Energy hacks for commercial kitchens


Some 65% of the energy typically supplied by cooking equipment will be extracted through the canopy as convected heat, 5% will be retained in the food being cooked, and 30% will enter the kitchen area as radiant heat. In its latest ‘Hospitality’ sector guide, The Carbon Trust provides operators with a raft of tips to save on energy waste, improve working conditions in the kitchen and boost staff productivity.

Switching for savings

The Carbon Trust advises hospitality businesses to get in the habit of switching off, or at least turning down equipment when it is not required. Switch off grills, fryers and hobs immediately after use, along with lights and extraction fans when they are not being used. As well as saving energy, it will make the kitchen more comfortable for staff.

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Similarly, switching on at the right time can make a big difference. Most modern catering equipment reaches optimum temperature quickly. Label equipment with its preheat time and educate kitchen staff to switch it on only when it is required.

Clean and maintain cooking equipment

Seals and gaskets on oven doors should be checked weekly to ensure a snug fit and minimal heat loss. Gas burners should also be checked weekly for a blue flame and efficient combustion. If the flame is yellow, this could indicate a problem so the unit should be investigated immediately.

Use kitchen equipment properly

Avoid using catering equipment to warm the kitchen when staff arrive — the building’s heating system should do this effectively. If it does not, it is vital for businesses to find out why and rectify the problem as soon as possible.

Purchase equipment with running costs in mind

Consider replacing any kitchen equipment over 15-years-old with newer, more efficient models. When purchasing equipment, always consider the costs of the energy used over the lifetime of the product, not just the capital cost.

Although gas-fired equipment can be more expensive to buy than electrical or steam equivalents, savings made on running costs make it an attractive option. Induction hobs can also be efficient and more cost-effective to run. Equipment that automatically switches off, such as pan sensors on hobs, can save 5% on energy costs.

Maintenance schedules

Refrigeration is a significant energy user in hospitality businesses and will gradually use more energy and increase the risk of breakdown if not properly maintained. Establishing a simple equipment maintenance schedule will save on energy and costs.

Ensure that defrost procedures are followed. Defrosting should be carried out every two months as a minimum, or following manufacturers’ recommendations. This saves energy and prolongs the lifetime of commercial catering equipment.

Check door seals on coldrooms, fridges and frozen food stores and replace if damaged. Keep condensers and evaporator coils clean and free of dust and check systems have the correct amount of refrigerant.

Avoid overcooling

Keeping refrigerated produce at the correct temperature is better for food and it can make cost savings. Energy consumption of refrigeration equipment can be reduced by 2%-4% if the set cooling temperature can be increased by 1°C. Ensure that the manufacturer’s recommended operating temperature is set accordingly to the right level.


Keep non-perishables cool

Products such as canned drinks do not need to be in the refrigerator cabinet at all times. Before they are chilled for customer use, store them away from direct sunlight and heat-emitting equipment to ensure they are as cool as possible before being put into chilled display cabinets. This means that the product will take less time to reach the desired temperature, which will also reduce cooling equipment load.

Maintain kitchen extract ventilation

Ventilation units and extractor hood grease filters should be kept free from dust and grease and cleaned at regular intervals, as recommended by the manufacturer. Regular cleaning of ventilation systems can increase efficiency by as much as 25% compared with unmaintained systems. There is also a reduced risk of breakdown.

Consider heat recovery

Large volumes of warm air are expelled from kitchens. Many kitchen managers do not realise that over 50% of this heat can be recovered using heat recovery devices which can significantly reduce energy costs.

An air to water recovery device is often the most effective method of recovering heat because it can then preheat hot water, providing a year-round use for the recovered heat. Even small kitchens can make effective use of this technology.

Fast facts

Energy used in catering accounts for between 4% and 6% of operating profits, according to the Carbon Trust.

Tags : energy efficiencysustainabilityThe Carbon Trust
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

1 Comment

  1. Some good practical advice here, I would also highlight another prime area for heat recovery is from the refrigerant circuit. If your kitchen makes use of large chillers or freezers these will waste a lot of energy that can be recovered to heat water for both the kitchen and washrooms facilities.

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