Energy awareness seems to be on the rise among foodservice operators, design consultants and other members of the supply chain. On a more frequent basis consumers are acknowledging they have a responsibility to conserve energy, and the greening of foodservice is here to stay.

Jeff-BielJeff Biel, Product Manager, Scotsman Ice SystemsA number of factors continue to drive this awareness, namely chains now realize it is a big win if they can save money on their utilities over multiple locations. The fact that different levels of government are getting more involved with energy conservation legislation and the growing number of rebates for purchasing efficient equipment only helps push the conservation message.

For many foodservice professionals, specifying Energy Star-qualified equipment emerges as the easiest way to participate in this movement. That's an excellent place to begin. But foodservice operators and their supply chain partners should realize that specifying Energy Star-qualified products is a good place to start your research but it may not address all of your needs.

It is important to note that Energy Star ratings may not cover all of the products available in a given category. For example, in the case of ice machines, Energy Star covers only cubers at the moment. (New specifications take effect Jan. 1, 2013, that will address this.) If an operation needs flaked or nugget ice that does not mean energy-efficient options are not available to them. So it is important to understand the scope of each category.

How and when the foodservice operation will use the equipment can factor significantly into the efficiency equation. For example, many foodservice operators today look at when they should operate an ice machine to maximize production during off-peak hours, which allows the facility to capitalize on off-peak utility rates. Energy Star, while a good symbol for conservation, does not capture this data.

Also, it is important to understand the operation's production needs to specify an energy-efficient option. For example, if an operation buys an Energy Star-qualified 1,800-pound machine but only needs 800 pounds of ice that will not really help conserve energy. The operation will make a lot of ice that it won't need and that ice will just melt in the bin.

Maintenance and cleaning also play

a considerable part in determining how

efficient a piece of equipment can be.

If an operation has an Energy Star-qualified unit but does not maintain it, the equipment will work harder to meet production demands because it will not operate in the conditions specified.

The good news is Energy Star continually raises the bar when it comes to conservation. The program's goal is to only have 20 percent of eligible machines in any given category qualify for this rating. That's because the EPA, which manages Energy Star, wants the program to be a real differentiator in the market place, which means not every factory or unit can qualify.

And, at the end of the day, specifying energy-efficient foodservice equipment represents an in-depth decision that extends beyond specifying Energy Star-qualified products. Hopefully, Energy Star ratings will remain a good starting point for this process and will continue to push manufacturers to keep raising the bar in terms of efficiency.