The Pear Tree Restaurant wins Small Business Energy Challenge

Kitchen at Pear Tree Restaurant
The Pear Tree Restaurant located on Hastings Street in Burnaby.

Scott Jaeger, chef-owner of The Pear Tree Restaurant in Burnaby, didn't think he could do much to improve the restaurant's energy efficiency.

"We like to use only what we need in everything we consume: energy, food, fuel, and all our purchasing," Jaeger says. "So, other than making drastic changes, such as not running the air conditioner, I wasn't sure if we'd find ways to reduce our energy use."

But as a competitor in the Small Business Energy Challenge this past July and August, The Pear Tree combined technical upgrades and behavioural changes to reduce its energy use by an impressive 18.5 per cent to win the challenge. The changes are estimated to save the company nearly $1,000 per year in electricity costs.

Variable speed drive saves energy in two ways

The most significant upgrade to the restaurant was the addition of a variable speed drive to the hood vent fan motor. In residential kitchens, most range hoods have two or three speed settings. But in many restaurants, the hood vent fans can only be switched on or off.

With a variable speed drive, the hood can now be turned down when the restaurant is less busy, reducing its energy consumption the same way a dimmed light uses less energy.

And that's not all. Hood vents work by drawing in an amount of air equal to what they push out. At lower speeds, the vent moves less air, which means it pushes less conditioned air out of the restaurant, significantly reducing air conditioning needs in summer and heating in winter.

"I wish we had this ten years ago," says Jaeger. "It saves energy and it's made a massive improvement in comfort. The hood still operates at 100 per cent when we need it, but when we're running it on a lower setting, the sound is about 10 per cent of what it used to be, and there is less air blowing on the staff all day."

Lighting upgrades and motion sensors provide quick, easy savings

As part of the Pear Tree's Energy Challenge, other technical upgrades included:

  • Changing kitchen lights from 50 watt MR16 halogen bulbs to 10 watt LEDs (this upgrade saves on lighting and on cooling, because LEDs don't give off nearly as much heat as halogen MR16s).
  • Replacing lighting in the hallway and washrooms from 50W MR16s to seven watt LEDs.
  • Adding motion sensors to the washroom fan and lights, as well as to the lighting in the walk-in cooler so lights are only on when necessary.
  • Putting insulating wrap around the hot water pipes.
Motion sensors for the washroom lights and fans make energy savings automatic.

Challenge rekindles focus on efficient behaviours

As part of the Energy Challenge, each contestant worked with a LiveSmart Business Energy Advisor (BEA) to assess technical upgrades, arrange contractors, and help improve conservation-oriented behavioural practices.

The staff at the Pear Tree Restaurant sat down with the energy advisor and created standard operating procedures for the front of the restaurant and for the kitchen. The operating procedures map out the times for each piece of equipment to be turned on and off. Having this plan in place reminds staff of the need to be more diligent about using energy efficiently.

Jaeger says, "Now, we start shutting down the biggest energy users as soon as the last customer has their main course, instead of waiting 20 minutes or so before realizing we don't need to be running that equipment." And the staff have kept up their good habits, even after the contest ended. "They're still on top of it," he says. "It's policy now."

To show how simple actions can save energy, the Pear Tree Restaurant will be a participating restaurant in this year's Candlelight Conservation Dinner on October 24.

Energy efficiency is the real grand prize

Jaeger says he is pleased The Pear Tree Restaurant won, but notes that in a contest like this, nobody loses.

"Maybe we had more power to save," he says. "The energy reduction from the hood is massive. And that's the true win, I think."

Take on your own energy challenge

October is Power Smart Month. Save power, save money by taking on your own energy challenge. LiveSmart BC Business Energy Advisors can help. They work with small and medium-sized businesses to assess the most effective ways to save energy and then help your business access product incentives to reduce the cost of upgrades.