Sustainable business: Energy saving tips when investing in food equipment

With innovative foodservice equipment, the supermarket and grocery store industry can do more for themselves and their customers. But the benefits don’t end at what’s on the menu – purchasing new equipment for the prepared food, meat and bakery departments can also lead to astounding energy savings.

The average grocer consumes 52.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity per square foot of facility space every year, according to Business Energy Advisor. Assuming the average retail electricity rate for the commercial sector still hovers around 11 cents per kilowatt-hour – as the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in late 2015 – that’s almost $6.00 per square foot annually going toward electricity alone.

Making the right investment can greatly reduce these expenditures both in the long and short term. However, supermarket and grocery managers should take a few factors into account before putting their money down.

Everything has a price, even sustainability
They say money can’t buy happiness, but nobody said anything about energy efficiency.

“Most modern equipment simply uses energy better than its predecessors.”

When planning out future kitchen equipment investments, decision-makers should consider any and all energy-related specs during the procurement process. Most modern equipment simply uses energy better than its predecessors. That said, any upgrade should be relative to the individual piece of machinery that came before it. When businesses think too abstractly about saving energy, they miss out on incrementally improving their consumption one equipment update at a time. Cooking meals will always require energy, be it electricity or natural gas – the trick is finding the right model that consumes intelligently without compromising the quality of the food.

All in how you use it
Employees also play an important role in reducing energy. It’s not enough to buy top-notch energy-efficient equipment – workers must be trained on best practices. Overcooking food or keeping a hot merchandiser on too high of a setting not only wastes the cost of the ingredients that went into a meal no one will buy, but it also detracts from an employer’s energy saving potential.

However, managers and supervisors can avoid the risks associated with manually adjusting temperatures by investing in kitchen equipment that utilizes automated features. For example, ovens that can control heat distribution take advantage of every degree without letting anything go to waste. Many pieces of equipment allow for a lower setting when not in use and quickly recover to meet demand, again saving energy.

Additionally, efficiency is a factor that can degrade over time. Equipment that once offered a certain level of consumption can slip as it gets older because of wear and tear, as well as burnt-out heating components. Without routine maintenance, businesses spend more to produce less and put their operations at risk. Supermarket or grocery store owners in the market for new kitchen equipment should be sure to ask retailers about warranties and maintenance plans bundled with the equipment itself. A small investment into a preventative maintenance program now will guarantee peak efficiency throughout the life cycle of these vital assets.

“Without even noticing, kitchen staff can accidentally trigger an energy emergency.”

Beat the heat trap
In the kitchen, there are two separate temperature controls: the one on the cooking equipment and the thermostat. When these two technologies compete, businesses lose. Rising kitchen temperatures could set off the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, forcing it to pump out cold air to mitigate the heat naturally radiating from the cooking equipment. Without even noticing, kitchen staff can accidentally trigger an energy emergency.

Energy Star recommends investing in ovens, steamers and cooking equipment with exhaust hoods or other kinds of ventilation built in. These components eject hot air and steam away from detectors in the thermostat, which initiate temperature adjustments. Again, automation can further add to the benefits – buying cooking equipment that can detect fluctuations in heat and adjust fan speed accordingly not only prevent cooking heat from sabotaging energy efficiency, but they can also preserve the electricity used to power the fan by only powering on when the need arises.

One powerful piece of green equipment every commercial supermarket and grocery store should consider is an Energy Smart Wrapper. These devices make wrapping produce, meats and other food products effortless, and they consume considerably less electricity than other models. Its film cut off rod and heated seal plate reach their necessary temperatures quickly, and innovative heat control technology moderates heat dispersal. As a result, this product can reduce overall electricity consumption by up to 80 percent. Commercial foodservice providers can use Energy Smart Wrappers across multiple departments from prepared foods to produce to butcher block, conserving energy costs at every turn.

Thinking green has just as great an impact on the environment as it does a business’s bottom line. Equipment investments can provide an excellent opportunity to rein in energy consumption, so long as future owners and users know what to look for while shopping and how to preserve the integrity of the machines they decide to purchase.