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One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Energy Efficiency for Small Businesses – Part 4

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Energy Efficiency for Small Businesses – Part 4 of an 8 Part Series.

Restaurant Energy EfficiencyAt Lime Energy, we help utilities around the country bring energy efficiency to their small business customers.  With over 15,000 completed projects to date, we have learned a lot about the unique needs of small business customers.  In this series, we are taking a look at several small business types and uncovering their potential for energy savings.  In many cases, these businesses are eligible for incentives from their utility to cover a large portion of the project cost, making the long-term benefits of energy efficiency even more attainable.




Restaurants use 5-7 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings and the United States EPA estimates that when a restaurant cuts its energy costs by 20%, its profits could increase by 30% or more.

energy use in restaurants

Unlike offices and retail stores where lighting upgrades can have the most significant impact on the bottom line, restaurants use the bulk of their energy during food prep.  For example, an average deep fryer uses more than 18,000 kWh and costs around $1800 per year to operate.  In order to maximize the efficiency of food prep equipment, follow these 5 guidelines:

  1. Reduce idle time.  Keeping equipment on when it isn’t in use costs money and wastes energy.  As the first step in managing energy use, implement a startup and shutdown schedule for energy intensive equipment like broilers, fryers, and ranges.
  2. Maintenance.  Energy leakage costs money and improper seals, leaks, dirty coils and faulty equipment all contribute to wasted energy.  Incorporating a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule for all equipment will significantly improve efficiency.
  3. Proper calibration of equipment.  Perform a regular thermostat check to be sure that your freezers, refrigerators, appliances, dishwashers and hot water heaters are operating at their optimal temperatures.
  4. Install variable speed controls on your exhaust hood to dramatically reduce the run time for fans.
  5. Buy Energy STAR certified equipment when replacement becomes necessary.  Fryers, steamers, convection ovens, griddles, broilers, combination ovens, ranges, reach-in refrigerators and freezers, walk-in refrigerators and freezers and ice machines are all available with an Energy STAR certification.

In addition to savings on energy use in food preparation and storage, restaurants can also save money each month by incorporating lighting and HVAC efficiency into their footprint.  Common lighting upgrades include replacing T12 lamps and electronic ballasts with T8 lamps and magnetic ballasts, replacing exit and incandescent or neon signage with LED signage, and installing occupancy sensors for low traffic areas.  Programmable thermostats are an inexpensive upgrade for better HVAC efficiency, along with proper maintenance and cleaning protocols. When considering a replacement, Energy STAR HVAC systems offer significant savings over the life of the equipment.

For a detailed review of these measures and their application in the dealership, visit  or schedule an energy audit with a qualified contractor today.  From incentive programs to equipment rebates and recycling, local utilities may provide assistance in determining how best to implement energy efficiency solutions.  To learn more about programs available in your area, visit

For more on small business energy efficiency:

Part 1 – Grocery Store Energy Effiency

Part 2- Retail Store Energy Effiency

Part 3 – Automotive Energy Efficiency

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