Energy Savings Matter

For every school cafeteria, the biggest issue is, as always, the budget. A study at Michigan State University says that over 10% of school lunches come from costs which are neither food nor labor. Those costs include contract services, supplies, and indirect charges.

Imagine energy savings in your school cafeteria, allowing for some of those indirect charges to be cut. Money savings on school lunches means that it’s easier to accommodate all of the children who need free or reduced cost lunches, without bankrupting the school and the district.

Energy savings also, of course, is a greener solution, better for the environment. But how do you get started? Here are six ways.

Six Methods to Get More Energy Savings in Your School Cafeteria

1. Switch from an Electric Water Heater Booster to a Gas Booster

Gas boosters are more efficient and they are  light enough to be wall-mounted. Wall mounting is crucial as it keeps the booster off the floor, away from water and corrosive chemicals. This extends the life of the unit. Electric boosters also tend to need their own dedicated lines and circuit breaker panels, whereas gas boosters do not.

In addition, newer equipment tends to be more energy efficient and it is certainly easier to maintain. Replacing outdated equipment with more energy efficient equipment is a smart choice.

2. Turn off the Lights When Not in Use

This old chestnut for saving energy at home works just as well in school cafeterias. When the cafeteria is not being used, there is no reason for more than minimal lights to be on. On average, lighting accounts for nearly one half of all school electrical use. Another option is to install occupancy sensors attached to LED lights in the cafeteria.

Or just keep switches where people can see and use them. Schools can develop ‘energy monitor’ programs for their students, which are where school children make sure lights are off where they are not needed. These Green Teams may have other ideas where they can help.

3. Clean Refrigerator Coils Regularly

Just like in a home, the refrigerator coils in a school will eventually become dusty and greasy, which impairs their ability to best regulate refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Without proper temperature regulation, these units will work harder to keep everything cool. This also includes overcooling and even freezing foods which can’t take such cold temperatures. This results in food spoilage and waste. Keeping the coils clean saves not only energy but also food from going to waste. This method is best coordinated with the school’s custodial staff.

4. Don’t Block the Airflow around Vents

School cafeterias have heavy, bulky equipment, plus chairs and tables. Keeping the vents clear means that they can do a better job either heating or cooling the cafeteria and the kitchen. It also means that warm or cool air does not go to waste by just cooling or warming the back of a stove, when it would be better if it was cooling or warming the back of a student.


5. Using Gas Reduces Electricity Demand

As one might expect, a conversion to gas reduces the demand for electricity. Many electrical production and distribution utilities currently offer rebates and reduced rates for decreasing demand, particularly peak hour demand.  School cafeterias can increase their savings by running dishwashers at night when that is practical.

6. Gas Conversion Saves Dishwashing Money

For dual-use dishwashers which rely on both heating and the application of chemicals in order to get dishware, silverware, pots, pans, and trays sanitary, those machines also need their own dedicated wiring. A switch to gas does not require rewiring and it reduces energy demand.

A school can also install programmable thermostats in the cafeteria. This is to minimize the operating hours of the heating and cooling systems during all low occupancy periods.

For schools looking to save energy and better protect the environment while also saving money, the school cafeteria is a great place to get a sensible energy savings program started.

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