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6 Steps to helping your clients create an energy-efficient green kitchen

Technicians can help their clients enhance environmental sustainability and save money at the same time with a few simple steps. Keeping equipment in top shape is obvious, but that’s only one of many strategies.

Here are six ideas to share with your clients:

Switch to low-flow pre-rinse spray valves. Normal flow values send about 3 gallons per minute (GPM) of hot water down the drain. Switching to valves that use 1.6 gallons of water per minute (some use only 0.64 GPM) can save 84 gallons of water for each hour of use, as well as the cost of heating that water. High-velocity designs ensure they remove food effectively. Cost: About $70 per valve. Savings: $450-700 per year.

Optimize exhaust hood efficiency. Add end panels to pull air from a focused area, capturing much of the heat that otherwise spills out the front. For greatest hood efficiency, introduce local makeup air into the kitchen from two sources – the HVAC system and another, such as already-conditioned air from the dining room. The kitchen will be cooler and the hoods and air handling system will run more efficiently, saving dollars.

Maintain Proper Refrigerator/Freezer Temperatures. Refrigerators should be no warmer than 41°F, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since temperatures vary inside refrigerators, set the thermostat at 38°F and check it with separate thermometers. Expect temperatures of 41°F on the top shelf and 34°F on the bottom shelf.  Also, ensure the door seals correctly to prevent cool air from escaping. This helps maintain temperatures and minimize auto-defrost cycling.

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Fine-Tune the Refrigerator. Replace worn gaskets, realign door hinges, and keep the refrigerant fully-charged. Just cleaning refrigerator coils can halve their energy use, saving an average of $432, and extend the life of the refrigerator. Set the auto-defrost cycle to the minimum to prevent frost formation. The University of Washington recommends starting with 15 minutes, four times per day. On walk-in units, also tune automatic door closers and install motion-sensor lights inside.

Fix Leaks. Little drips add up, costing both money and resources. In the kitchen, the most common sources of leaks are pipe fittings (including hose-to-pipe connections), faulty valves, and faucets. Check for kinked hoses and malfunctioning soda dispensers, ice machines, and other water-using equipment as well as the plumbing. You can calculate the cost of a leak here.

Insulate Piping. Energy can be lost through both hot and cold water pipes. For walk-in refrigerators, minimize cooling loss by insulating the water lines between the unit and the remote condenser. For hot water, insulating the pipes can raise the temperature at the faucet by 2° to 4°F, which means you can lower the thermostat on the water heater.

Talk to your clients about scheduling a kitchen equipment efficiency audit. A few hours of your time can spot problem areas that are easily overlooked, yet can save your clients hundreds of dollars annually. When they do, you’ll be a hero.