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Going Green: Cutting Costs by Being Energy Efficient

The concept of going green is a bubble hovering over the heads of restaurant owners everywhere. Reasons to pop the bubble and go green range from pressure by consumers to locally source produce and employ energy efficient practices to a conscious commitment to limit one's impact on the planet and provide value outside of slashed prices. Whatever the reason, going green is a choice that feels good and is positively recognized by customers and media alike.

So you've got a recycling program in place, have switched out your restaurant equipment for energy efficient models, and monitor your water consumption to eliminate unnecessary waste. Excellent, you're off to a good start. Now let's step outside the kitchen and focus on energy drain areas that often go overlooked.

Aside from your kitchen, it's a safe bet to assume the next highest energy consumer is your heating and cooling system. An inefficient heating and cooling system can eat up a large chunk of your budget every month, and taking a few simple steps to adjust your approach when operating your system can mean a world of difference.

Fans are your friend. Adjusting your thermostat to complement one or two ceiling fans that are Energy Star rated can help you save on heating and cooling bills. Use fans wisely and watch your energy costs bounce back. In the summer, run ceiling fans to circulate cooler air. In the winter, use fans to reposition heat from your kitchen to your dining room.

Maintain your central units. Conducting regular maintenance on your central air units to ensure everything is clean and operating properly is essential for optimal performance. Make sure you clean heat transfer coils on a monthly basis, and remember to clear or replace dirty air filters regularly. A dirty air filter causes the unit to work harder and can seriously affect the air quality of your establishment.

Repair and seal. Spending money to heat and cool your restaurant is fruitless when your ducts are riddled with holes. Take the time to check ducts and seal leaks where you find them. If you don't have time to maintain your ducts contract locally to have someone check and service them for you.

Thermostats can work for you. Installing a programmable thermostat saves both money and time. Rather than letting your system run overnight, or forgetting to turn things down/off when you leave, let your thermostat handle it. After all, your kitchen supplies aren't going to complain about the temperature. Program your system to shut off or cut back as you're leaving and have it kick back on when your morning crew comes in.

Window treatment. Windows come in all shapes and sizes, and understanding the technical differences in solar energy heat gain coefficients (SHGC) can save you money and help provide a comfortable environment year round.

Windows with a low SHGC are best for areas with long, hot summers to help reduce solar heat and cooling costs.

Windows with a high SHGC are best for longer, colder winters to help maximize solar heat and reduce heating costs.

A few window tips:

-          UV-resistant curtains, film, or blinds are a great way to insulate

-          Block sunlight when it's hot and maximize sunlight for warmth when its cold

-          Let professionals install your windows to ensure it's done correctly

Just like a successful recycling program, monitoring your energy efficiency is an ongoing process. Getting your energy bill each month doesn't have to be depressing. Instead make it a game to see how much you can save month to month, without sacrificing quality, and challenge yourself to do better.

Andrew Call provides blog insights regarding restaurant management and marketing at The Back Burner, which is written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant supply, parts, and a wide variety of food service equipment and sundries.