Practicing Prevention

Regular equipment maintenance reduces downtime, increases selling opportunities.

By
Amanda Baltazar, Freelance writer

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Refrigerators and Freezers

Refrigerators and freezers are among the biggest consumers of energy in any convenience-store operation. Make sure you pay attention to them and you’ll save energy and extend the life of your coolers.

  • Check the temperature of the machines. If they’re too cold, you’re using more energy than you need to.
  • Clean out the condenser and air coils every few months because they can pick up dust, and sometimes grease, which means they have to work harder. Start by checking the machines every month to see if they need to be cleaned. If they don’t, check every three months. To clean, brush or wipe down the condenser with a wet rag or use a vacuum cleaner. If your c-store has a lot of grease floating around, spray on a degreaser first. “If you don’t clean the condenser and the coils, your cooler will work harder, so you have to replace the compressor,” says Jeff Clark, conserve program director for the National Restaurant Association (NRA), Washington, D.C. “It doesn’t take long—maybe half an hour. Really dirty coils can double the cost of your refrigeration.”
  • Make sure your freezers and refrigerators have space around them so they can draw in air.
  • Check the door seals regularly and replace them every
  • year or two. Wipe them daily to keep the seals’ integrity intact. When they rip, replace them; if they come loose, put them back into the groove. If your refrigerator is older, ensure the hinges are working on the door and that you have a good seal on that side, and that there are no breaks in the plastic or glass.
  • Install air curtains inside the doors to prevent the cold air from escaping.
  • Clean the drain pans, which will keep their elements working properly, and make sure the water has evaporated.
  • Regularly defrost your freezer (if it’s not done automatically, check your manual for frequency) and make sure the defrost lines are insulated and wrapped.
  • Consider an electronically commutated motor (ECM). “ECMs are very efficient—they move the same amount of air for one-third of the cost,” says Richard Young, senior engineer and director of education for the Foodservice Technology Center, San Ramon, Calif. When your motor goes out, replace it with an ECM; utility companies often offer rebates on them.

Ice Machines

It’s critical that ice machines be cared for properly. Not only can they become less efficient if neglected, but they also can harbor bacteria, meaning your convenience store could be the next one in the news about an outbreak of foodborne illness.

  • At least twice a year, remove all ice and clean (with a cleaner that will leave no taste) and sanitize the inside to prevent bacteria. Clean more if you use deep fryers, for example, and less if your ice machine is in a well-ventilated room.
  • Regularly clean the coils and condensers, as well as the spot that makes the ice. These can be wiped down with a cloth or brush, or vacuumed.
  • Be sure you’re not creating too much ice each day.
  • Check the calibration and temperature.
  • Change the water filters regularly because minerals and lime from the water build up. “They get plugged in some areas more than others,” says Bruce Hodge, president of General Parts LLC, Waukesha, Wis. “Just one-eighth of an inch buildup of lime and scale can reduce the efficiency of the equipment by up to 33%.”

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