Foodservice operators from all industry segments have good reason to buy energy-efficient equipment. These equipment items not only benefit the environment, they also can save money in the long run through lower utility usage.
Benefitting from these units requires more than just the initial purchase, however. Operators need to pay special attention to pieces of energy-efficient equipment starting on the day they are installed.
According to Glenn Clark, president of Lancaster, Pa.-based Clark Service Group, ensuring proper installation is, in fact, the first step operators should take. Factors like water and gas pressure and even water temperature can impact a unit’s performance and utility consumption. Get them wrong and operators could easily spend more on utilities than necessary and even damage their brand-new equipment.
The voltage the equipment receives represents one particular area of concern, notes Clark. Energy-efficient equipment tends to have more electrical components. The wrong power supply can quickly damage these components.
To avoid such issues, Clark recommends operators have their equipment installed by a reputable service agency, such as one certified by the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association. “If [end users] are going to make that much more of an investment on a piece of [energy efficient] equipment they might as well go a little bit further and make sure it’s properly installed and started up,” he says.
Post startup, the focus should shift to maintaining these units on an ongoing basis. This should become a task both the operator and the service agency should share.
On the service agency side, Clark recommends operators enter into a planned maintenance agreement. These companies will send out technicians regularly to ensure a unit remains in prime working order by performing tasks that operators can’t. This includes inspecting and performing deep cleanings of a refrigerator’s coils, the fans that cool electrical components, and blower motors on hot side equipment.
One important note from Clark: If the technician finds a component on an energy-efficient unit needs replacing, operators should make sure it’s being replaced by an OEM part. A non-OEM part, especially for components that consume a lot of power, such as motors, could degrade the equipment’s energy efficiency.
Beyond the service agency work, if operators truly want to get the most out of their energy-efficient equipment, they need to be proactive about its day-to-day, week-to-week care. “All the basic stuff becomes more important because you’re losing what you’ve paid for if you’re not doing it,” Clark says.
On refrigeration units, operators should check the gaskets to make sure they’re clean and undamaged. Similarly, operators should check the hinges on doors and lids to ensure they remain in proper working order and create a good seal. Finally, they should make sure the defrost timer is properly set and perform a simple brush clean of the coils on a regular basis, as recommended by the manufacturer.
On the hot side, operators should follow specific cleaning schedules. Food particles blocking a burner or slowing down a fan can impact efficiency. In addition, operators should be quick to order replacements for seemingly minor parts like knobs, Clark says. “A lot of times knobs get broken or unreadable or are missing so people aren’t setting them to the proper temperature. You’re not getting the benefit of high efficiency if you’re running the temperature too high.”
While some of these tasks seem easy and obvious, others may take a bit of knowhow. In those situations, says Clark, the service agency that performs planned maintenance may be available to train an operator’s team on their role in equipment care.
In the end, then, properly maintaining energy-efficient equipment requires discipline to perform the day-to-day work and the willingness to invest in its long-term performance. Doing so will help operators recoup the investment they made on these units in the first place, Clark says.
“It really comes back to making sure the end user is getting proper maintenance, making sure the end user is educating themselves on what they need to do. They’re spending a lot of money up front for this more efficient equipment. It’s going to have a lot more bells and whistles in it. They need to understand what they’re getting to maintain it properly.”