Cutting back on energy use in a school kitchen

A number of reports have indicated that schools can cut down on their energy use and save money by changing what catering equipment they use and how they use them

Schools are continuously trying to find new ways to become more energy efficient and cut back on costs where it is possible. A report by the Carbon Trust has determined that school kitchens are one of the main culprits behind excessive energy use as they require large amounts of power in order to operate.

According to the energy charity, school kitchens are a major consumption area as energy is needed in order to power the catering equipment that is used, as well as heat hot water. But, the Carbon Trust has stated that these are two areas which can offer cost savings, which will not affect the quality of the food.

HOT SPOT FOR ENERGY CONSUMPTION

The energy used for catering facilities amounts to around 10 per cent of a school’s energy costs, according to the Carbon Trust. However, energy savings of up to 50 per cent have been found in some school kitchens by enhancing the efficiency of a school’s catering equipment.

It is believed that a large amount of energy is consumed in a kitchen, despite only a small proportion of this energy being utilised to cook the food to be served in schools.

In addition to this, cold storage equipment such as refrigerators and freezers are in continuous use and as a result, require much more energy to run.

A review of energy efficiency by BSRIA, a research and consultancy organisation, states that cooking ranges and fridge-freezers are obvious “gas guzzlers”, in addition to dishwashers and good preparation equipment.

With this in mind, the Carbon Trust says that managing energy use in the school canteen can result in additional benefits of improving the quality of food produced as well as the working environment for kitchen staff.

DO’S AND DON’TS

Most modern catering equipment can reach its maximum temperature quite quickly, therefore it is important not to switch appliances on too soon in order to avoid running equipment that is not being used at the time. In line with this, it is also important to ensure that all ovens, grills, fryers and hobs are turned off immediately after use.

A good way to avoid wasting energy through this is to label equipment with its pre-heat time and ensuring education staff only switch on when they need to. It is also advised that kitchen equipment is not used to warm the area when staff arrive as the school’s heating system should do this effectively, and if it does not, it is worth finding out why.

Other tips to avoid squandering power in the school kitchens include keeping fridge and freezer doors closed, and defrosting them regularly to save energy and prolong the equipment’s life; reducing drying times on dishwashers and allowing residual heat to finish the drying process; moving storages fridges and freezers into well ventilated areas; and to avoid using open boiling water steriliser systems because they can be dangerous and wasteful.

EQUIPMENT EFFICIENCY
Despite gas-fired equipment being an expensive alternative to electrical and steam equivalents, savings on this type of appliance made on running costs makes it a much more efficient option.

This is because the equipment automatically switches off, which can result in 25 per cent savings in energy costs. It’s also wise to select ovens with large double glazed viewing windows to avoid having to open the doors to check on meals, saving energy yet again.

Gas equipment is not the only method for reducing energy. Sub-meters measure the amount of energy that is being consumed and can also benefit a school in terms of identifying cost savings and justifying any investment that is needed in order to reduce running costs.

This can be useful if catering is provided by a separate company because they may not be aware of the importance of energy efficiency in a school.

They allow for budget allocation and charging to take place and can also act as an incentive for kitchen managers to reduce energy costs by providing rewards for doing so.

Heat recovery is also another beneficial route to go down for schools. School kitchens expel large volumes of warm air, and many kitchen managers do not realise that more than 50 per cent of this heat can be recovered by using heat recovery devices, which can also reduce energy costs.
The most effective device is usually an air‑to-water device because it can preheat hot water, providing a year‑round use for the recovered heat.

FINAL TIPS

A large secondary school typically uses cookers for more than 10 hours in a week. In order to minimise consumption pay attention to the tips mentioned previously. Also, where possible, make it a policy to use microwave ovens as they use less energy and are much quicker.

In terms of refrigerators, regular maintenance checks are important as well as the monitoring of consumption. In order to do this, set the thermostat at the right level for the contents of the fridge, and settings might need adjusting when it is empty.

It may also be useful to note that freezers operate more efficiently when they are full. In addition to this, check that seals are intact so that cold air does not escape; encourage staff and students not to open doors when it is not needed; defrost regularly; and turn off fridges during school holidays when it is appropriate. If this cannot be done, consolidate the contents of fridges so that some can be turned off.

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