Restaurant Maintenance: Take Advantage of Hidden Savings

Dirty condenser coils are the main reason for service calls for walk-ins

Getting to know your equipment, and paying closer attention to routine maintenance can not only improve the operating efficiency of commercial appliances, but it can also extend the shelf-life of your expensive equipment.   The investment of a few minutes to properly train staff, and a few dollars for replacement parts, if not under warranty, can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Neglecting to clean out condenser and evaporator coils on walk in refrigerators is the number one reason cited by a major manufacturer for maintenance calls for walk in refrigerators.  Cleaning them once a week with a coil brush or vacuum, and keeping the vents unblocked will help keep the unit operating efficiently. Don’t forget cleaning condenser fins and replacing air filters on ice machines too-not just walk ins.  This is necessary not only for efficiency, but to remove bacteria that builds up over time.

A commonplace habit in the back of the house is to prop open walk in doors- but you risk stressing out the compressor, so keep them closed with automatic door closers and add strip curtains to further reduce infiltration. Replace any worn gaskets that let cold air escape 

If you are updating your walk in, efficient ECM (electronically commutated motors) on evaporator and condenser fans can reduces fan energy consumption by @two-thirds, which can save $200 dollars a year . Take advantage of local rebates for ECM’s.

Replacing incandescent bulbs with LED’s or Cold Cathode CFL’s will save energy, emit less heat keeping the walk in cooler, and save you time since the bulbs will last much longer and will not need to be replaced as often. Turn off reach in door heaters unless condensation appears- these energy hogs run 24/7 and are often unnecessary.

Defrost walk-ins for only as long needed. Check and set defrost cycles, usually for no more than 15 minutes, 4X daily. Recharge low refrigerant-there is a sight glass with a small window into refrigerant line on the condenser, which bubbles when refrigerant is getting low.

Keeping oven and broiler gaskets clean, and replacing them if they are worn, is instrumental to keeping the seal on doors tight. This not only helps save energy to heat up food, but can also keep the kitchen cooler. Keeping grates and cooking surfaces clean can prolong appliance life,  but also getting rid of that debris keeps it from interfering with the heat transfer from the burner to the cooking vessel-which can slow cooking times and efficiency. Burners need to be cleaned when the flame looks wavy, uneven or yellow, so they return to a bullet shaped and blue appearance.  If reflective pans underneath the burners are kept clean, more heat will be directed to the cookware. Calibrate thermostats routinely, as they become less accurate over time (FSTC). You can usually find the calibration dial behind the oven temperature knob.

Removing mineral deposits from dishwashers, steamers and hot water heaters, either with de-liming settings or good old fashioned vinegar and water, will help them last longer. Make sure these machines are set to the lowest temperatures needed for the job- water heaters and dishwashers set too high can add hundreds of dollars a year in unnecessary costs. Standard temperatures for dishwasher cycles are  140° F, wash; 160° F, power rinse; and 180° F, for the final rinse. Don’t forget to turn off the dishwasher before you leave to go home at night: this turns off the internal tank and/or booster heaters, which are left on unless the power is off.