8 Benefits Modern HVAC Equipment Can Have on Restaurant Dining Areas

8 Benefits Modern HVAC Equipment Can Have on Restaurant Dining Areas

Restaurants use roughly 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).1 For many restaurants, HVAC is second only to food prep in terms of annual energy consumption. That means investing in an energy efficient HVAC system is a great way for restaurants to save money and shield themselves against rising energy prices.

Using modern HVAC solutions in customer areas can go a long way toward making your operation more sustainable and more cost efficient. It doesn’t take much to realize savings. Every degree that restaurants can raise the cooling thermostat translates to a 4-5% reduction in energy usage. That means keeping the thermostat only 3 degrees higher can trim air conditioning costs by up to 15%.

Here are eight ways modern energy efficient HVAC systems can save money without sacrificing customer comfort:

  1. Use ENERGY STAR-certified ceiling fans. One of the simplest, most efficient ways to cool a space is by using ceiling fans where possible to draw cool air up from the floor rather than introduce it with air conditioning. ENERGY STAR-rated ceiling fans do the job efficiently, and can enhance a room’s decor and ambiance.
  2. Use the right size HVAC unit for your space. According to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), at least 25% of all rooftop HVAC units are oversized, so they’re not running at peak efficiency. That leads to higher energy costs and accelerated wear. A properly sized unit dramatically cuts costs, increases the life of equipment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Rebates, incentives and special financing on energy efficient HVAC units can make purchasing newer, more efficient units easier and new equipment will continue to provide savings for years.2 Make sure to ask your HVAC contractor to use either the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) or American Society of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE) sizing methods for choosing the proper size equipment as well as designing and sizing the duct system.
  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. Fortunately, patio heaters are radiant devices that heat up quickly.3 That gives you the ability to keep them turned off until the moment they’re needed, thereby reducing energy costs.
  4. Apply clear, heat-reflecting film to dining room windows. If you have windows where the sun beats in for extended periods, have heat-reflecting film applied to them by a qualified professional. It can cut your AC costs considerably by keeping the space cool at all times (not just when customers are present).
  5. Use programmable thermostats. They constantly monitor the environment and react before temperature changes become outsized and require an outsized correction. In addition, programmable thermostats never forget to reduce HVAC operation during hours when the restaurant is unoccupied.
  6. Don’t neglect your restrooms. Restroom ventilation tends to run constantly, so even a modest reduction in energy usage can make a difference over time. ENERGY STAR-qualified ventilation fans reduce operating costs by using up to 70% less energy than standard models.4
  7. Make sure the kitchen is efficiently ventilated. Heat from a hot kitchen will spill out into the dining area, so adequate kitchen ventilation can also reduce temperatures at the front of the restaurant. One way to reduce both kitchen heat 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 30-50% and can be installed on new equipment or retrofitted to existing hoods.
  8. If you’re not using it, don’t run it. If heat sources in the kitchen are running when they’re not needed, they produce heat that your HVAC system must neutralize. It’s a good idea to implement a startup/shutdown plan to make sure equipment is only running when it’s being used. Turning off a heater for just three hours a day can save $530 annually per heater.

The restaurant business can be challenging, yet rewarding. Make the most out of the right systems and energy efficient restaurant equipment to further the return on investment. Every penny counts, and implementing these suggestions and others can help you save money now and in the future. Learn more ways that restaurants can reduce costs through energy efficient approaches in Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Restaurant Rebate Guide.

  1. ENERGY STAR (PDF, 1.2 MB)
  2. Food Service Technology Center: Demand-Controlled Kitchen Ventilation
  3. Pacific Gas and Electric Company: Quick-Service Restaurant Rebates Guide
  4. Pacific Gas and Electric Company: Guide to Financing Energy Efficiency Projects