The first time I heard Richard Young – the director of education for Pacific Gas and Electric’s Food Service Technology Center – say, "You want to save on refrigeration? Just remember 4 on the door," it instantly sunk in.
This catch phrase of his is a perfect example of how routine maintenance can help make your business greener while also saving you money. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "plugged" leaks can be big opportunities for savings, as incorrect refrigeration levels can compromise efficiency by 5 to 20 percent.
According to National Restaurant Association research, about four in 10 restaurant operators purchased energy-saving refrigeration or HVAC systems last year, and another three in 10 plan to do so in 2010. Making sure that the doors of those units are well maintained will maximize the value of those coolers and freezers.
Here are four tips for properly maintaining the door, just the door, of your refrigeration units that will help you become a greener restaurant:
Replace, repair and maintain door gaskets. Refrigeration is the process of removing heat from inside a box. By properly ensuring that no undesired warmer air enters your refrigeration units (coolers and freezers), you will allow your compressors to work less, saving energy and money. Since refrigeration units typically operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you will realize savings 365 days a year! For a multiunit restaurant, those savings can turn into big money.
Check and adjust hinges. This will ensure that the doors to your refrigeration units shut all the way, locking out warmer air and locking in the tempered air you desire.
Install, engage and routinely check your auto-door closers. Auto-door closers assist you greatly in making sure your walk-in doors close completely, pulling that door closed the last inch. A properly shut refrigeration door is always a greener door.
Install, replace and maintain strip curtains or plastic doors. Air curtains, whether strip or cowboy door-designed, help block warmer air out while the door of a refrigeration unit is open. The EPA’s Energy Star program estimates that adding strip curtains can cut outside air infiltration by about 75 percent. (Note: The EPA Energy Star offers a free guide that is a great resource!)
So there you have it. Remember, 4 on the Door, and you'll be on your way to conserving energy and improving your bottom line.
Chris Moyer, a 14-year foodservice veteran, manages the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability initiative, helping its members find solutions that are good for both business and the environment.