Now that we are entering the hottest time of the year, it’s a good time to examine the refrigeration units in your restaurant and make sure they are operating as efficiently as possible. No matter what you do, you’re going to end up spending more money on refrigeration this time of year than any other. However, that doesn’t mean you should have to spend any more than absolutely necessary.
Have you optimized your refrigeration efficiency? Doing so can save you a LOT of money. Here’s the main areas you should focus on:
Clean those coils! You’ve probably heard it before but if you haven’t gotten behind your refrigerators and freezers and cleaned off the coils, you need to hear it again. The condenser and evaporator coils take the heat inside your refrigerator and disperse it outside the unit, and if air can’t pass over the coils, then they radiate heat much more slowly. That makes your unit work harder to keep things cool and it consumes more electricity.
Replace worn or torn door gaskets. The door gasket forms a seal when the unit’s door is closed, preventing cold air from seeping out and warm air from seeping in. If that gasket isn’t sealing properly, it’s costing you money. Health inspectors also don’t like torn gaskets because food bits and grime gather in them and create a breeding ground for bacteria. Luckily, replacing the gasket is an easy process.
Turn off door heaters. All this heater does is prevent frost from building up on the inside door of your refrigeration unit. Most units don’t even have a frost problem, and so the heater just uses up energy. If you do have a problem with frost buildup or have water pooling in front of the unit, then you absolutely must have the door heater on. More often than not, however, it’s not an issue.
Outfit your walk-in. Strip curtains help drastically reduce the loss of cold air when the door to your walk-in is open, and when it’s closed, the curtain adds an extra layer of insulation. Also make sure the door latch is working properly and actually catching when you close the door. A worn or broken latch means the door gasket isn’t fully sealed, and you’re losing cold air. Also use a door closer to automatically pull the walk-in door shut quickly after it’s opened. The less cold air you lose, the better off you’ll be.
It’s amazing how much in energy savings you can realize from a few simple steps. Of course, there will always be a point where you cannot optimize your refrigeration equipment any more, and natural degradation in performance will occur no matter what you do. When the time comes to buy a new commercial refrigerator or freezer, buy an Energy Star rated model if at all possible. Even if you can’t find an Energy Star unit that works for you, simply upgrading to a new unit will mean better efficiency because new technologies are being added to commercial refrigeration units all the time, and a new unit will perform better simply because it’s newer.