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Energy-Saving Solutions for Restaurants

Saving energy presents a unique challenge to the restaurant industry. Food safety and food security, along with providing customers with menu choices, are top priorities, and food must be stored and prepared at precise temperatures for health and culinary reasons. There are many ways restaurants can provide top-quality service to their customers while being energy efficient. Here are some steps to help reduce energy usage, conserve natural resources and improve your bottom line.
Reduce lighting where possible. Turn off lights in unoccupied areas, remove excess lighting, and turn off signage and other lights that are not necessary for security and safety. Turn off lights in areas where daylight is sufficient. Keep lighting fixtures and lamps clean. Remove lamps wherever possible. Make sure time clock and photocell lighting controllers are working properly and set correctly. Exterior lighting should be off during the daytime hours.
The first step to managing energy usage is knowing where your business consumes the most energy. This chart illustrates how a typical restaurant uses energy.
1% 2% 5% 8% 13%



Cooling Cooking/refrigeration

40% 31% 13% 8% 5% 2% 1%

Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC)

Maintain evaporative coolers by checking fans, pumps and evaporation pads. Make sure the bleed-off is working properly, so minerals in the water are not deposited on the pads. Make sure the air-conditioning economizers are working properly and set to maximize the benefits of free cooling. Pay attention to your thermostat settings. Set air-conditioning thermostats to 78F or higher. When heating, 68F is the recommended temperature. Turn off HVAC equipment when the restaurant is unoccupied. Follow a routine maintenance schedule. Regularly clean and vacuum easily accessible components, clean or

Lighting Miscellaneous Ventilation Office equipment Heating

replace air filters, check fan belts, lubricate motors, pumps and fans, check compressor oil levels, and inspect for refrigerant leaks. Seal off unused areas and reduce or eliminate heating or cooling in these spaces. Storage rooms, warehouses and other unoccupied areas are good places to start. Keep exterior doors closed as much as possible so that youre not paying to heat or cool the outdoors.



Turn off the reach-in refrigerator door heaters whenever possible. Keep refrigerators at least 4 inches from the walls for proper air circulation. Set the defrost controls to operate regularly. Avoid defrosting more often than necessary and try not to defrost during the summer peak energy usage period of 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekdays. Use the right temperature setting. Keeping foods colder than necessary costs more and rarely pays off in extended shelf life. Clean the condenser coils. Also, check gaskets and latches on doors to be sure they form an airtight seal when closed.

Do not leave water running unless it's necessary, especially hot water. Clean the dishwasher on a regular basis, inspect the wash and rinse jets after each use, empty the scrap trays and use a de-liming solution regularly. Lime build-up will clog the wash and rinse jets. Turn off the booster heaters. Turn the dishwasher water heaters off when the machine is not in use and at closing time. It costs money to heat the water, whether it is used or not.

Purchase ENERGY STAR qualified replacement lamps. Install timer switches or occupancy sensors on the lights for the lowtemperature walk-in refrigerators and freezers. Retrofit incandescent or mercury vapor parking lot lights with more energyefficient lighting, such as high-pressure sodium vapor (HPSV) lighting. Replace or retrofit the incandescent lights in exit signs with light-emitting diode (LED) lamps. Also replace or retrofit channel sign lighting with LED lamps.

Office equipment
Reduce the hours your equipment is left running unnecessarily. Personal computers, monitors, printers, copiers and scanners should be turned off at night and whenever theyre not in use.

Install programmable thermostats. Perform preventive maintenance on rooftop equipment. Replace HVAC filters at least once every three months, insulate rooftop refrigerant lines, clean the condenser coils and shade coils from the sun if possible. Invest in energy-efficient equipment. When upgrading or adding new equipment, look for the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates the equipment meets federal standards for energy efficiency.

Implement a schedule for the start up and shut down of cooking equipment and appliances. Turn off equipment and appliances when not needed. Calibrate oven thermostats. Check the operation of gas burners by inspecting burners, oven door closings and the condition of insulation. Use correctly sized equipment for all operations. During slow periods, turn down the flame between orders. Keep the burners and equipment clean.


Energy-efficient lighting may enhance the appearance of your restaurant's food, create ambiance or improve outdoor security. Install motion sensors to turn off lights when not needed in storage areas, conference rooms, restrooms and unoccupied areas. Install timers, time clocks or photocells to ensure that interior and exterior lights are turned off at the appropriate times. Incandescent lamps can often be replaced with compact fluorescent lamps that can significantly reduce lighting costs and last up to 10 times longer.

Remotely locate the refrigeration condensing units, if possible. Install strip curtains, door auto-closers, evaporator fan controllers, and efficient evaporator fan motors on the walk-in boxes.

Water heating/sanitation
Fully load the dishwasher before running it. Turn off tank heaters and hot water recirculation pumps when the restaurant is closed.




