Energy efficiency remains a buzz phrase for the catering equipment industry, with many manufacturers trying to balance their products’ ecologically sound credentials with an affordable price point.
However, a product’s overall cost is not just about the initial price.
According to Steve Hobbs, MD of cooking appliance producer, Grande Cuisine: “Using less energy/power is a good starting point, with equipment’s efficiency and lifetime running costs being so tightly tied. However, other characteristics should also influence what can be considered ‘energy efficient’.
“The amount of time equipment takes to be ready, for example, reaching the correct temperature quickly can translate into significant savings for a working kitchen, as it means less time spent waiting – also allowing you to turn equipment off when not in use.”
Over at Electrolux Professional, regional training and demonstration manager Stuart Flint believes that one of the biggest myths surrounding energy efficiency is the definition of the term itself. “It remains very, very subjective,” he said. “Put simply, the best way to save energy will always be turning equipment off when not in use, but one manufacturer’s definition of energy efficiency might differ from another’s.
“If we look at a combi-oven as an example, there can be misconceptions around how long the oven takes to warm itself up. Generally, a combi-oven takes around 5 minutes to heat up, yet we often see instances where operators turn their oven on 2 or even 3 hours before it is needed for cooking. Clearly this is a misconception which has the potential to significantly reduce efficiency levels.”
Hobart Cooking Solutions says that its combi-ovens are ready to cook from standby in less than 3 minutes. The firm believes that its products can offer other energy efficient features too. Paul Godfrey, product manager, said: “Cleaning schedules can be pre-determined on the Bonnet Combi range. Automatic cleaning is important in terms of water usage, chemicals and time. Many machines in today’s market claim automatic cleaning: however many still require operator participation, but ours is truly fully automatic.” [[page-break]]
Grande Cuisine’s Hobbs added: “It can be tempting to judge products and solutions based on manufacturers’ information, but these reflect optimum performance, not necessarily attainable in all applications and without specially designed accessories, pots and pans.
“Equipment should be judged on a like for like basis, with emphasis on talking to current operators and learning about whether it can meet the requirements. Details on current set up, what the new equipment’s most common tasks will be and how it can streamline other preparation processes should all be factored into any upgrade or refurbishment.“
“Frequently we’ve seen induction cookware being marketed as capable of achieving amazing savings, regardless of its quality, robustness and lifetime. Some users are focused on the short-term savings made available, and are happy to purchase basic, low cost induction solutions, without taking into account how long it will last under a full workload.
“When you try to save money on equipment as well as energy usage, you can expect a higher rate of failure and maintenance or replacement costs. Whereas a quality induction solution can provide significant savings over its lifetime, this isn’t true of all induction cooking equipment. Generally, bigger investments in quality equipment yield greater returns.”
Hobart’s Godfrey believes the biggest area for energy saving is multifunctionality. “A traditional kitchen used to include 10 pieces of equipment, but with the increase of multifunctional equipment we’re seeing cooklines which may now have only five or six pieces, so 40%- 50% less equipment and a big reduction in energy usage,” he said.
Frima produces multifunctional cooking equipment and it says its units have been independently tested and certified by the Germany-based HKI Cert, with the consumption figures uploaded to the HKI CERT database. “The figures clearly demonstrate the energy required to cook 1kg of food in different cooking modes – exactly the information the user requires,” said Graham Kille, Frima UK’s MD.
“When distributors are looking at green products with a view to energy saving features they need to be sure that the manufacturer’s claims are true. Genuine energy efficient equipment should come with independent verification on its energy efficiency to ensure that those buying or specifying modern kitchen technology have access to comparative energy usage figures that are based on set guidelines, which can help them make informed buying choices.” [[page-break]]
Stuart Long, UK sales and marketing director at MKN, said the firm is seeing a trend for pressure cooking vessel orders. “This can mean massive savings for caterers, at least 50% on cooking times as well as 50% less power used, all whilst increasing nutrition levels in food. It also mean caterers can use less expensive cuts of meat such as briskets and pork belly and get the best results, fetching a high profit level on today’s restaurant menus.
“We have introduced this traditional cooking technology combined with today’s technological advances to give operators total control in step by step programmability for a consistent product, time after time. As the top chefs utilise this technology to the best of its ability, we will see this filter into other market sectors.”
MKN considers that the whole manufacturing process should be taken into account with regards to energy efficiency. At its plant in Germany it uses 100% hydropower electricity and has a ‘GreenTeam’ of international specialists dedicated to looking at problems connected with environmental protection and sustainability. This is recognised through ISO 14001 certification from the TÜV SÜD. This team works closely alongside about 35 engineers and more than 30 chefs to ensure the equipment delivers.
David Watts, senior manager of Samsung Professional Appliances, said that microwave ovens could be the answer to green efficiency and cost control. “They are fast, very energy efficient and don’t require much in the way of extraction or ventilation.
