Lately, it seems like climate change is on everyone’s mind. As we learn more about the severity of global warming and the need for immediate action, governments, businesses, and individuals are continuously seeking ways to reduce their environmental footprints. Similar movements have sprung up within the restaurant industry, which is no stranger to the effects of climate change, particularly in response to the industry’s large amount of energy usage.

According to one report, restaurants in the United States spend three to five percent of their operating costs, on average, on electricity and natural gas each year. Another study estimated the restaurant industry’s electricity usage to be 206 billion kilowatt-hours annually — that’s enough to power almost 15 million homes. In addition to leaving a major carbon footprint, extreme energy consumption costs the restaurant industry over $20 billion per year.

Knowing this, it’s easy to see why more and more restaurants are seeking ways to reduce their energy consumption. In addition to conserving natural resources and cutting down carbon emissions, energy-efficient practices can also help you lower your operating costs. As an added bonus, some energy-saving methods, such as dimmer lighting, help enhance a restaurant’s appearance and atmosphere.

If your restaurant is looking to reduce its energy consumption, consider the following tips:

Hit the Switch

We’ve all heard it before: one of the easiest ways to save electricity is by turning off lights and appliances when they aren’t in use. While this change seems small, it can have a big impact in the long run. For example, many restaurants lose hundreds of dollars each month on lighting for empty rooms and electricity for idle equipment left running.

Consider implementing a policy that all lights, fans, and electronic devices not in use be turned off, reminding staff to be conscientious of their energy consumption. If needed, post small signs near kitchen light switches and appliances as a reminder. Light timers, smart outlet controls, and energy management sensors are also great options for those looking to minimize energy waste.

Keep it Minimal

Some equipment, such as heating and cooling systems, cannot be turned off completely at the end of each day. However, restaurants can still save energy (and money) by programming the equipment to switch to a lower setting during the off-hours. For example, while you don’t want customers shivering while they’re trying to eat, there is little harm in turning the furnace down a few degrees overnight.

There are also several ways that electricity use can be minimized during a restaurant’s hours of operation. For one, restaurants can dim their overhead lighting in spaces where there’s plenty of natural light available. Lowering dishwasher water temperature to the lowest setting allowed by health regulations is also an option. 

Design for Efficiency

Many restaurants make the mistake of implementing a kitchen layout without taking the time to consider how it may affect their equipment’s efficiency. In order to reach peak performance, refrigeration equipment should have plenty of room to release hot air as part of its cooling process. The more space cooling equipment has to “breathe,” the less energy it will require to keep cool. Similarly, heating and cooling equipment must be stored far enough apart so as not to disrupt or inhibit one another’s functioning.

Try Some Simple Swaps

When it comes to making energy-efficient changes, many restaurateurs worry that this will require dishing out lots of money for newer, low-energy appliances. While larger swaps are great to make when an appliance is in need of a replacement and there’s room in the budget, such major changes may not be right for every business. Luckily, energy-efficient changes don’t have to be a major cost. 

Many restaurants are able to see an increase in energy savings just by applying glass film to their windows in order to prevent heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. Similar results have also been achieved through the use of weather stripping seals along doorways and windows. Several restaurants have also seen energy savings from switching from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps. As an added bonus, these types of light bulbs are known to last longer, saving time and money dedicated to maintenance.