November 5, 2018

By Brad Benson

With rising energy costs, climate change, and high operating costs restaurant owners and managers should look at trying to reduce their energy usage. Just a 20 percent reduction in energy costs will translate into an additional 1 percent in profit. In this post I will lay out the ways that you can reduce your energy consumption quickly and also long term solutions. The benefits not only include lower operating costs and reduced repair costs but also help the environment and can help your profile with environmentally conscience consumers. Before we get into the solutions let's see where your energy is being consumed. In a typical Restaurant Cooking, Refrigeration, Heating, Cooling, and Water Heating make up 80 percent of the energy consumed.



  • Refrigeration 43%
  • Cooking 14%
  • Ventilation 12%
  • Cooling 11%
  • Lighting 6%
  • Miscellaneous 14%

Natural Gas

  • Cooking 67%
  • Heating 15%
  • Water Heating 18%


At 43 percent of your total electrical consumption this is one area where reduction in energy usage could have the largest return on investment. As an Hvac and Refrigeration contractor I often see restaurants upgrade their HVAC system and lighting systems (which both are great ideas) and forget about the 25 year old walk in cooler and freezer. With such a large portion of your electrical usage in this category it makes sense to look towards some energy saving solutions.

Walk in Coolers and Freezers

Quick Solutions

There are several easy things that you can do to start saving energy today!

  • Turn off the lights when the cooler or freezer is not occupied.
  • Make sure that your box is sealed. Use food safe caulking to run all of the seams of the walk in box. They also make a cooler repair tape I put this over top of the caulking to help form a good seal. This reduces the air infiltration. You can do this yourself or hire a professional
  • Keep that door closed. Train staff to not prop the door open and when you get a truck in get product into the cooler as quickly as possible. A great solution is adding strip curtains to keep cold air in if you have heavy traffic.
  • Make sure that door gaskets are in good shape and that the door closes properly. This will assure that your box is sealed when the door is closed and lead to less run time for your condenser.
  • Do not put steaming hot food into your walk in cooler or Freezer let cool on the counter for a while. Always follow proper food safety procedures. Unless you have a blast chiller or freezer as these units are designed to instantly cool products down and are sized to handle the instant heat load.
  • Preventative Maintenance the most important thing you can do is a have a good preventative maintenance program in place either with your service provider or if you do it yourself. Clean condenser coils and evaporator coils quarterly and have the system checked at least once a year by a professional refrigeration contractor. A system that is under or over charged will not run efficiently and will decrease the life of your compressor leading to costly repairs.

Long Term Solutions

Long Term Solutions

Equipment replacement - Replacing your equipment with new energy star rated equipment can correlate into 67% in energy savings. The new equipment available on the market today has many great features including:

  • Electronic expansion valves assure proper superheat increasing efficiency and protecting your compressor.
  • ECM fan motors 30% to 70% more efficient than traditional motors.
  • Microchannel Coils are 40% more efficient than traditional coils and use 50% less refrigerant.
  • On Demand Defrost only defrost when you need to and not 4 times a day like a traditional system.
  • R-448A refrigerant- A replacement for 404a refrigerant that started its phase out in 2018. R-448A has 5%-15% lower energy consumption compared to 404a.

Upgrade your existing equipment by replacing evaporator and condenser fan motors with energy efficient ECM motors. Installing a evaporator management system that can give you on demand defrost and evaporator fan cycling.

Reach in Coolers and Freezers

Quick solutions the same as the walk in coolers make sure that your gaskets are good and that the doors shut properly. Don't overload it as it needs air flow from top to bottom inside. Don't push it back into an alcove make sure that it has room to breath and expel heat. Last but not least Preventative Maintenance clean that condenser regularly.

Long term solutions

Of course you know what I'm going to say replace it. Before you start looking on the internet for new equipment you should talk to your local refrigeration service contractor. They can tell you which equipment is going to be more efficient but also what is going to be the most reliable. Don't take the word of the salesman. We work on these we know what is junk and what is good equipment. I can't compete with the internet or the giant restaurant supply stores and I don't even try I quit selling reach in coolers years ago. I just want my customers to get the best piece of equipment for their budget. Do your research and seek professional advice you will be much happier with your purchase in the long run. ECM condenser fan motors can be installed on most makes and models of reach in coolers.

Ice Machines

Quick Solutions

  • Preventative Maintenance Have that ice machine professionally cleaned every 3 months.
  • Equipment layout- Don't locate your ice machine next to your oven.

Long Term Solutions

Equipment Replacement - The new ice machines are very efficient and have greater production most will make a batch of ice in 12 minutes vs. 20 minutes or longer in older machines. Consider switching to remote condensed and get that heat out of the space that you are trying to cool.


Cooking equipment accounts for 14% of your electrical and 67% of your natural gas energy consumption.

