Equipment Maintenance Tips to Promote Energy Efficiency

Operational Missteps

Sometimes efforts to improve functionality in the kitchen can result in maintenance problems and energy draining. To combat some of these missteps, the Food Service Technology Center's Director of Education and Senior Engineer Richard Young and Auditor Todd Bell outline a few common mistakes operators make when trying to adapt the kitchen to their usage needs and offer solutions. Their top tip: in many cases, better training solves the problem.

Mistake: Propping walk-in doors open, tying strip curtains back or even cutting strip curtains down the middle to make access to stock easier.

Solution: Depending on the facility's need, the operator can address this challenge in a variety of ways, including installing an air curtain or automatic door closer or replacing a walk-in door with a swinging two-door front.

Mistake: Constructing makeshift side panels or using cardboard or even aluminum foil to block makeup air blowing down on an area. This ad hoc solution prevents adequate circulation throughout the kitchen and causes exhaust malfunctions. These blockages can also collect dirt and grease, causing sanitary and fire hazards.

Solution: Install custom-fit side panels and make sure the hood properly fits the space.

Mistake: Not moving equipment back under the hood after cleaning or putting inactive equipment like shelving underneath the hood.

Solution: Add castors or feet to equipment to make items easier to position before and after cleaning; make sure proper equipment is placed under the hood or use custom-fitted hoods.

Mistake: Placing poorly insulated holding cabinets in between prep tables or refrigeration units, thereby creating a "big radiator" in the middle of the kitchen; or buying hot-holding cabinets without ensuring proper insulation.

Solution: Monitor equipment placement closely.

Mistake: Not replacing or repairing handles that have fallen off other equipment, causing staff to have to use pliers or other means of turning equipment on and off.

Solution: Regular maintenance checkups should ensure staff have the proper tools in place and in working order.

Mistake: Grabbing a heat lamp off the hot line and screwing it in to the walk-in refrigerator for makeshift lighting.

Solution: Have extra CFLs bulbs on hand for energy-efficient lighting as needed; pay attention to the type of lighting used near refrigeration to prevent adding heat and reducing the effectiveness of refrigeration equipment.

Ovens - Mistake: Not maintaining or replacing door hinges, leading to the point that staff begin to leave the oven doors open completely.

Solution: Regular maintenance checkups and repairs can keep parts operational and save more money than it costs in upkeep.

Display Cases - Mistake: Leaving the light on all the time, including those in the back of the house that are out of view.

Solution: Keep all lights off for back of the house cases even if refrigeration is on.

Broken Belts - Mistake: Ignoring a broken belt on the exhaust fan. This results in the operation paying to power a fan that's not working, leading to exhaust problems.

Solution: Maintain regular maintenance or switch to a direct drive model.

Mistake: Thawing frozen food at the last minute in a sink under running hot water.

Solution: Create better operational schedules; use standing cold water to thaw in a pinch.

Mistake: Allowing plastic bags to get caught in the evaporator fans in the coolers or even on the rooftop in the remote condenser.

Solution: Use closed containers to store waste; reusable food containers cut down on waste; regularly check remote condensers for clogs.

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