13 ways to painlessly improve profitability in 2013: Control HVAC
By Jay Fiske

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If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. It may be an old adage, but five minutes in a bustling kitchen leaves little doubt that it's also literally true. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, restaurants spend approximately three times more per square foot than other small commercial facilities for electricity. More than a third of that cost can be directly traced to heating, ventilating and air conditioning. Here are some simple tips that can help you save money and boost the bottom line:

INDUSTRY PULSE

Does your HVAC system get inspected annually?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No

HEATING & AIR CONDITIONING
  1. Set your thermostat wisely. When the restaurant is open, set thermostats at 68 degrees when it's cold and 78 degrees when it's hot. When the restaurant is closed, dial settings back by another 10 degrees, perhaps 58 degrees during cold months and 88 degrees when the weather is hot.

  2. Consider a programmable thermostat. When properly programmed, such a thermostat gives you complete charge over when, where and how much energy is used. To ensure against employee "thermostat wars," you may want to consider a tamper-proof installation or a thermostat that can be controlled remotely and locked out with software.

  3. Maintain your system. Have it inspected annually and change your filters monthly during peak heating and cooling seasons. Filters cost only a few dollars — in the short run, you'll save energy, and in the long run you'll extend the life of your equipment.

  4. Warm sun in. When the weather is cold, take advantage of the southern exposure to add warmth.

  5. Hot sun out. Keep out the hot eastern and western sunlight. The best solutions prevent the heat from entering through the glass with solar screens, awnings or outside vegetation that provides shade. Although less effective, curtains or shades help mitigate impact once the heat has entered the building.

  6. Utilize fans. Just by moving the air when it's hot, you can maintain comfort while increasing the thermostatic temperature by three to five degrees. On days when the outside temperature is more comfortable than inside, an attic fan can help by pushing the hotter air out and pulling in the cooler air from outside.

  7. Check weather stripping and caulking. The cost is minimal, but plugging those leaks around doors and windows will put money in your pocket.

  8. Ducting — don't install it and forget it. Anything that requires access above the ceiling (e.g., new fixtures, pest control and lighting) may disturb your ductwork. Whether a complete disconnection or a small leak, you're paying for heat that is escaping and making your system work harder.
VENTILATION

According to the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC): "Your kitchen exhaust is one of the most complex systems in your whole restaurant. Trying to corral all that hot smoky air and get it out of the building is no easy task. Turbulence, pressure drops, cross drafts and convective currents are some of the myriad physical forces that can cause your hood to fail." Here are a few tips to ensure that you're optimizing your exhaust system:
  1. Push 'em back. By closing the space behind appliances that are under the exhaust hood, you'll maximize the hood overhang, close the air gap between appliances and the wall, and reduce air and grease spillage into the kitchen.

  2. Position for performance. FSTC's laboratory has found that by moving the lowest duty appliances to the outer edge of the exhaust hood you'll likely reduce exhaust requirements. To explore this option, you'll want to work with an expert. Your local utility may be able to help you on this as they often contract with experts like FSTC to provide services at no cost to you.

  3. Add side panels. This is relatively inexpensive and can keep heat from spilling out from under the sides of the hood, adding to the kitchen temperature and impacting air quality.
  4. Use exhaust fans only as needed. If you're not using the appliances under the hood, turn the exhaust fan off.
All of the above tips can help you significantly reduce your energy usage, but it does take a concerted and continued effort.

See related stories: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Jay Fiske is vice president of business development for Powerhouse Dynamics, developers of the eMonitor energy, asset and water management platform for homes and small commercial facilities. Fiske is responsible for leading the company’s overall sales and marketing strategy, developing and growing market channels, and establishing strategic partnerships.