Quick Solutions

Have a professional come in and check gas pressure on all of your gas fired equipment. Assuring proper gas pressure will make sure that your commercial cooking appliance is operating within its design range saving you on energy and also providing a safer work space for your employees.
Turn off cooking appliances that you are not using. You see this especially with Fryers sitting idle, you have 6 fryers and are during your slow time of day you can shut off 2 or 3 and still have capacity to keep up with demand. Try not to preheat your broiler to early it is the most inefficient piece of equipment that you own. If you reduce broiler run time by just 1 hour a day that could save you $450 annually. $450 dollars annually does not sound like a lot of money but consider this if your restaurant operates with a profit margin of around 5% you would need about $9000 worth of sales to earn $450.

  • Keep your equipment clean and maintained.
  • Have your equipment calibrated by a professional.

Long Term Solutions

According to the department of energy replacing your older equipment with new energy star rated equipment will result in energy savings up to 30%. Buying good Quality equipment and maintaining it properly should give you 20 years of energy savings and reliability.


Quick Solutions

  • Make sure that all equipment is properly under your hood as this will be sure that the heat is being pulled out and not heating up your Kitchen reducing cooling costs.
  • Preventative Maintenance The most important thing in the preventative maintenance is to be sure that you have properly sized belts that have the right tension on both your exhaust and make up air unit. Notched belts are 2% more efficient run cooler and last longer than traditional v-belts. Worn sheaves more than 1/32" can decrease efficiency by 5%. Belt tension needs to be proper as a loose belt will slip and a belt that is too tight will over amp the motor and put stress on bearings. Have your HVAC contractor check to see that your belts and sheaves are in good shape and that the the tension is correct.
  • Leave hood off until you fire up equipment on the line.

Long Term Solutions

New hood systems have new technology which makes them very energy efficient. They can be set up with:

  • VFD's variable frequency drives these allow the motors to ramp up and down as needed.
  • Temperature initiated exhaust and make up air. This system operates at the minimum ventilation rate until temperature increases under the hood then it ramps up the speed via the VFD's of both the make up air unit and the exhaust fans. As the space under the hood cools (like at 2:00 after your lunch rush) the fan motors ramp down as needed. This saves you a ton on energy as your hood system is not running 100% all day.
  • Evaporative cooling packages to help temper the make up air and reduce kitchen cooling costs.
  • High Efficient Air Conditioning packages can now be added to make up air units to temper the air and assist with space cooling and adding more comfort for your hard working chefs.


At 11% of electrical and 15% of natural gas consumption heating and cooling of your building is a large part of your energy consumption.

Quick Solutions

  • Set the thermostat and lock your employees out. Set a heating and a cooling temperature during occupied times and set it back during unoccupied times. Then lock your employees out. I have responded to hundreds of iced up air conditioners and when I get there the thermostat is set to 62 degrees and the unit has ran constantly for 2 days all because some employee of yours was hot.
  • Thermostat location or sensor location- Where is the thermostat sensing temperature from is it located behind your ice machine with hot air blowing on it? Or is your dining area t/stat located where it gets direct sunlight through the windows? Thermostat location can make a big difference in run time of equipment.
  • Preventative Maintenance- Changing filters and inspecting belts and sheaves are the bare minimums. You can do both these yourself if desired but a full maintenance by a competent HVAC contractor should include much more like checking gas pressure and blower motor amps.
  • If you have an economizer have your HVAC provider check to see that it is working properly. An economizer is an addition to most hvac packaged roof top units it takes advantage of cooler outside air and opens dampers to utilize this cooler air in cooling your space and not having to utilize your compressor.

Long Term Solutions

  • Replace equipment with energy efficient equipment.
  • Add an economizer package to an existing packaged roof top unit.
  • Utilize Mini split air conditioners for space cooling, these super high efficient air conditioners can be utilized to supplement cooling in hot spots in your building.


Water heating accounts for 18% of your total natural gas consumption.

Quick Solutions

  • Turn down water temperature to 140 degrees.
  • Flush your tank

Long term solutions

  • Replace water heater with 90% efficient model.
  • Replace water heater with tankless water heaters. Although larger initial investment than a tank type water heater they will last twice as long as a tank type water heater and offer greater energy efficiency.


Quick and long term solutions

  • Turn off lights in storage areas when not occupied.
  • Operate your outside lights on a timer or sensor
  • Update lighting to LED
  • Install occupancy sensors in restrooms.

I hope you find these energy saving solutions helpful.

If you are in Northern Colorado and need advice, repair services, or would like a free quote on a maintenance contract or on replacing your equipment with new energy efficient equipment. Please contact Snowy Range Heating and Air Conditioning for all of your HVAC and Commercial Refrigeration needs.