Replace cracked or worn door gaskets on refrigerators and freezers. Clean the condenser coils and make sure the system has a full refrigerant charge with no leaks. Replace inefficient ice machines and any other inefficient refrigeration equipment with energy-efficient models.

equipment. These products meet federal standards for energy efficiency, and are often available at the same cost as less efficient models. And since most ENERGY STAR qualified equipment powers down during periods of inactivity, it produces less heat, which can help you save on air-conditioning costs.

Consider installing a refrigerant heatrecovery system to use waste heat from the refrigeration equipment to pre-heat hot water.

Building systems
Invest in energy-efficient equipment. When upgrading or adding new equipment, look for the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates the equipment meets federal standards for energy efficiency.

Replace standard gas pilot lights with electronic ignitions. Check that burners are clean and operating at an optimum ratio of air-to-fuel. Replace inefficient fryers, holding cabinets, steamers and any other inefficient cooking equipment.


Replace existing T-12 fluorescent lamps and magnetic ballasts with T-8 or T-5 lamps with electronic ballasts. Install electronic dimmable ballasts and daylighting controls to dim the lights when sufficient daylight is available. Replace incandescent or mercury vapor parking lot lights with metal halide or high-pressure sodium vapor (HPSV) lighting.


San Diego Gas & Electric has rebates available that can help businesses save money on energy costs. The Small Business Super Saver (SBSS) program targets small businesses, and the Express Efficiency rebate program is designed to help medium and large commercial, industrial and agricultural businesses. SDG&E's Small Business Super Saver program has rebates available to small business customers for energy-efficient lighting, refrigeration, food service and other technologies. For more information, call 1-800-644-6133 or visit Express Efficiency helps customers retrofit or replace old equipment with new energysaving technologies that can lower operating costs and improve productivity. For more information, call 1-800-644-6133 or visit SBSS rebates apply to any small business customer on a valid SDG&E commercial, industrial or agricultural rate with a

Water heating
Install water flow restrictors and aerators, especially in sink faucets. In addition to saving on water-heating costs, these measures can save money by reducing water usage. Install low-flow spray nozzles to pre-rinse dishes to save both energy and water. Insulate tanks and pipes. This simple measure will reduce standby heat loss. Evaluate the cost effectiveness of retrofitting your water-heating equipment with instantaneous water heaters.

When replacing HVAC units, install high-efficiency equipment. Install low-emissivity windows to reduce heat transfer through the windows.

Water heating/sanitation
Consider installing a low-temperature energy-efficient dishwasher with a chemical rinse instead of hot water rinses if local codes allow. A chemical solution such as a bleach-type product can possibly be used instead of 180F water for the final rinse.

Office equipment
Choose ENERGY STAR qualified products when upgrading or adding new

*Rebate programs and services are funded by California utility customers and administered by SDG&E under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission. Programs may be modified or terminated without prior notice, and are provided to qualified customers on a first-come, first-served basis until program funds are no longer available. For more information, call 1-800-644-6133 or visit



monthly electric demand under 100 kilowatts (kW) and/or an average monthly natural gas usage under 4,166 therms. The Express Efficiency rebate program applies to accounts with a monthly electric demand of 100 kW or higher and/or an average monthly natural gas usage above 4,166 therms. Additional requirements apply. For a list of available rebates for food service facilities, please visit SDG&E also offers On-Bill Financing (OBF). This program is designed to facilitate the purchase and installation of qualifying energy-efficiency measures by businesses that might otherwise not be able to afford these upgrades. For more information, visit SBSS and Express Efficiency provide rebates for the installation of both electric and natural gas energy-efficiency measures, including:

Electric measures
Lighting Food service equipment Refrigeration

Energy use analysis surveys (online and on site)

These free surveys include an evaluation of your businesss energy use, a customized chart of your usage and recommendations for savings. Youll find opportunities to reduce the cost of lighting, heating, cooling, food service equipment and more. To take the online survey, visit, or call 1-800-644-6133 to schedule an on-site energy audit appointment. Helping businesses understand and manage their energy use is part of SDG&E's commitment to providing exceptional customer service and energy solutions for the region.

Natural gas measures

Boilers and water heaters Food service equipment Pipe and tank insulation

MORE SERVICES TO HELP BUSINESS CUSTOMERS Energy-efficiency business seminars

SDG&E offers a variety of seminars and training opportunities designed to help businesses increase the energy efficiency of their operations. These free seminars are both informational and technical, covering topics such as lighting, HVAC, food service and much more. Please call 1-800-613-8970 for more information or check the seminar calendar at

Please note: The energy and cost savings for individual restaurants will vary based upon operating conditions, equipment, personnel, building envelope, weather conditions and other factors. Safety is of primary importance. Although San Diego Gas & Electric believes the recommended energy-efficiency measures will not impact food and operational safety under normal circumstances, restaurant operators should make certain that implementation of these or any other measures does not compromise the health and safety of customers or employees.

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