What to Consider When Specifying Heat Lamps

Heat lamps keep hot food warm for short periods of time. Foodservice operators mainly use this equipment with pass-thrus, where production is on one side and serving is on the other. In addition, operators can use these units with either plates or pans of food in a variety of applications, including quick-service restaurants, stadiums and arenas, and convenience stores.

Here, Tracy Taraski, manager of design services at the Bigelow Cos. Inc., Kansas City, Mo., provides details on what operators need to know to properly specify this equipment.

  • If I’m designing a pass-thru, I will put heat lamps on the entire length of the counter to create as much room as possible for food warming.
  • Instead of utilizing one big lamp or two shorter ones, I recommend putting in three to four units. This
    provides added flexibility for down times when all lamps are not in use, so one or two can be shut off.
    It also conserves electricity.
  • Installation is somewhat limited with heat lamps, so the proper space should be allocated. These can be installed inside a pass-thru window, under a shelf, hung from the ceiling or on a counter.
  • Operators need to decide whether a decorative heat lamp is needed. This is typically the case if it can be seen from the front of house.
  • Heat lamps have different types of elements that provide different heating capabilities. In addition to low- and high-watt bulbs, there are standard calrods that can reflect heat down. Ceramic heat lamps also are available.
  • The difference between styles of heat depends on how far away the heat source is from the plate and how wide a disbursement is needed. The distance food is from the heat source dictates the type of heat source that is needed. For example, calrod heat lamps are recommended for closer plates while ceramic works better for longer distances.
  • Open kitchens may require heat lamps that put out more wattage to better deal with air flow. These units need more power to drive heat into products that are out in the open compared with food warmed in a closed space.
  • If the operation has buffets with hot wells, hot food displays or carving stations, it will require more heat on top to deal with cross breezes and air movement that contributes to food cooling.
  • Heat lamps with higher wattages can dry food out over long periods, so it’s important to be aware of the application.
  • New cabinets are available to contain heat lamps.
  • I always use remote controls that are separate from the actual heat lamp, and I have found that remote enclosures are necessary to protect components from the heat and burnout.
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