Dishroom Water-Saving Innovation Not Yet Ready for Prime Time

Michael Karsz, Research Technician and FSTC Videographer

Amid this dire drought, California restaurant operators have been looking for various ways to save water anywhere they can in their establishment. Out of necessity comes innovation. A popular news segment highlighted a coastal restaurant that employed a standard air compressor in their dishroom instead of a typical pre-rinse spray nozzle. According to the story, the restaurant saved gallons of water daily, while also ostensibly ridding their dishware of food debris.

Curious and excited about the viability of such a water-saving dish-cleaning instrument, the FSTC put the air compressor to the test alongside two staples of dishroom cleaning: the manual scraper & the pre-rinse spray nozzle. FSTC researchers also used two notoriously resilient food products to dirty the test plates: egg and chocolate cake. Watch the results below!

The FSTC found that a standard, unmodified air compressor failed to clean the plates adequately before they entered the dishmachine. Food debris was launched in all directions if the compressor was not angled just right. The compressor motor was loud when in use, which could cause issues with occupational safety and health standards.

The scraper faired better, but the pre-rinse spray nozzle cleared the plates most effectively. Although the pre-rinse spray nozzle does use a fair amount of water, specifying a low-flow (< 1.15 gpm) nozzle can drastically reduce your water usage in the dishroom, while not compromising effective plate cleaning. You can find a list of rebate-qualifying pre-rinse spray valves here.

Recently, the FSTC learned that the air compressor is undergoing numerous modifications to make it more suitable for dishroom cleaning, such as adding a pressurized water component to the air nozzle. The FSTC looks forward to testing a prototype once it is developed!

Until then, however, the FSTC recommends a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle, a handheld scraper, and implementing water-saving best practices, which you can read all about here.

Water Waste At Its Best

Richard Young, Senior Engineer and Director of Education

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I recently spoke at a sustainable food service workshop in Las Vegas that was hosted by Southwest Gas, NV Energy and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Vegas is one city that cooks a lot of shrimp so, as part of my Operating a Water and Energy Efficient Restaurant presentation, I showed everyone the following video of shrimp thawing in a bowl under running water.

 

Todd Bell, our Senior Energy Analyst sums it up perfectly as “water waste at its best…” While it’s fun to laugh at some of our bad habits, it’s also embarrassing to think that this is standard practice in thousands of kitchens in water challenged areas like Las Vegas and California.

Water is a commodity – it cost money and it’s getting more expensive. Thawing under running water is literally throwing money down the drain. For example: a faucet running at one gallon per minute for one hour a day will send over 20,000 gallons of water down the drain at a cost of around $200.00 (double that cost if you live in California).

Looking at the bigger picture, water is one of the most important ingredients needed to grow food. Farmers are cutting back on crops because they are short on water and meanwhile, kitchens are throwing water away. I wonder how the farmers might feel about that?

So, what is the alternative to thawing in the sink? The best practice is to use a refrigerator. Yes, that requires a bit of planning but it will save you money, you can start today and it’s the right thing to do.

FSTC guest educational offerings at PowerSave Green Campus Summit and the PG&E Pacific Energy Center (PEC)

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Hedrick Dining Hall at UCLAFSTC Research Engineer, Kong Sham, teaches students from the student-led statewide energy-efficiency program, PowerSave Green Campus, how to perform a comprehensive energy and water audit at their UCLA campus dining hall. For several years the FSTC has partnered with the Alliance to Save Energy and their PowerSave Green Campus program, to present hands-on and classroom based educational sessions for the students of the program, which currently represent over 100 students at 23 UCs and CSUs across the state. This particular session took place at the 9th Annual 2013 PowerSave Green Campus Energy Efficiency Summit.Kong and students

Learn more about the PowerSave program here.

The Annual Summits give new and experienced PowerSave Green Campus interns the opportunity to attend training sessions on project planning, learn about best practice projects and technologies that have been successful at a number of campuses, and network with professional who have made a career in the energy field.

Kong demonstrating energy & water efficiency fundamentals

Here, Kong is demonstrating some advanced LED technologies for MR-16 applications that would work well in the dining hall serving areas and foodservice retail locations on campus – looking great while reducing electric use of the fixtures significantly. These MR16 LEDs are meant to replace halogen lamps and will save about 75% of the energy consumed per watt.

Kong gives LED lighting demo to students