Posts Tagged ‘water efficiency’

An innovative restauranteur in California discovered a way to reduce his water use by replacing his pre-rinse spray valve with a air compressor and air gun – rinsing dishes with air


Ice machines can be the most water-wasteful machines that you have in your restaurant, more than patrons or dishwashers. Ice machines use water for more than just making ice. In a perfect world, it takes 12 gallons to make a fraction more than 100 pounds of ice. In the real world, it takes between 18 and 200 gallons of water to make 100 pounds of ice.

Make Model Gallons of Water Energy Star

Ice-O-Matic Ice 0250A 35.8 No

Scotsman C0330MA-1 18 Yes

KoolAire KD-0250A 22 No

Manitowoc ID-452A 20 Yes

With the emphasis on energy and water efficiency, machines that earn the Energy Star designation are ones which come close to the 12 gallon mark.

How do ice machines use extra water?

Rinse cycles

Most ice machines have a rinse cycle to remove loose deposits. Most water has some mineral content in it even when it is filtered. Over time, the mineral content settles into the equipment and causes problems until it is rinsed out with ice machine cleaner or when the ice machine parts are scrubbed clean by hand.

Clear ice and specialty ices

The ice that comes out of a normal freezer is opaque, but many of the cubes you find in restaurants are clear. The reason is that you can get a clear cube by partially thawing and refreezing ice in cycles. This removes the air bubbles that cause the ice to look cloudy. To do this requires extra water to thaw the cubes out.

The softness of nugget ice in particular makes it easier to chew, but the process uses more water to create each individual cube. This type of ice is used in hospital settings where it’s crucial that the patients do not choke on their ice.


There are two types of ice machines: water cooled and air cooled. The water cooled systems have a separate water line that is different from the one used to make the ice. The air-cooled systems are usually somewhat larger than the water-cooled systems, as the air cooled systems rely on outside air to cool the condensers.

Water-cooled ice machines are better for the hotter climates where the ambient air temperature ranges above 80 degrees F on a continuous basis. They also might be more ideal in situations where there is a lot of grease and soot in the air, as the air cooled system relies on taking in outside air. Water-cooled machines save a little energy, but the water usage usually makes the energy savings moot.

Water cooled systems, whether they’re ice machines, refrigerators, or otherwise, are usually once-through water systems. This means that once water is used to cool the equipment, it is then flushed down the drain. Some newer refrigeration systems use a closed-loop system which recycles the water on a continuous loop, but these are not as cost effective as air-cooled units.

The best thing that you can do for water efficiency on your ice machine is to use an Energy Star certified air-cooled machine. These machines have been certified to use less water in their systems while simultaneously staying efficient with their water usage standards.

Mark is from with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant and bar industry. With an extensive background in restaurant industry and entertaining writing style Mark is focused on providing quality information and advice to contractors and purchasing managers about the best practices on choosing the right type of ice machine for your client.




I’m often making recommendations to restaurant owners that they install high-efficiency (low-flow) pre-rinse spray valves at their dish sink. I’ve seen various types and have had many sites install the units, but with mixed reactions. Some people say they love them, others say they don’t see a difference from their previous unit, and a few other wind up telling that they had to put their old one back in because the low-flow didn’t work. Typically they say it took too long to rinse off dishes, which seems odd to me because the Food Service Technology Center has done extensive research on pre-rinse spray valves that proved otherwise. Not that they operators where wrong, but maybe they just have bad water pressure.

So, with all the back and forth I’ve seen with the sprayers I’m curious what others have experienced. Have you installed a 1.0 gpm or under sprayer? What kind did you buy? How did you like it? Did the dishwashers complain, praise it or not even notice? Did you see a difference on your water or natural gas bill?

Let me know in the comments or via the contact page and I’ll compile the results into a user review post.



1. Start-up, Shutdown Schedules
Not everything needs to be turned on right away when the first cook arrives. Equipment start-up schedules similar to just-in-time ordering saves energy with no investment.

