Manufacturers have made great strides when it comes to improving the efficiency of catering equipment and most serious chain operators now understand the benefits of investing in more environmentally-sustainable kit. But at the same time, it can be difficult to cut through the market hyperbole and establish what actually makes a product green. With that in mind, FEJ sets about busting a dozen energy efficiency myths with the help of the leading foodservice equipment brands.
Myth #1: ‘All testing measures are fair and independent’
In the absence of any meaningful testing criteria (the Energy Technology List in terms of some items of refrigeration and the HKI Cert Database in Germany excepted) most manufacturers are forced to measure the performance of their products against each other’s behind closed doors and, if they wish to add credibility to their claims, they will seek to get the results independently verified.
However, don’t be surprised to see manufacturers picking holes in each other’s testing methodology if the results do not suit them! “Realistically speaking, an energy efficient product can only be compared to one that it has superseded to provide a benchmark for the buyer but also to ensure fair play,” suggests Paul Crowley, marketing manager of Winterhalter. “We would also hope that a responsible manufacturer would look to make efficiency improvements on its previous models anyway.”
Myth #2: ‘Carrying out tests in different conditions has no bearing on the results’
If you are going to make comparisons between products then do it under similar conditions. For example, it it’s a combi steamer, check whether the criteria is based on a full load or a half load. Each product category also needs to be treated on its own merits. Wexiodisk UK boss, Simon Frost, endorses ‘like for like’ comparisons wherever possible, especially for an area such as warewashing, which is historically an energy-intensive operation: “Operators need to consider everything from the expected capacity, additional benefits such as heat recovery systems and even the power of the wash cycle to ensure they are comparing like for like when it comes to energy saving.”
Myth #3: ‘All claims should be taken at face value’
Buyers are advised to carry out as much research as possible into their purchases if energy efficiency is one of your main criteria. Karl Marriott, director of Marlin Catering Solutions, says purchasers shouldn’t be afraid of challenging manufacturers’ claims and posing questions. “If a manufacturer says its product uses 25% less energy, ask them what they are comparing it to, and what are their calculations based on — figures taken during an average service in a busy restaurant, or under laboratory conditions?”
Steve Loughton, managing director at Jestic, suggests that ‘real life’ site trials are far more important than simply comparing manufacturers’ published data. “Listening and talking to others about their experiences, whether energy or production, can give operators a much greater insight into the actual data on a product. In some ways it is like trying to get the stated MPG out of a new car — in real life conditions it is rarely possible to achieve the advertised MPG due to a very wide range of circumstances.”
Steve Hobbs, managing director of Grande Cuisine, says it can be tempting to judge products and solutions based on manufacturers’ information, but these reflect optimum performance, not necessarily attainable in all applications and without specially-designed accessories. “Equipment should be judged on a like for like basis, with emphasis on talking to current operators and learning about whether it can meet the given client’s kitchen needs. Details on current set-up, what the new equipment’s most common tasks will be and how it can streamline other preparation processes should all be factored into any upgrade or refurbishment.“
Myth #4:‘Energy efficiency can’t be defined’
Energy efficiency is a fairly subjective area but most experts agree that it boils down to the amount of energy it takes to perform a task without compromising the effectiveness of that task. “A true piece of efficient catering equipment is one that employs new technology that can tangibly demonstrate a saving without compromising the equipment’s most basic function,” says Winterhalter’s Paul Crowley. Graham Kille, managing director of Frima, defines energy efficient foodservice equipment as kit that uses the power efficiently. “For instance, for every kWh of energy used you should ensure the maximum amount of energy is used in directly heating up the product and not lost into the kitchen. This helps to reduce the power requirements to your kitchen ventilation system, which in turn delivers secondary energy savings to the kitchen.”
In some ways it is like trying to get the stated MPG out of a new car — in real life conditions it is rarely possible to achieve the advertised MPG due to a very wide range of circumstances”
Myth #5: ‘It’s only the running costs that count’
As well as looking at the efficiency of the equipment during operation, any specifier who is truly concerned with sustainability and the environment might also wish to consider the whole-of-life impact of the product. “Materials and methods of manufacture, delivery and disposal all contribute to the overall effect on the environment,” points out John Wannan, sales and marketing manager at E&R Moffat.
Steve Hemsil, national sales manager distribution at foodservice equipment manufacturer Manitowoc, concurs, arguing that a product’s energy efficiency isn’t solely based on the cost of running it. He suggests it should also take into account the energy taken to manufacture and transport the product, too: “Sustainability should also be considered in terms of how much it is going to cost and how much energy it will take to dispose of the equipment at the end of its lifetime. While there is a lot of talk around the subject of energy efficiency and energy- saving equipment, remember that the kitchen equipment you buy needs to satisfy your cooking requirements as well as your CSR policy!”
Myth #6:‘Energy efficiency kit won’t compromise performance’
Buyers must make sure that the ‘energy efficient’ catering equipment they buy can actually perform the core task it is intended for. If it saves energy but takes longer to complete the same task then it will be less efficient in terms of kitchen time. The efficiency of a product should in no way compromise performance, says John Wannan at E&R Moffat. “Buyers need to look at whether the equipment purchased can deliver the performance required in real-life situations. Many catering products are tested under ‘laboratory conditions’. Purchasers need to understand what the equipment can actually deliver and decide if the claimed savings can be achieved.”
