If you're in the foodservice industry, you know your utility bill is one of your largest expenses. And of those energy eaters, your walk-in freezer and refrigerator can be some of the largest draws of your electricity.
In addition to large utility bills, walk-in freezers and refrigerators can cost you even more money. When cold air escapes, the added expense of food spoilage or ingredients losing shelf life can also be a costly endeavor.
One trick to eliminate high energy spends and lower food waste costs is to keep cold air inside your walk-ins where it belongs. Here are a few changes to consider making:
Limit the Number of Employees with Access to the Walk-ins
If you have 20 employees who enter the walk-ins once an hour during an eight-hour shift, then you have air escaping your refrigerator or freezer 160 times in that one shift.
Many of these trips into the walk-ins can wait, or you can consolidate several trips into one. You can add a padlock or keypad lock to your walk-ins and limit access to management, team leaders, and other trusted employees. If you later notice a spike in your energy bill, it's easy to go back to that small set of employees and explore the reason for the change. The fewer times the door to your walk-ins opens equates to the amount of cold air that escapes your walk-in.
Install Strip Curtains in Your Walk-Ins
Heavy-duty plastic strip curtains can help keep cold air inside your freezer and refrigerator. Imagine opening the door to your walk-in and feeling that first blast of cold air that comes rolling out.
With strip curtains, the amount of cold air that rolls out is considerably less than without them. Also, your strip curtains fall back into place once an employee walks through them to lower the amount of time air escapes from the walk-in.
Set Specific Times to Access the Walk-Ins
It's really easy to run into the walk-in and grab an extra box of butter or pack of frozen steaks, but each time your staff does this you lose cold air from your walk-ins.
By setting specific times to access the walk-ins, you encourage your employees and staff to plan more efficiently for what they'll need during a specific period of time. For emergencies, you can put a policy in place that the employee must clear entry into the walk-ins outside the selected times with a manager. This makes it easier to identify issues and correct them in the future and keep your cold air inside the walk-in.
Stop Employees from Propping the Walk-In Doors Open
In some cases, your employee might be afraid of getting locked inside or they need to make multiple trips for supplies, so they block the door to the walk-in fridge and freezer so it doesn't close. This is a large period of time when the cold air just pours out of your walk-ins.
You can start by creating a company policy where employees aren't allowed to prop the door open. It's also beneficial to remove any objects that can easily be used to prop the door open from the general area of the walk-ins.
Regular Maintenance on Your Walk-Ins
During a regular maintenance call, a service professional will identify areas where cold air is escaping your walk-ins and come up with a plan to fix any issues. It might be a small tear in the shell of your walk-ins or a vent that isn't working properly. Regular maintenance should help keep your cool air in your walk-ins.
You don't want to spend any more money than you need to on utilities and stock. Keeping the cold air inside your walk-ins is one way to keep these bills lower. It's a good idea to start out with one or two of these tips to see what works for your operation.