“End users are becoming more savvy about the lifetime costs of their catering equipment and therefore are prepared to pay a bit more for energy efficient features. By choosing a well-respected manufacturer end users can be reassured of a quality build backed by factors like a decent warranty and after sales service.”[[page-break]]
Over at DC Products, energy efficiency is all about maintaining or increasing productivity while reducing energy consumption and loss.
Bob Wood, director of DC’s warewashing and icemaking systems department, said: “We are always advising our distributors to be aware that a low power rating machine does not always mean better energy savings as it can have an impact on the machine performance. In the case of 13amp machines for example the heat recovery time between cycles can be increased so if you are a busy site or have peak demands they should consider a more powerful machine.
“When distributors are sourcing ‘green’ products for their customers it is extremely important that they know about each machine’s energy saving features and their benefits. Not all energy features come at an extra cost (a lot of ours are included within the machine already), but if they do, you need to take the ‘long term cost savings’ into consideration as these figures will most likely outweigh the extra costs.
“If the distributor has specified the machine correctly, then any added ‘green features’ will benefit the end user, their staff and their pockets.”
At Hobart’s warewashing division, Tim Bender, UK sales director, predicted: “2015 will be the year of getting smart over energy efficiency – both from the perspective of smarter operation and smarter, more revolutionary machines. For instance, our undercounter FX, GX and GC machines feature a Soil Sensor which adjusts the rinse consumption depending on soil levels recorded in the wash tanks.” [[page-break]]
Another warewasher manufacturer, Winterhalter, said that distributors are specifying green products on a case by case basis but are still finding it difficult to compare products on a like for like basis. Paul Crowley, marketing manager, said: “One manufacturer’s heat exchanger is another’s condenser – the two should not be confused as there is a big technological difference. Good manufacturers will have had their claims independently verified.
“A true piece of energy efficient catering equipment is one that employs new technology and can tangibly demonstrate a saving without compromising the equipment’s most basic function. Just because the marketing material uses words like efficient, economical, or eco – it doesn’t mean it is! Find out what the technology is that’s making the product more efficient.”
Display and counter provider, Victor Manufacturing, has invested in research and development to design energy efficient refrigerated units and hot food servery counters along with improving the energy efficiency of existing ones.
Marketing and communications manager Peter Brewin, detailed: “For example, our latest refrigerated displays have been designed with a tilt switch to cut the amount of electricity consumed when boiling off condensation. In terms of modifications to existing products, we have developed a gantry timer switch on our servery units to reduce the amount of energy wasted while heat lamps are left on during long shifts.”
He believes that rather than one trend dominating the market this year, manufacturers will continually look at ways they can incorporate energy saving features into new designs or adjust existing models to be more energy efficient.
Brewin added that the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme provides an extra incentive to buy energy efficient products. By choosing products on the government’s Energy Technology List, end users that pay income or corporation tax can claim 100% first year capital allowance on them. “Our Optimax SQ refrigerated range complies with the scheme which means that that customers can reduce their tax liability by up to 20% of the purchase cost – something we urge them to take advantage of,” he said.[[page-break]]
Another firm in the counters and serveries market, E & R Moffat, takes the view that materials and methods of manufacture, delivery and disposal all contribute to the overall affect on the environment.
John Wannan, sales and marketing manager, explained: “For example, products manufactured in Britain will typically have a smaller transport carbon footprint. 100% of Moffat’s products are produced from scratch in the UK.”
He advised that distributors and end users must be careful to not only look at running costs, but also the capital cost, the life expectancy of the products and the projected costs associated with service and repair during this time. “Expensive equipment does not always provide the greatest energy savings,” he said.
“With refrigerated or heated counters, buyers should ensure that the counter is well insulated – this may sound obvious but it’s something that can be compromised in style-led designs. Good insulation can make a huge difference to energy consumption, offering considerable cost savings and boosting the overall ‘green’ credentials of an operation.”
Monitoring energy usage is another way to reduce consumption, minimising the scope for human and hardware errors. Checkit’s Fixed Sensors monitor refrigeration temperature, humidity and door open/close status.
Dr Martin Nash, product line manager of Checkit’s manufacturer, Elektron-Technology, said: “One area that we expect to see develop is the need for an integrated approach to managing energy efficiency across all refrigeration units. I think customers will expect greater functionality from the equipment that they purchase so that they can more effectively monitor and improve the performance of their units.
For water boilers, Graham Crisp, sales director of Instanta detailed: “The two main issues affecting energy efficiency are energy consumption and the build-up of limescale. One of our most successful product launches of late has been our range of machines with built-in water filtration as standard.
“The filter reduces limescale and water odour, both of which improve the taste of the water. What makes our filter innovative is that it offers a choice according to the hardness of the incoming water supply.
“Many of the machines in our range can be switched to eco-mode during quieter periods. We encourage all of our customers to look at the whole life cost of their equipment.
“In the long run it is far better to spend an extra £40-£50 on a machine that has a good filtration system or other energy saving features because these are likely to result in the machine lasting much, much longer.
“Buying the cheapest option is a false economy, as it often is, and we would urge customers to stretch their budget as far as they can if it means getting a better, longer lasting piece of equipment, be it a boiler or any other item for that matter.”