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Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 3



Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 3By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

Last week, we continued our discussion on the critical questions that need to be addressed in order for a business to extract the maximum value from their investment in an energy management system:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

In last week’s post, we focused on the second question.  In this third and final post, we will focus on the last question:

When should the customer expect to achieve savings?

A system to help manage energy costs is just like any other business tool or system in that it requires: some effort to set up, some effort to get people trained and using it, and a time period over which the system moves from “new and different” to “how we do things.”  In this way the benefits from the system build over time rather than arriving all at once.

To be successful, the improvement of business processes that an energy management system can drive should be laid out in advance and approached at a reasonable pace. None of this is to say that implementing a modern energy management system is difficult – it is not.  But expecting your next month’s utility bill to magically go down by 20% is a recipe for disappointment. Like any “project”, some project management is required to maximize the benefits available.  Here is a sample deployment schedule, or project plan, for a modern energy management system.

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 3

Months 1-2: Training + Baseline data

During the first two months after an installation, an energy management system will gather baseline data on the magnitude of energy consumption and energy consumption patterns for each circuit in a restaurant.  This data characterizes “as-is” operations and equipment performance and will be the basis for identifying operational and equipment performance improvement opportunities.

In addition, all parties involved in the use of the energy management platform should be trained and become familiar with the use of the system during this period.

Months 2-6: Tune Daily Operations

By viewing energy consumption patterns, management can identify the “low-hanging fruit” opportunities for recapturing lost profits from relatively easy operational changes.  The low-hanging fruit opportunities include analyzing off-hours energy consumption and taking corrective action to ensure equipment is running only when it needs to be.

Initial opportunities for savings also include updating thermostat programming for more effective use of HVAC systems.

For those companies managing a portfolio of restaurants, the baseline data will enable benchmarking of their facilities.  Which restaurants have the best practices in terms of energy use?  Where are the worst practices?  Which functional areas (e.g., HVAC, refrigeration, lighting, etc.) are driving the biggest problems?  Through benchmarking, management will be able to prioritize which restaurants represent the largest opportunities for savings and can focus their efforts accordingly.

In order to sustain the operational improvements established during the first phases of an energy management system implementation, restaurant management can implement energy cost controls.  These controls can include establishing or updating opening and closing procedures for each store, establishing or reinforcing temperature set point on thermostats, and training staff in any changes.

In addition, the energy management system can be configured for email or text alerts that can be sent out to reinforce proper hours of operation of critical equipment.

Months 4-6: Identify Underperforming Equipment

In parallel with implementing new or enhanced energy cost controls and operational improvements, management will be able to identify problematic equipment during this period.  An energy management system can tag equipment exhibiting problematic energy consumption patterns (e.g., a roof-top unit short cycling, or a refrigeration compressor running continuously) and alert the facilities/maintenance team accordingly.

With this information, the facilities/maintenance team can revise equipment maintenance schedules and establish equipment alerts to highlight under-performing assets.

Month 7: Project Review

During the seventh month of deployment, it is very useful to schedule a review of the energy management system implementation to ensure all appropriate management feedback loops are in place, celebrate successes, and to reinforce areas that need improvement.
 
Months 9-12: Assess Equipment Upgrades

Some energy management systems can measure the exact cost of running a piece of equipment.  Based on the data collected during the first six months of implementation, is there a case for upgrading equipment to more energy efficient models?  What is the real-world performance of the EnergySTAR refrigeration equipment, HVAC equipment, and lighting in which you’ve already invested?  Just how costly is that “old dog” equipment that you know needs to be replaced sooner or later?  Which equipment should we use in our soon-to-be constructed new restaurant?

By providing actual run-time costs, an energy management system can give management the data it needs to tackle these questions.  Rather than projecting the ROI for replacing a piece of equipment using estimates of its energy consumption, one can now use the facts for how much energy the equipment uses now, which reduces the risk of not achieving your ROI.

Months 7 – Onward: Ongoing Daily Operations & Equipment Performance Management

Studies have shown that in the absence of active energy management, buildings can lose up to 80% of energy efficiency gains achieved via audits or retro-commissioning within the first two years after efficiency measures have been implemented.  This so-called “energy drift” can be prevented by incorporating an energy management system into ongoing operational practices in restaurants.  In the same way restaurants have systems for tracking inventory and labor costs, it is now possible to track and improve energy cost performance.

In addition to making sure all the operational and equipment improvements implemented during the first 6 months are continuing to be effective, restaurant management teams should consider implementing longer lead-time changes in broader operating policies that can save energy.  Examples of this type of business optimization include water vs. chemical sanitation, the sequence of food preparation that determines how much food warming is required, or the re-balancing of HVAC systems.

Also, it is critical to verify savings from new maintenance and / or capital equipment upgrades.  Has new equipment performed according to spec?  Are the equipment upgrades delivering their anticipated savings?  Are the service providers delivering improved maintenance and therefore equipment performance?

Finally, an energy management system can deliver on-going analysis that can help prevent catastrophic failure of critical equipment through early detection of abnormal energy consumption patterns, which can often indicate problems with equipment.

Conclusion

Before implementing an energy management system, it’s important that you have a plan which clearly articulates who should be involved in the use of the system, how the tool will be used to save money, and when you should expect to reap benefits from the use of the system.

With a modest amount of planning, an energy management platform can be a powerful tool for boosting profits in restaurants by cutting energy consumption and improving the performance of critical equipment.  By bringing visibility to what has historically been an invisible cost for restaurants, it is finally possible to move energy from an “uncontrollable” cost to a “controllable” cost.

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