

This may sound simple, but restaurants often don’t have a process for ensuring idle equipment is shut down.

  • Use a Startup/Shutdown Schedule – Take the time to observe when your equipment units are being used the most and create a schedule for starting up and shutting down. During downtime, turn off the range or the fryer and begin preheating again when business picks up.
  • Lighting Timers – Use timers for your outdoor lighting, or even try solar-powered outdoor lights that can charge themselves.
  • Smart Controls – Investing in equipment with smart control technology allows you to start up your appliances remotely.
  • Occupancy Sensors – Installing occupancy sensors in seldom-used work areas will help save energy.

These tips have been compiled from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR program. If you have any questions about other ways to reduce your energy bills, please contact your Pioneer Community Energy team by email at or by phone at (916) 758-8969.