Do you have a sustainable HVAC system?

Wahaca - one of the nominees for the SRA awards.

Wahaca – one of the nominees for the SRA awards.

Location? Tick. Design? Tick. Menu? Tick. Sustainable HVAC? No? HVAC is one of the most energy consuming systems in any restaurant. Ensuring you have the right products, systems and contractors can help run a more effective and efficient restaurant environment. Here’s what you should look out for:

  1. Controls – Having a continuous exhaust speed is not effective for your kitchen at all. That’s why restaurants should install a proactive and advanced control system designed to vary the speed of the exhaust in accordance with the level of cooking by-product released from various cooking activities. Some particularly clever control systems can also distinguish between a drop in temperature caused by lack of cooking as opposed to a drop in temperature caused by suddenly dropping a bag of frozen chips into a fryer, for example.
  1. ESP rather than media-based filtration – The type of filtration system installed in your restaurant depends predominately on the type of cooking and the building or landlord requirements. But when possible, an ESP system is a lot more advisable than media-based filtration. The problem with media-based filtration units is that they do have a tendency to clog up. An engineer will need to be called out every couple of weeks to remove these clogged filters and you will be liable for the cost of this service, as well as paying for the replacement filters. On top of that as filters cannot be reused they will head straight to landfill, and that’s no good at all. Westfield Stratford City currently has 82 food and drink outlets, all of which require some form of filtration. If each site was fitted with media based filters it would generate in excess of 2,076m3 of waste to landfill every year. That’s the size of an Olympic swimming pool…
  1. Touch screen – HVAC systems can seem like daunting, confusing and fiddly things but understanding and controlling their operation is key to maintaining a sustainable and productive restaurant. Some HVAC suppliers now offer user-friendly touch screen systems designed specifically for your restaurant needs, allowing employees and managers to have more control over their restaurant environment. Everything from the temperature of the air con to the exhaust rate can be monitored or controlled at the touch of a button.
  1. Duct cleaning and maintenance – Cleaning out your duct system is very important and is one of the easiest ways to minimise the risk of fire in the restaurant environment. All of the convective heat, smoke and grease generated by the cooking process is removed via your kitchen ventilation canopy, filtration systems and extract ductwork. This grease accumulates throughout the system, forming a hidden combustion load that when subject to flames or high temperatures can ignite and spread fire rapidly. Not only can this be dangerous to your customers and restaurant, but if your ductwork is going through a building the fire can spread to other floors and rooms too. Where ductwork distorts with the fire, flame and heat can ignite surrounding materials and transfer fire in ways that can be extremely difficult to predict and control.
  1. Check your HVAC supplier’s SRA rating – The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) is a not-for-profit organisation helping restaurants become more sustainable. The SRA identifies those who are doing the right thing in the restaurant world, and recognises those suppliers that are committed to sourcing the most innovative, efficient and environmentally friendly products on the market today. So if you want an SRA approved HVAC supplier look out for one of these:

SRA 2014 supplier logo (3)