With so much ‘greenwash’ to contend with, how can operators really make sure they are getting true value for money when sourcing energy efficient catering equipment? In the second part of this special FEJ report, we provide a unique breakdown of what operators need to bear in mind when specifically seeking out energy efficient combi ovens.
It is not an understatement to say that combi ovens have revolutionised the game for commercial kitchens, so much so that you’ll struggle to find many mainstream operators that don’t rely on one these days. There are lots of combi ovens to choose from and, in the main, most will do the job they are intended for. But how can you tell an efficient one from an inefficient one? Or ensure you are using it in the most efficient way?
Well, if you forget about quality and reliability for a second, the very first thing to get right is the capacity of the oven. “It is important that you choose the most appropriate size to match the requirements of the operation,” advises Marcel Vican, marketing and sales director at Retigo. “An unreasonably big combi oven will lead to higher initial costs as well as higher operation costs. In contrast, a combi with a capacity that doesn’t meet the facility’s requirements is going to lead to the higher usage of standard equipment in the kitchen to make up for it.”
Vican says that energy efficiency is always a result of multiple factors when it comes to combi ovens. Units equipped with heat exchangers will noticeably reduce steam generation-related costs, while waste heat recovery systems and drain cooling systems also boost efficiency.
An unreasonably big combi oven will lead to higher initial costs and operation costs”
Advances in cooking functions have a significant role to play, too, allowing product to be cooked at optimal temperatures even with different items in the chamber.
Thermal insulation performance and thickness, as well as the quality of the parts used and the heating management mechanisms within the system, will also play a big role in the final energy consumption, says Vican. He notes that price and unit weight will almost always give some insight to the true insularity, reliability and energy-saving capabilities of an oven.
“In theory, touching the combi oven housing or door glass at temperatures above 200°C should give you a pretty clear indication of what you need to know about the quality of the insulation,” he says. “Combi ovens equipped with a ventilator fan break will decrease the energy loss when the door is open, while special heat reflection door glass layers reflects the heat back to the oven. Double- or even triple-glazed door glass will lead to higher efficiency.”
Other energy-based influencers that operators might not be aware of include the proximity of high temperature cooking equipment to the combi oven. If this is installed next to the oven’s control panel side, the fan that cools the electronics must run on a higher speed, consuming extra energy. Maintenance — a necessity for any appliance — can genuinely make a difference to the efficiency of a combi. For instance, heating elements coated in lime-scale are going to consume considerably more energy to reach temperature.
What common mistakes can operators do differently to make their combination ovens more efficient?
“The first thing is not to make the wrong choice at the outset. A low quality, poorly insulated oven that is the wrong size for the operation and absent of any advanced energy-saving technologies won’t achieve the required results. Secondly, not all chefs use their combi oven to its full potential.
For example, in some restaurants small quantities are being cooked frequently. Cooking in higher loads less often saves energy. Take a restaurant serving 50-150 covers per day, for example. Cooking in a combi and holding it, or using a small holding cabinet, can result in significant time and energy savings. This also helps when dealing with peak hours as it means you can keep diners served quickly.”
3 key things to take away
- Choose the size of combi that best suits the frequency and volume of your cooking requirements, avoiding under-utilisation where possible.
- Beyond automated energy-saving cooking techniques, assess the thermal insulation quality and thickness of a combi oven.
- Keep the combi maintained in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. With electric, gas and steam thrown into the mix, inefficiencies can creep in if parts aren’t working to their