REFRIGERATE EFFICIENTLY TO SAVE MONEY
Commercial refrigeration equipment, while essential to many businesses, accounts for significant energy costs due to generally consuming electricity 24 hours per day, while also generating heat that can add to the cooling load of a building. Wise purchasing decisions, appropriate maintenance procedures and strategic equipment upgrades can be used to cut your business’ energy costs, while also ensuring the proper cooling of your merchandise. The answers to the questions below focus on tips to improve the performance of your refrigerators and freezers. A separate energy savings guide is available for information on other commercial food service equipment.
- What maintenance procedures should I use to improve the performance of my refrigeration equipment?
- What simple upgrades can be used to reduce the energy consumption of my refrigeration equipment?
- What should I consider when investigating the purchase of new energy efficient refrigeration equipment?
- Are there any incentives or rebates available for upgrading my refrigeration system?
- The Food Service Technology Center is an excellent source for information on improving the performance of existing refrigeration equipment. Some top suggestions include:
- Refrigeration condenser coils (outside of your unit) and evaporator coils (inside of your unit) need to be cleaned at least once per quarter to prevent increased energy use, premature compressor failure and unnecessary service calls. Dirty coils are the number one reason for refrigeration equipment service calls. Use vacuums or coil brushes to clean coils. Do not use brooms or caustic chemicals.
- Inspect all walk-in refrigerator and freezer doors to ensure that they shut completely. Repair or replace door auto-closers, hinges or doors that are not operating or aligned properly and set policies to discourage employees from propping open doors.
- Door seals must be completely effective to keep warm moist air out of your unit, so carefully inspect all door gaskets to identify any gaskets that are torn, cracked, worn out or missing.
- Improper defrosting can waste a lot of money and prevent freezers from maintaining safe temperatures. Set the time clocks that control your freezer defrost cycles properly to reduce the number of defrost cycles (if feasible) or to at least avoid defrosting during the peak utility demand pricing hours in the afternoon. Make sure that the evaporator drain line is heated and insulated to improve flow of the defrost condensate.
- Turn off door heaters if possible.
- The Food Service Technology is an excellent source for tips on potentially cost-effective upgrades to existing refrigeration equipment.
- Add strip curtains or plastic doors to all walk-in refrigerators and freezers. These barriers can block warm moist air from entering the unit and reduce compressor runtime to save you money. Strip curtains should cover the entire door opening to be effective and can reduce outside air infiltration by up to 75%.
- Replace the lights in your walk-in refrigerators and freezers with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) if the lights in these units are left on for more than two hours per day. Check the ratings for lights used in freezers to ensure they can operate in low temperatures. Incandescent light bulbs not only waste energy but also add heat to your unit which increases the cooling loads.
- Install low-temperature occupancy sensors in walk-in units to reduce lighting energy consumption when people are not present.
- Install pull-down blinds on open dairy and produce cases to improve refrigeration efficiency during non-operating hours.
- Install electronically commutated motors (ECM) on evaporator and condenser fans to reduce fan energy consumption by up to two-thirds.
- If you have a significant number of refrigerated display cases, consider installing a heat recovery system to capture waste heat that can be used to reduce your hot water energy costs.
- ENERGY STAR® maintains information on ENERGY STAR qualified commercial refrigerators and freezers that can realize energy savings of up to 45% compared to standard models.
- The Food Service Technology Center has a series of calculators for evaluating the life cycle costs of glass-door and solid-door reach-in refrigerators and freezers.
- ENERGY STAR qualified ice machines can reduce energy consumption by 15% and water consumption by 10% compared to standard models. Bigger ice machines are generally more efficient than smaller ones.
There may be incentives or rebates available in your area to help reduce the costs of upgrading your refrigeration system. Use the Rebate Finder to search for current opportunities.