Urgent Alert

8 HVAC solutions for restaurant dining areas

Date: March 12, 2024
woman working on laptop

Restaurants use about 2.5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings, and most of that energy is used for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). That means modern HVAC solutions can offer restaurant owners ways to say money, keep customer more comfortable and improve sustainability efforts.


It doesn’t take much for restaurants to realize savings. According to ENERGY STAR®, energy use falls by 4% to 5% for every degree they can raise their thermostat set point. Here are 8 solutions that will help restaurant owners capture those savings1. The purchase price of many energy efficiency upgrades can be at least partially offset with rebates and incentives. Others can even be financed at 0% interest over time using On-Bill Financing.


  1. Use ENERGY STAR-certified ceiling fans. One of the simplest, most efficient ways to moderate temperature extremes is by using ceiling fans. Depending on the need, they draw cool air up from the floor or circulate warmer air from the ceiling. ENERGY STAR-rated ceiling fans do the job extremely efficiently, and when carefully chosen can enhance a room’s decor and ambiance.
  2. Use the right size HVAC unit for the space. According to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), at least 25% of all rooftop HVAC units are oversized2. Because they’re not running at peak efficiency, they use more energy than necessary and wear too quickly. Properly sized equipment dramatically cuts energy costs, increases the service life of equipment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Rebates, incentives and On-Bill Financing on energy efficient HVAC units can make purchasing newer, more efficient units much more affordable3. And they’ll deliver savings for years to come.
  3. Take advantage of patio heaters’ rapid warm-up. A heated patio is enticing to many restaurant goers as the weather turns cooler, but patios by nature are difficult to heat efficiently. If you have a patio, you may want to heat it with patio heaters. They are radiant devices that heat quickly, so they can be kept off until the moment they’re needed. It’s much more efficient and cost-effective than enclosing the space or keeping heaters running constantly.
  4. Apply clear, heat-reflecting film to dining room windows. If a dining area features windows where the sun beats in for extended periods, it can become overly warm even in cooler months. Suggest applying a heat-reflecting film, which can reduce heat buildup and keep guests more comfortable.
  5. Use a programmable thermostat. While it seems like a simple upgrade, switching to a programmable thermostat can have a significant impact on your overall energy usage because the device constantly monitors the environment and reacts before temperature changes require a substantial correction. In addition, you are significantly less likely to forget to turn down the thermostat and reduce energy use during hours when the restaurant is unoccupied than a busy owner or manager.
  6. Don’t neglect restroom HVAC systems. Restroom ventilation tends to run constantly, so even a modest reduction in energy usage can make a difference over time. ENERGY STAR-qualified ventilating fans often use 70% less energy than standard models4.
  7. Make sure the kitchen is efficiently ventilated. Heat from a hot kitchen will spill out all over the restaurant. One way to reduce both heat production and energy usage is by installing demand-based ventilation controls. They use sensors to monitor cooking and vary the exhaust fan speed accordingly. They can reduce costs from 30% to 50% and can be installed on new equipment or retrofitted to existing hoods.
  8. Implement a startup/shutdown plan for appropriate appliances. If heat sources in the kitchen are running when they’re not needed, they produce heat that the HVAC system must neutralize. You can institute a startup/shutdown plan to make sure equipment is only running when it’s being used.


These are just a few of the suggestions for you make your restaurant more energy efficient. Such upgrades help reduce costs, keep customers comfortable and are surprisingly affordable when coupled with rebates, incentives and On-Bill Financing. Learn more helpful tips by downloading PG&E’s free eBook 25 Money-Saving Tips.

Referenced in article:

  3. Pacific Gas and Electric Company