Achieve Your Green Restaurant Goals, Part 1: Perform an Energy Audit

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Restaurants are some of the most energy-intensive businesses around, using five to seven times more energy per square foot than most other commercial buildings—and producing huge piles of garbage. Yet when looking for ways to cut costs, even owners who see the value in “green restaurant” status often focus on staffing or food-related costs—and ignore energy consumption.

The first step in achieving a sustainable foodservice business is to perform an energy audit to evaluate energy consumption in different areas of your café or restaurant. There are two ways to do this:

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Hire a professional energy auditor/rater

Working with an energy efficiency professional can help you learn every possible way to cut energy costs, make sure you get all available rebates and incentives for going green, and advising you on which equipment will lower your energy consumption. You can leave the research up to them, so you can focus on day-to-day operations.

Experienced contractors can also be helpful with restaurant energy efficiency budgeting, since they have the benefit of knowing how much restaurant energy efficiency initiatives usually cost.

Do the audit yourself

If you’re a restaurant operator with some technical expertise, you might consider performing your own energy audit, without the aid of an experienced contractor.

Using a power meter, you can measure the energy consumption of your appliances, systems and lighting. This approach allows you to determine which fixtures and fittings are contributing the most to your electric bill.

Other tools you may need to perform your own energy audit include:

  • Infrared camera (to find out where insulation is needed)
  • Combustible gas detector (to test efficiency of heating and hot water systems)
  • Carbon monoxide analyzer (also for testing heating systems, and to find out if you have gas leaks
  • Duct blaster (to find leaks in duct work)

Handy calculators for estimating your energy costs:

  • Air Curtain Calculator — For exterior door and drive thru window air curtain savings and payback estimate. This calculator was created by a product manufacturer for its own products, but it returns fairly accurate numbers overall, for savings and payback.
  • Energy Savings Calculator for Lighting — Helps determine your rate of return when upgrading lighting to more energy efficient.
  • Energy and Cost-Savings Calculators for Commercial Equipment – These include calculators for fryers, griddles, hot-food holding cabinets, ice machines, ovens, refrigerators, freezers, steamers, char-broilers and more.

Questions to ask yourself or your professional auditor:

Before or during an energy audit, you’ll want to answer several questions in order to ensure that the project reaches its energy efficiency goals.

1. Have you asked employees if they have any energy saving recommendations?

Employees work with your restaurant equipment every day and may have suggestions about how to be use them more efficiently.

2. Where is energy potentially being wasted?

The average energy consumption breakdown in a restaurant is as follows: Food preparation (35%), HVAC (28%), sanitation (18%), lighting (13%) and refrigeration (6%). If your energy use is higher in any of these areas, it’s likely being wasted.

3. How big is your potential energy efficient retrofit budget?

Knowing how much you’re willing to spend on an energy efficiency project will determine which measures you pursue. But remember that by installing more expensive but highly efficient equipment upfront, you can save thousands in years to come—another area where an experienced contractor can help you make informed decisions.

4. Which areas should be prioritized in an energy efficiency retrofit?

Make a list of the energy efficiencies you want to incorporate into your business, then decide which ones are the highest priority. Energy waste should be a top concern, but aesthetic or customer-focused solutions will also be important considerations.

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Check out other posts in this series: