How refrigerator temperature control improves restaurant energy management

Find out how refrigerator temperature control through remote monitoring is an effective way to improve restaurant energy management. 

remote temperature management in a walk-in refrigerator

Restaurants use more energy than many other commercial businesses, so it comes as no surprise that they experience high electricity costs. Thankfully, cutting these costs is as simple as utilizing automated temperature control. This is because your refrigeration uses almost half of your restaurant’s total electricity. 

This guide will delve into how much energy the average restaurant refrigeration uses annually and how this figure rises due to refrigeration temperature fluctuations. We’ll also discuss how your business can use remote temperature monitoring – both within your refrigerator and other areas of your restaurant – to cut energy costs successfully.

How much energy does the average restaurant use?

Restaurants are some of the most energy-intensive buildings in the US. Annually, they use an average of 38 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per square foot. That’s about five to seven times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. However, this can be as much as ten times more in high-volume quick-service restaurants. Not surprisingly, refrigeration takes up the largest percentage of a restaurant’s total energy use at 44%, followed by cooking at 14%, then ventilation at 11%. 

Keep in mind that these figures don’t take an individual refrigerator’s age into account. Fridges become increasingly less efficient as they get older, leading to reduced efficacy. Compared to new models: 

  • Five-year-old fridges consume 10% more energy
  • Ten-year-old fridges consume 20% more energy
  • Fridges 15 years old or more consume 30% more energy.

Why do refrigerators use so much energy?

To understand why refrigerators should be a top priority in terms of restaurant energy management, let’s learn why they consume so much energy in the first place. 

Firstly, refrigerators don’t use energy constantly. Instead, most energy usage in a refrigerator comes from the compressor turning on and off as it cycles refrigerants. Refrigerants are the compressed gasses that control the internal temperature of cold storage equipment. Refrigerators run harder when any factors occur that cause fluctuating temperature. Some reasons temperatures fluctuations occur include: 

  • The frequent opening of doors
  • The storage of warm items
  • Usage of the lowest temperature on a thermostat
  • Extreme heat in ambient room temperatures

Unlike smaller appliances commonly found within a kitchen, refrigerators are big, bulky, and require numerous different components to work in synchronization for the whole process to run smoothly. 

To learn more about how a commercial refrigeration system works, read our article on the topic.

Visit our website to learn more about Therma°

Temperature fluctuations lead to increased restaurant energy use

So, what happens if refrigeration systems aren’t functioning at an optimal level? 

A refrigerator often experiences temperature fluctuations due to damaged gaskets, increased humidity, and human error. Temperature fluctuations and their corresponding causes lead to even greater energy consumption. Ultimately, these events create an excessive electricity bill. 

A recent study by Carbon Trust revealed that by every decrease in temperature of 2.2°F, it’s possible to reduce energy spend by 2-4%. Depending on the size of the operation, this could cost restaurants or cold food storage facilities thousands of more dollars than necessary on their annual electricity bill. 

According to electricity supply company Southern California Edison (SCE), “although any efficiency standards do not govern refrigeration equipment performance in cold storage facilities, these facilities can benefit significantly from commercially available energy efficiency solutions, which can reduce energy consumption and improve food safety by providing desirable temperatures.”  

Just one of the best solutions to increase energy efficiency solutions is remote temperature monitoring, and thankfully, it’s a lot easier to implement than you might think.

Restaurant energy management and ambient temperature

Ambient temperature is the room temperature of the air, in this case surrounding cold storage equipment. Indoor ambient temperature is another critical parameter that impacts the energy consumption of refrigerators. The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Group research provide additional evidence that ambient environmental temperature is the most important factor in energy usage. According to the report:

An increase in room temperature reduces overall refrigeration system efficiency by increasing the difference between the evaporating and condensing temperature

The optimal ambient temperature range to run a refrigeration system is 73°F. The reason is that as the ambient temperature rises, the refrigerator’s compressor runs harder to maintain the storage temperature; however, the compressor operation decreases.

Remote monitoring as a method for restaurant energy management 

So, what is the recommended temperature for your commercial refrigerator? The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) states that if food is handled correctly and stored in the refrigerator at a temperature at or below 40° F and the freezer at 0° F, it will remain safe.

Without accurate temperature data, however, restaurants may over or under-cool their inventory. When refrigerators become unreliable or old, restaurant operators compensate by turning down equipment temperature to prevent food from moving into the danger zone. While this method may prevent food spoilage, the increased energy spend negatively impacts the business.

Just because you set your commercial refrigerator or freezer to the optimal temperature outlined above doesn’t mean it will remain that way. Several everyday scenarios can affect the static balance of conditions within your cold storage, including equipment faults, power outages, and staff members frequently opening the freezer door and letting warm air in. 

With remote temperature monitors from Therma°, operators can more easily identify if they are overcooling inventory. Therma° helps operators determine if equipment temperature needs adjusting or if an inability to maintain temperature is due to a faulty component requiring immediate maintenance. 

Therma° provides 24/7 wireless temperature and humidity monitoring sensors built to perform inside coolers, freezers, and other harsh environments. Therma° empowers restaurant operators to understand their equipment better and prevent electricity and food waste.

Unlike other remote temperature monitoring products, our sensors automatically connect to a 4G hub using LoRaWAN®, so no WiFi or configuration is required. Plus, you can start saving money from your energy bill in minutes with a fast and easy setup! 

To see the benefits of Therma° for yourself, visit our website to buy online. 

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