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issue: February 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Commercial Foodservice Equipment
Green Machines

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by Jill Russell, Contributing Editor

Energy efficiency isn’t a new story for commercial appliances, but the green push in foodservice equipment has never been as strong a driver as it is today.

Electrolux Professional North America (Fort Lauderdale, FL, U.S.) is working to provide efficient options with energy, time, space, and function. The company recently introduced its air-o-speed high-speed combi that combines convection, steam, combi (steam and convection), and microwave cooking for a completely integrated cooking process. Electrolux says the unit reduces cook time by 50%, providing increased productivity, flexibility, and return on investment. The air-o-speed can take food from frozen to ready-to-serve in one continuous cooking program and also features a preprogrammed low-temperature cooking cycle that is said to reduce meat loss by 10–15%.The cooking unit holds up to 10 pans and uses a simple, intuitive interface that allows operators to choose from automatic, manual, and program modes. Each unit comes preprogrammed with 58 recipes and, as part of their Certified Chef Program, Electrolux Professional sends a certified professional to train the operators on-site.

Green demands in commercial food preparation appliances aren’t just coming from government mandates and the foodservice facility managers that pay the utility bills. The demand comes from the second-tier user—the consumer who patronized the establishment using the equipment. In the United States, 62% of consumers say they are likely to choose a restaurant based on how environmentally friendly it is, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2008 Restaurant Industry Forecast.

Commercial foodservice equipment OEMs see the green trend as an opportunity to heighten their profile in the marketplace. In an industry expected to realize $558 billion in sales (4% of total U.S. gross domestic product) this year, it’s good timing.

In the United States, the government’s Energy Star program has become a kind of brand name for enhanced energy efficiency on new appliances—products must exceed the minimum U.S. standards by a certain percentage in order to earn the well-known logo. Now the program is expanding to the commercial foodservice industry. Fryers, hot-food holding cabinets, solid-door refrigerators and freezers, and commercial steam cookers have all been in the program. The commercial dishwashers specification became effective in October of 2007 and the commercial icemakers specification just became effective in January.

“I expect that regulations will become tighter,” says Pat Melvin, engineering manager for Master-Bilt, a refrigeration solution supplier based in New Albany, MS, U.S. “It’s healthy for the industry as a lot of good engineers are looking at alternative ideas. Not so long ago, the focus was cost only. Today, most engineers are thinking efficiency.”


Many switching devices in heating elements used in commercial foodservice equipment contain mercury. In fact, mercury-displacement relays are being phased out in both Europe, where they’re targeted by Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) laws, and the United States, where several states will soon implement mercury bans. Watlow’s E-Safe II hybrid power switch has no mercury and eliminates the need for a heat-sink mounting, using a printed circuit board for the relay instead.The St. Louis, MO, U.S.–based company calls it the first RoHS, no-arc solid-state relay replacement for the foodservice industry. “Our no-arc technology extends the life of the switch,” says Jim Hentges, product manager for Watlow. “An arc will pit or crater one side of the relay, moving the metal and decreasing the circuit life. The E-Safe uses a printed circuit board relay, which extends the life cycle to 4 million.” This is said to also reduce noise while increasing temperature accuracy. The switch is designed for both horizontal and vertical mounting, and is UL recognized, CE approved, and RoHS compliant.

Master-Bilt is contributing to the movement with its Master Controller, an electronic expansion valve system with patented reverse-cycle defrost technology. The award-winning device automatically reverses the flow of refrigerant during defrost cycles through the evaporator. This heats the evaporator and eliminates frost buildup, where other units only heat the coil to a certain point, often leaving frost. The technology, which detects when a defrost cycle is needed with the control, is said to save as much as 27% of energy costs.

Master-Bilt also introduced a new series of Air-Thru Milk Coolers (ATMC); as the name implies, air flows through the unit so that it performs at optimum efficiency and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a set temperature. Available in six models, three with single and three with dual access, the unit comes with a stainless-steel interior and exterior. The unit also features a fold-back safety door that locks the door open when consumers reach inside the unit.

Another commercial appliance OEM, Hobart (Troy, OH, U.S.), recently saw one of its members obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional Status. Companies are rated on their sustainability efforts in both strategy and design and are able to ensure that new or remodeled foodservice locations operate efficiently.

Hobart is also helping the cause with its energy-efficient products. Its Traulsen refrigeration equipment is equipped with Intela-Traul microprocessors that help maintain precise temperatures by pushing air through the unit’s drawer sections, keeping internal temperatures steady at 39°F, even if the outside temperature reaches 105°F.

Commercial refrigeration maker Hill Phoenix Inc. is also taking efficiency action. It recently joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership. Under the program, companies pledge to meet and surpass regulatory efficiency requirements to help limit greenhouse gas emissions. The alliance includes supermarkets, chemical suppliers, and refrigeration equipment manufacturers, and aims to reduce emissions by increasing refrigeration system efficiency. The program estimates it could reduce refrigerant emissions by 1 million metric tons of carbon per year, equivalent to taking 800,000 automobiles off the road.


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