Chris Playford, market and development director at Foster Refrigerator, agrees. He says the operational aspect of the kit shouldn’t be overlooked: “One of the best ways to ensure efficiency is to make sure the equipment actually meets the users’ needs in terms of storage capacity, climate class and use — if customers can buy the right equipment, it will be far more efficient for their business, saving unnecessary re-purchases further down the line.” Steve Hemsil at Manitowoc adds: “You can usually become more energy efficient by down-specifying, i.e. going from a 22kW fryer to a 14kW unit, for example. However, in this instance, by becoming more energy efficient you have reduced your food output which may not be able to cope with the demands of your restaurant and result in lost revenue.”
Myth #7: ‘It’s okay to ignore the operating instructions’
It is important to remember that equipment will only deliver savings if used in line with the manufacturer’s instructions. Turning on an appliance before necessary, leaving equipment doors open, setting incorrect temperatures or overloading the appliance can all negate energy performance. “It’s all well and good buying energy efficient catering equipment, but in order to reduce energy consumption further caterers need to follow best practice routines, such as using programmable controls and timers, keeping oven doors closed and switching off equipment during quiet periods,” says Mark Hogan, marketing manager of FEM.
Bob Wood, director at DC Warewashing and Icemaking Systems, agrees that while technology and design are bringing down the energy consumption of appliances, operators can still play a significant role in reducing the amount of energy consumed by their equipment, particularly in the warewashing space. “A simple way to help achieve this is to ensure baskets are full when loaded into the machine and that the machine is maintained properly, fitted with appropriate water treatment and serviced regularly,” he comments.
Myth #8: ‘Energy savings come from complex features’
There are some tremendously innovative energy-saving features incorporated into the latest commercial catering appliances on the market, but often the most effective devices for conserving power — such as automatic shut-down and default economy modes — are the simplest. Electrolux’s high speed grill, for instance, will automatically revert to a low-consumption standby mode after being out of use for five minutes, but can then be turned on in a split-second for grilling. “One feature to really look out for is the standby function,” comments Electrolux’s regional training and demonstration manager Stuart Flint. “It has the potential to make a huge difference to energy consumption.”
Remember that the kitchen equipment you buy needs to satisfy your cooking requirements as well as your CSR policy!”
Myth #9:‘Power ratings mean everything’
Having a higher kW rating doesn’t automatically mean the equipment uses more power. “The kW rating on some products can be high, yet they are energy efficient,” insists Karl Marriott at Marlin Catering Solutions. “The largest of the hi-tech multifunction bratt pans we supply has a rating of 45kW and customers often ask how that can be efficient. The answer is that it draws maximum power over a very short time — it heats up to temperature very quickly, after which it only uses the power required to keep it hot. If its rating was, say 22.5kW, then it would take more than twice as long to heat up, and use more energy over the total cook time.” Graham Kille at Frima adds: “It’s a common misconception that less connected load equals less energy consumption or that a high connected load equals high power consumption. The consumption depends on the efficiency and speed of the cooking equipment.”
Myth #10: ‘Lifecycle costs are not important’
For many group operators, there is often a CAPEX versus OPEX debate that goes on, particularly if there are different departments responsible for the equipment procurement and the energy costs. It is the responsibility of the supply chain and manufacturers to both explain and support a better understanding of their products’ lifecycle costs. “Energy consumption has to be viewed in the long-term and should be allied with the lifecycle of the product and its warranty support,” says Glenn Roberts, MD of Gram. “Many operators are unaware of either the total or individual equipment consumption in their operations. For instance, refrigeration can be responsible for over a third of all energy consumed within commercial kitchens.”
Lee Norton, MD of Rational, says you only have to look at the way the combi market has developed to understand how new models can deliver value. “Innovations in recent years have allowed combi steamer technology to provide 30% more capacity, reduce waste by up to 20% and gain as much as 70% more efficiency in the kitchen than traditional cooking appliances,” he says. “This has a much smaller impact on the investment, but also the current property-related operating costs.”
Myth #11: ‘It doesn’t pay to change suppliers’
Sometimes the biggest obstacle to progress is internal reluctance, but where energy efficient equipment is concerned buyers should explore all opportunities. Bill Downie, managing director of Meiko, is under no illusions as to the biggest trap that catering equipment buyers fall into: “Not fully understanding what is being offered by manufacturers that they do not currently work with, and preferring instead to remain with the comfort factor of dealing with the same company that they have always dealt with — a fear of the unknown in other words.” Downie adds that buyers shouldn’t only base their decision on the performance of the kit. After-sales support in regard to response times, the ability to undertake a repair fix on the first visit and the finer details of any extended warranty offer are all important details.
Myth #12: ‘It’s best to buy the cheapest product’
Always look at what the kit can do for you rather than the price alone. “Buy the best quality that you can afford with the longest warranty. It might be slightly more expensive, but will save money in the long term,” advises Steve Elliott, national sales manager at Valentine. “Invest in quality accessories as well. For example, on an induction range a poor quality pan can reduce the efficiency of the machine. A multi-layer pan gives excellent heat conduction and can be more energy efficient than some with an encapsulated base.” Elliott suggests it is also worth considering the construction specification. “If you want to make a piece of equipment last for 10 years or more, a welded frame construction with 4.5mm layered stainless steel will last a lot longer than the popular monocoque versions.”