Improving the Energy Footprint in Refrigerators

Improving the Energy Footprint in Refrigerators

Refrigerators are one of the most important appliances in any commercial kitchen. Refrigerators preserve food at low temperatures to prevent bacterial growth and keep the food safe. Improving the energy footprint in refrigerators is therefore critical to costs savings.


The energy required in commercial refrigerators is quite significant. In fact, it is estimated that commercial refrigerators consume as much as 50% of the total energy bill of a typical restaurant. Saving energy does not only contribute in the long term to reduced greenhouse gas emissions but also savings in water, since the generation of electricity requires significant quantities of water resources.

If you are considering a new commercial refrigerator for your restaurant or hotel, consider an Energy Star certified commercial refrigerator. These units are designed with high efficiency components and can result in as much as 35% energy savings with a payback period of 1.3 years. You can also take advantage of the available incentive programs to purchase high efficiency units. For example, Hydro Manitoba offers a Commercial Refrigeration Rebate Program that includes a total of 24 rebates for energy efficiency measures in commercial refrigerators. Link to pdf

Although an old commercial refrigerator may look well and still operate, it may cost more to operate than a newer, high efficiency unit. Commercial refrigerators manufactured prior to 1993 consume more than twice the energy of a new Energy Star certified unit. In addition, as the refrigerator seals wear, the refrigerant starts to leak over time, which further reduces the unit’s performance.

Ways to save:

Foodservice operators not planning on purchasing a new commercial refrigerator can still improve the energy footprint in refrigerators and save anywhere between 5% and 10% on energy costs by performing regular maintenance on their existing refrigerators. Some of the regular maintenance procedures include the following:

  • Cleaning the evaporator and condenser coils on a monthly basis using soap and water. This maintains adequate heat transfer efficiency in the unit.
  • Lubricate refrigerator door hinges annually to keep the doors sealed. This will prevent overworking the compressor and hence saves energy.
  • For walk-in refrigerator units, use fluorescent instead of incandescent light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are more energy efficient and give off less heat.
  • Remind employees to turn off the lights when they exit the walk-in refrigerator.
  • Check the refrigeration unit for any cracks and replace worn gaskets to maintain positive seal.