Every restaurant needs hot water, and most of that water usually ends up being used to clean dirty cookware and cooking equipment. More than likely you get your hot water from a conventional gas-fired water heater with a 100 gallon or larger tank. For years the standard strategy for hot water has been to heat a large tank of water so that a large amount of hot water is on demand whenever you need it.
As natural gas prices rise, however, and restaurants look for ways to improve their sustainability credentials, conventional large-tank water heaters have become more and more unattractive. For starters, conventional water heaters usually suck up 20% – 25% of a restaurant’s energy bill, which means a very large chunk of change is going into keeping 100 gallons of water in your basement hot at all times.
Even if you follow efficient water heating best practices, you’re spending a lot of dough. Traditional heaters are also not very good at conserving water, since it usually takes a couple gallons to flush out cooled water in the lines before hot water reaches the tap.
For these reasons, some restaurants have started moving towards tankless, on-demand electric water heaters. It’s amazing how much energy you can save when you don’t have to constantly heat a large tank of water. The downside is that a tankless heater that’s capable of handling the large-volume requirements of a restaurant are pretty expensive to purchase and install. Even so, a restaurant would see a return on investment through energy savings within two or three years.
That means new restaurants or ones with remodeling plans are in the perfect position to go tankless. The extra investment up front translates into more black on the bottom line a few years down the road, especially since energy prices are only going to go up, not down.
I know, I know, most restaurateurs out there are probably thinking: “I’m not going to drop some serious dough on water heaters when I’ve got so many other things to worry about.” I completely understand. But I also have a “hybrid” solution for those of you who want to reduce your energy bills but don’t have the cash to invest in full-on tankless water heaters.
The answer lies in point-of-use commercial water heaters and faucets that operate a lot like a tankless water heater. The only difference is they don’t have the same high volume capacity. Point-of-use heaters maximize your efficiency because they are relatively inexpensive to install and take a significant load off your conventional heater, which means that 100-gallon tank can focus on the big stuff like your dish machine in the kitchen.
For server stations, handwashing sinks, and back bars, a commercial point-of-use instant hot water dispenser or mini-tank (2-4 gallon) electric hot water heater will greatly improve your efficiency and reduce energy bills. This is primarily because you won’t be wasting all that hot water that sits in the pipes leading to these outlying hot water points.
When the time comes to replace your conventional heater, you’ll be able to downsize, leading to further energy savings. The up-front cost of point-of-use commercial water heaters is much less, which means your return on investment will happen much faster. From an economic standpoint, it makes sense. From a sustainability standpoint, it makes for a great marketing opportunity. If you’re willing to invest a little, the benefits are there for the taking.