Tips for Conserving Water in Your Restaurant

Posted on March 25, 2014
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With a severe drought threatening the U.S. western states and California officially in a drought state of emergency, conserving water in your restaurant has never been more important. Even if your business location lies east of the drought, it’s still a hot topic to pay attention to.

Water shortages are hard for everyone to deal with, particularly if you run a restaurant. And if your kitchen equipment uses water to operate, a bad drought year can severely affect your budget. Luckily, you can utilizing water-efficient equipment and conservation methods to lower bills and preserve your business’s overall consumption.

Check out these tips to keep your bills and your environmental impact in check.

Conserving Water with a Commercial Steamer

Commercial steamers are typically very thirsty units. The worst offenders are pressureless, boiler-style models that constantly drain water to prevent steam pressure build-up. These bad boys consume up to 40 gallons per hour during operation, which can add up to almost 175,000 gallons per year!

Avoid exorbitant water consumption with these steps:

  • Purchase an ENERGY STAR Qualified Model. ENERGY STAR qualified steam cookers can get by using only 10 percent of the water that conventional models use. Steamers that have earned the ENERGY STAR use an average of 2 gallons per hour as compared to the average 30 gallons per hour consumed by standard models.
  • Go connectionless. A connectionless steamer is the best bet in terms of water savings. Steam is generated by using a reservoir at the bottom of the compartment and water is added and drained manually at the beginning and end of the day. Since there is no water line continually consuming water, average connectionless steamers only consume 1 to 2 gal per hour, potentially saving up to 174,500 gallons in a year. That is about $1,200 per year in savings.
  • Use stand-by mode. In stand-by mode your steamer is ready to use but not in an operational state. This saves water because the steam is not being pumped continuously into an empty unit. This can save up to an additional $1,200 per year!

Conserving Water with Ice Machines

A commercial ice machine requires both water and energy in order to operate. Because of this, ice machines provide another opportunity to keep lower the water tab. And with the right ice machine, you’ll be conserving water in your restaurant with very little effort.

Check out these tips before purchasing your next ice machine:

  • Purchase an ENERGY STAR Qualified Model. Not only can you save energy by choosing to purchase ENERGY STAR qualified ice machines, but you can save water as well. An average of $110 per year in energy and water savings makes these machines sensible alternatives to their non-efficient competitors.
  • Purchase an air-cooled ice machine. Though air-cooled ice models may use more slightly more electricity to operate, the difference is negligible and the initial cost is the usually the same. The water savings is the best pay off. An 800 lb water-cooled ice machine will use an extra 1,300 gallons of water each day to cool the condenser, costing about $3,200 a year. Air cooled versions of the same machines make far better water-sense.
  • Find the appropriate yield. Before purchasing an ice machine, know your establishment and choose an appropriately sized ice machine. Purchasing a machine that produces too large a yield will use more water to produce unneeded ice. This also wastes a good deal of energy.

Water Wise Tips for the Commercial Dishwasher

In a busy restaurant, commercial dishwashers run constantly. And while you can’t cut back on how much you wash, you can create a more efficient dishwashing operation.

Check out these tips to make every drop count:

  • Purchase an ENERGY STAR Qualified Model. ENERGY STAR qualified models use less water than their conventional counterparts, getting the job done without using so much water. When purchasing a new machine, try to specify one that uses less than one gallon of water per rinse cycle. ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers can save an average of $200 per year in water costs.
  • Keep calibrations in check. Check the calibration of the machine regularly. Verify that the rinse cycle times should be set to the manufacturer’s minimum recommended setting and verified periodically. Keep the rinse pressure maintained at the manufacturer’s specifications (usually 20 psi).
  • Adjust the rinse bypass drain. For a conveyor type dish washer, make sure the rinse bypass drain is adjusted properly. If incorrectly adjusted, excessive water drains from the washtank. To avoid waste, regulate the drain to keep water adequately replenished while operating.
  • Inspect nozzles for wear. Rinse nozzles should be inspected for wear and tear. Nozzles with too large an opening can result in greater water consumption during the rinse cycle.
  • Turn it off. When the machine has no current wash loads, do not leave the machine in the “on” position. The machine will waste water if it is continuously operating and not actually washing dishes.
  • Only wash fully loaded dish racks. The commercial dishwasher will work the same and use the same amount of water no matter how many dishes are in the rack. Using full racks will make the dishwasher more efficient with the water it is already using.

Conserving Water with Sinks and Faucets

It is easy to turn on the faucet and idly let it flow without thinking about the ensuing water waste. Wasted water turns into wasted dollars, and it also consumes a strained resource. The faucet and sink options below will lessen the strain on your bank account and our environment.

  • Install a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle. This is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to save water at the dish station is to replace the sprayer with a low-flow pre-rinse spray valve. Replacing a typical spray valve with a low-flow, 1.6 gallon per minute spray valve saves up to 66,000 gal per year. Depending on usage, a low-flow spray valve can save up to $1,000 annually.
  • Put in a faucet aerator. A faucet aerator installed at the kitchen sink or hand sink reduces water flow by forcing more air out of the faucet. Aerators use as little as 0.25 gallons per minute (gpm), a vast reduction from standard faucets use 4 to 7 gpm.
  • Use hands-free controls. Install a hands-free sink to effectively ensure that kitchen sinks are not left on accidentally or used for purposes other than their intention, like defrosting food or melting ice. Spring-loaded foot or knee pedal controls are ideal for this application.
  • Turn down dipper well faucets. Dipper wells are used for utensil rinsing and holding stations, running water constantly for sanitary purposes. Like other equipment, there are low-flow options you can install, but just turning down the flow or turning the faucet off completely during slow times can save hundreds of gallons a year.
Maggie Moulatsiotis Maggie Moulatsiotis (70 Posts)

Maggie is the Content Development Manager at FoodServiceWarehouse.com, a pescetarian and a newly minted DIY and home cook extraordinaire. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and very cute puppy, Puka.



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