Foodservice operators are always looking for ways to cut costs. Anything to reduce overhead will boost the bottom line, so it makes sense to look for kitchen equipment that might be using too much energy.
Refrigeration equipment is one of the top five energy hogs in commercial buildings, according to the Energy Information Administration. Choosing the most energy-efficient equipment is a good idea when you're buying new refrigeration systems, but there are ways to make your current equipment more efficient without investing in anything new. If you want to save energy (and money), consider the following tips to make your refrigeration systems more efficient:
Door Gaskets and Auto Closers
Door gaskets get worn down after extensive use, and they need to be checked frequently and replaced when needed. A worn-out or loose gasket can let cold air escape and warmer air creep in, making your refrigeration unit work overtime. Gaskets are generally inexpensive and relatively easy to replace on your own. Tightening door hinges can also help doors stay firmly shut (if the gaskets are in good condition).
Automatic door closers also need to be checked; if they're not working right and closing slowly or incompletely, that's another way warm air can get into your fridge. If you don't have automatic door closers, adding them will help prevent fridge doors from being left open.
Keep it Clean
Self-contained refrigerated units can gather dirt and dust in hidden places, like within coils. This can keep them from working efficiently, so it pays to clean them carefully on a regular schedule. You may need to remove panels to clean certain areas -- check your manuals for instructions. While you're doing your routine cleanings, it's also worth checking any other issues or maintenance needs. Keeping your equipment well-maintained will help it run as efficiently as possible.
Every refrigerated unit needs airflow to work properly, and if you don't have enough space around yours it may not be as efficient as possible. Check the manual for your equipment and make sure you've got the right amount of clearance around your refrigerators. While it's tempting to pack equipment close together to maximize your kitchen space, keeping your cooling equipment running efficiently should be a top priority.
If you use a glass-door case, either inside your kitchen or for customer use, having it constantly lit can be an energy drain. Consider adding motion-sensitive lighting so that the cooler only lights up when someone actually needs it. If possible, switch bulbs to energy-efficient options like CFL or LED.
Open cases can leak a lot of cold air. If you need to use these kinds of cases, adding a curtain at night (or whenever your business is closed) can keep more of that air in the case and save money on your energy bill.
Curtains can also help reduce wasted energy in walk-in coolers; sometimes the door needs to stay open while a staff member is inside, and a curtain can help keep cold air inside the cooler. Strip curtains are affordable and can reduce outside air infiltration by up to 75 percent, according to Energy Star.