2. Low flow aerators
These are potentially one of the lowest priced efficiency measures a restaurant can buy. Aerators range from .50 to a several dollars and return the investment almost instantly.

3. Pre-rinse Sprayers
At about $60, these devices pay for themselves in about a week depending on your usage and prior sprayer. Some of the newest units on the market use as little as .65 gallons per minute compared to the old units that use around 3.5 gpm. New regulations require all pre-rinse sprayers to use no more than 1.6 gpm so go as low as you can find.

4. Turbo Pots
Research from the Food Service Technology Center shows that Turbo Pots use about half as much energy to boil a pot of water compared to a standard pot. If you have a pot of water boiling all day in your kitchen these pots are a must have.

5. Thawing Meats
A little bit of organization and scheduling could save many restaurants thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars a year. If you must thaw meats with running water make sure the faucet has a low-flow aerator, and turn the flow down to just enough to keep water flowing across the product – not full blast.

6. CFLs
They are simple and almost old school at this point, but CFLs save a lot of money. Today’s CFLs are cheap and high quality, but don’t buy the cheapest ones you can find. You get what you pay for. Use them in hoods, storage areas, offices, back halls and walk-in coolers.

7. Training
All the green gadgets and gizmos in the world don’t save money unless the users are using them correctly. Moreover, training staff to be conscious about the resources they are using will go much further than any piece of energy efficient equipment.

8. Recycling
Even restaurants that currently recycle should audit their garbage once in a while. More than likely, recyclables are being thrown away and potentially costing the business extra hauling fees. Recycling is a simple task, and can cut a garbage bill in half if the restaurant is not currently taking part in the practice.

9. Composting
Food waste makes up something around 50% of the volume and 75% of the weight of most full service restaurants. Implementing a composting program can be a little more involved, but like recycling it soon becomes second nature to the staff.

10. Food Waste Tracking
Before starting a composting program, start tracking the restaurant’s food waste, and make changes to reduce that waste. Whether through simple paper logs or more complex digital systems like Leanpath, food waste tracking helps chefs and management actualize their waste and make adjustments to par lists, menus or schedules.


I’m not sure what prompted the sudden surge, but there have been three different reports (one, two, three) published lately on the green awareness of foodservice operators. Two of the reports are from England and the third is from the US. The reports analyzed the perceptions and practices of restaurant owners and managers in regards to sustainability. The reports surveyed a wide range of restaurants from “Mom and Pop” diners to billion dollar multinational franchises and food product manufacturers. The affirming outcome of the studies is that restaurants are very interested in sustainability though they sometimes don’t practice it or know how to practice it. That bodes well for myself and all the suppliers and vendors offering green products, but signifies that we have a challenge ahead of us.

For me, it is great to see that people are getting it. For instance, 94% of respondents in the American study said they would invest in technologies that reduce their energy consumption.

Efficiency is and should be a major goal in sustainability initiatives, but I am little disappointed to see water conservation a distant thought to many questioned in the study. Energy is always in the media and minds of many, but one way or another we can produce endless amounts of energy. We will never run out of energy, maybe oil but not energy. Alternatively, water is the single most important finite resource on the Earth, and fortunately for the restaurant industry water conservation is one of the simplest and most cost effective green measures.

The major barrier to sustainability becoming second nature seems to be the perception that anything green means spending money – lots of money. On the contrary, many green options for restaurants come from simple changes in practices and procedures that cost little to nothing. Even with expensive upgrades the long-term savings in energy, water or waste hauling cost always make the investment worthwhile. The restaurant business is an industry to single digit profits, but the industry as a whole needed to see the light that pitching pennies today loses them dollar tomorrow.

All the studies show a great trend for our industry. We are moving in the right direction of acknowledging sustainable operations, but many of us still need a little prodding to get the ball rolling. If you or your company needs a kick in the pants to get on the right track, give me a call and I’ll help you get on track to sustainability.