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Clean Machines

Evening Chef Fan’s. First of  all, yes this is a post about dishwashers, and the different technology used in dishwashers. I know that this is going to be one of the more random post that I put up but I do have a reason for posting it. The reason is because in my Kitchen Management class we are required to read magazine article every week and write a review or summary about it. I am actually rather happy with the magazine that I was assigned to pick my articles from. This article summary and the ones that will fallow it are all from Restaurant Start-up and Growth, which for anyone thinking about opening or growing there restaurant business is a great read. So yes I decided to read and write about dishwashers because it is arguably one of the most important items you have in the kitchen. Enjoy!

When people start to think about opening a restaurant or really any type of food service business one of the last things they think about is the type of dishwasher they are going to use. When really it should be closer to the top of the list; a dishwasher can save or cost a business several hundreds of dollars each year. In the November 2011 issue of “Restaurant Startup & Growth” they walk us through a few of the newest technologies that can help save money on both the water and energy bills, and let’s face it as a business that on average only makes about 5% profit every penny counts.  In fact, according to the EPA, energy-efficient dishwashers can save $200 per year in water costs and up to thousands in energy costs, a savings of 10-30%. It just takes a little operational analysis, hood consideration and product research to figure out what setup will work with your space, ventilation capacity and volume needs. In the article they break it down into four different dishwashers and how recent improvements in just these four can have a large impact on our business and more importantly our profits.

Under-counter and glass-washing machines are typically used for behind-the-bar and other small applications, including coffee shops and kiosks. As restaurants and emerging chains expand their bars to support a growing cocktail culture, and as others consider opening kiosks and other remote off-shoots to support their brand, these small, compact machines make a suitable match. Recent models, in addition, tend to be more efficient than ever before. There are Energy Star models available for single-rack and high-temp under-counter dishwashing machines. In tight spaces, which are increasing in restaurant real estate, an operator could combine high-temp, full cleaning and sanitizing units alongside a traditional three-compartment sink for larger pots and pans. But for larger, full-service operations, a single three compartment sink doesn’t always cut it. That’s where door-type and conveyor dishwashers come in.

Here’s where you start running into more potential for energy and water savings. Energy Star qualifies a host of door-type and flight-type or conveyor dish machines (meaning they’re deemed energy efficient by the EPA). The Energy Star standard for water is a maximum of 0.7 gallons per rack and an idle energy rate no greater than 2 kilowatts. Just because a dishwasher may not have an Energy Star stamp, though, doesn’t mean it’s not energy efficient. In the article the mention CEE-Tier 2 designations as well. This is a lesser-used certification body for showcasing energy efficiency, but industry experts say it can be even more reliable based on their more stringent requirements.

Hobart recently came out with a door-type machine using a heat recovery system. Basically, instead of wasting the steam created in a wash cycle through ventilation, the machine uses that excess to heat water for subsequent cycles. Still, water heater boosters are still necessary for most dishwashers. Anyone who has paid water and electric bills can tell you it’s very expensive to elevate water to 180 degrees, so a water heater booster speeds up that process.

“The Hobart CLeR with Advansys Energy Recovery for conveyor machines can reduce energy on the building by as much 21 kilowatts per hour,” says Allen Hasken, product line manager for Hobart. “Customers seem to like this model because it saves them more money over time from a financial standpoint if your machine is running 800 racks per hour, which can equate to a $2,300 savings per year in energy costs.”

In addition to capturing heat during the final cycle, Hobart’s heat recovery machine also captures heat from the hot dishes themselves. Not only does that help power up the next cycle, it also reduces the temperature of the dish-room air, which takes pressure off the ventilation system and makes for a more comfortable place to work. Costs for advanced machines like these, however, can cost more upfront than traditional dishwashers. But with good maintenance and the proper specs, operators can see returns on their investments in as quickly as a year or two year’s time. Considering that most restaurants are at the make it or break it point after a year or two this return on investment could mean keeping the doors open or closing up shop for good.

In addition to heat recovery and related technology, vent less dishwashers present another energy saving option. The first vent less dishwasher was an Ecolab machine 10 years ago. As the steam would rise, the machine mixed in cold water to cause the steam to condense. That cold water would go back down the drain. Now there are systems that use that water instead of wasting it. At the same time, these units have their own vent system that allows excess steam to flow directly outside, rather than into the dish room where it’s then picked up by the building’s HVAC unit. Leftover, hot ambient air in the kitchen only makes the HVAC work that much harder to cool the room. The idea is that vent less machines capture more from the machine, so there’s less “makeup air” lost from the space. Sadly at the same time, vent less machines aren’t perfect. They may actually suck a little air from the outside to the inside in the venting. That means if it’s cold or hot out, the HVAC has to work harder to moderate the air indoors. So if you’re already paying for the hood operation in the dish room, going vent less doesn’t offer that much extra in savings. Vent less machines also offer little extra help if they’re sending hot water down the drain rather than recycling that water for rinse cycles.

Some dishwashers, however, combine both technologies. Hobart’s Advansys vent less door-type ware washer runs 100 percent on cold water, and it has a more enclosed system to capture and recapture steam. At the same, the machine doesn’t require the purchase of a separate ventilation hood, which can lead to a savings of $3,500 in upfront capital costs. Energy recovery/condensate removal systems that are available for conveyors present another option. Energy-efficient door-type dishwashers can save $800 or more a year in costs and efficient conveyors can save at least $2,200 a year.

Unfortunately, none of these units change the water consumption so energy savings is the driver here. Water usage runs about the same, regardless. Whether you want a big or small, high volume or low-volume, selecting the right dishwasher for your operation is just as important as selecting the right grill or refrigerator. The more closely you align the machine with your production needs, municipal codes, utility costs, climate, dish room labor, and even plate or tray selection, the more energy can be saved over time, and in a workhorse station like the dish room, that can equate to thousands of dollars in costs; and who knows it could be the difference in staying open or having to close.


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One Comment on “Clean Machines”

  1. Tori April 13, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    Dishwashers really are one of the most important things in a restaurant. Without it, and the person to operate it, a night can go from manageable to being in the weeds very quickly!

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