Energy Saving Tactics for Restaurants

The ice machine is a standard piece of equipment in restaurants, but it can also be a money drain. Bad filters, age, and even the type of machine can be a cause of inefficiency.  Switching your ice machine over to an energy efficient Energy Star machine and adopting energy conscious systems may be a solution to high utility bills in your restaurant.

The Energy Star program, founded in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency, actively encourages the reduction of greenhouse gases by certifying machines that are efficient in both water and energy usage.  Originally intended for home appliances, the Energy Star umbrella has spread to include commercial equipment.

For manufacturers, the Energy Star label represents a boon, as inclusion in this field is not merely rubber stamped.  With the label comes rebates and other rewards as well as endorsement by a government agency.  The general qualifications for Energy Star equipment include: source

  • Product categories must contribute significant energy savings nationwide
  • Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
  • If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings, within a reasonable period of time.
  • Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.
  • Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
  • Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.

Here is a chart of the exact qualifications that an ice maker must meet to be considered Energy Star Certified.

ice machines plus chart

IMH – Ice Making Heads: This is just the ice maker and the compressor, but it doesn’t have a bin attached.  You can see these types of machines in many restaurants.

RCU – Remote Condensing Unit: Everything is separate, including the ice making parts and the compressor.  The bin is bought separately.

SCU – Self Contained Unit: The parts are all in one unit, including the ice maker, the compressor and the storage bin.  These are often seen in hotel settings.

The largest ice machine makers in the world, including Scotsman Ice, Manitowoc Ice, Ice-O-Matic, and Hoshizaki Ice, have research and development teams at work to make their ice machines more energy and water efficient.  All of the brands bring at least one Energy Star Certified ice maker to the table.

Switching over to an Energy Star ice machine can definitely save water and energy when compared to non-Energy-Star certified equipment, but those pieces of equipment should be purchased with an overall maintenance and water-savings program in mind.

In other words, it’s not simply a matter of purchasing an Energy Star Certified ice machine and dishwasher and calling it a day. With a strategic focus on energy savings, the EPA estimates that utility costs can be cut by 10-30%, yielding a dramatic impact on the bottom line.

Proper maintenance of your ice machine plays a huge factor in keeping it operating to Energy Star standards.  Here are some things that you can do to help save precious water and energy.

  • Install timers for your ice machine to encourage production of ice during non-peak times of the day.  By reducing the demand, you are also reducing the energy that you use.
  • Clean and maintain the ice maker on a regular basis.  Make adjustments to the purge water timer on your machines so water isn’t overused.
  • Using the owner’s manual, clean the condenser coils of your ice maker so that the machine isn’t working harder that it should.
  • Thoroughly clean the machine on a regular basis using warm soapy water unless otherwise recommended.  There are solutions that you can use for deliming and descaling.
  • Purchase larger, not smaller.  The larger machines sometimes take almost as much energy for more ice.  This will give you an ice machine to grow into if necessary.

Broadening the scope beyond ice machines, the next place to look for savings in water and energy usage is in dishwashers.  According to the EPA, the largest usage of water in a restaurant is in the dishwasher. Here are some ideas for lowering the water usage.

  • Only make full loads of dishes.  While a full cycle runs in less than a minute for some dishwashers, running without a full load in place can waste a considerable amount of water.
  • Turn the dishwashers off at the end of the day, or when there is a significant amount of time that they’re not in use.
  • When waiting to put the items into the dishwasher, soak them in standing water, rather than in running water.  Having a single flush of water is wasteful, and can prevent the usage of thousands of gallons a month.
  • Instead of having places where there is a continuous flow of water, see if there are any alternatives – like having standing water instead.
  • Replace the nozzles with lower-flow nozzles for dishwashing areas.  The low-flow nozzles use around half of what the regular nozzles do, and are just as effective.

Many options exist for saving both energy and water within the restaurant environment, but it must be a conscious effort, not one which is haphazardly done.

Mark Masterson is from with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant and bar industry. With an extensive and entertaining writing style Mark is focused on providing quality information and advice to contractors and purchasing managers about the best practices on choosing the right type of ice machine for your client.


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