Managing Energy Costs in Restaurants


Restaurants in the U.S. have one of the greatest energy intensities of any type of commercial building—an average of 38 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and 111 cubic feet of natural gas annually per square foot (ft2). A number of opportunities for saving energy can often be found in the end-use areas that consume the most energy. In a typical restaurant, cooking, water heating, refrigeration, and space heating represent almost 80 percent of total use (Figure 1), making those systems the best targets for energy savings.

Average energy use data

Figure 1: Energy consumption by end use
In restaurants, refrigeration and lighting on the two main uses of electricity (A); though cooking makes up roughly half of natural gas usage, the remaining half is split fairly evenly between water and space heating (B).

In order to better manage your building’s energy costs, it helps to understand how you are charged for those costs. Most utilities charge commercial buildings for their natural gas based on the amount of energy delivered. Electricity, on the other hand, can be charged based on two measures—consumption and demand (Figure 2). The consumption component of the bill is based on the amount of electricity, in kWh, that the building consumes during a month. The demand component is the peak demand, in kilowatts (kW), occurring within the month or, for some utilities, during the previous 12 months. Demand charges can range from a few dollars per kilowatt-month to upwards of $20 per kilowatt-month. Because it can be a considerable percentage of your bill, you should take care to reduce peak demand whenever possible. As you read the following energy cost-management recommendations, keep in mind how each one will affect both your consumption and demand.

Figure 2: Diagram of a hypothetical daily load shape

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