In a commercial kitchen, the best bang for your buck is a 'smart' exhaust hood

Image of a cook working in a commercial kitchen

Exhaust hood's sensor and variable-frequency drive adjust as heat goes up and down

Do you have grills, ovens or fryers in your business? If so, much of your electricity use is likely going to exhaust ventilation. That's because a lot of commercial kitchens, both big and small, run exhaust fans at top speed, and around the clock, even when they're not needed.

In residential kitchens, most range hoods have two or three speed settings, but in many restaurants, cafés and bakeries, an exhaust hood can only be switched on or off. Multi-speed motors can help, but they require kitchen staff to make manual adjustments, which they're often too busy to do.

By contrast, a "smart" exhaust hood with a sensor and variable-frequency drive, does all of the thinking for you. It instinctively adjusts, removing air from cooking areas only when it's needed, greatly reducing your hood's energy consumption. In fact, a smart exhaust hood can reduce a single exhaust hood's electricity use by up to 50 per cent.

What makes it so 'smart'?

A sensor with a variable-frequency drive instinctively determines when the temperature coming off of a cooking surface rises. The hood fan speed also increases when an infrared sensor detects an elevation in steam and cooking emissions. Equally, when the temperature on a cooking surface goes down or when cooking vapours dissipate, the variable-frequency drive detects a temperature change, automatically slowing down the hood's fan.

Spinning at a slower speed, the fan moves less air, which means it pushes less air out of the restaurant, significantly reducing air conditioning needs in summer and heating in winter. In fact, The Pear Tree Restaurant in Burnaby, B.C., credits a 15 per cent reduction (about $120 per month) in its average electricity consumption to the addition of a sensor and variable-frequency drive to its exhaust hood.

Commercial kitchens are excellent candidates for electricity savings

The effectiveness of smart exhaust hoods is drawing much-needed attention to the cost and inefficiency of over-ventilating a commercial kitchen. And the good news is that smart exhaust hoods and variable-frequency drives (which can be retrofitted to fit an existing hood) are available to companies in B.C. through the Power Smart Express program.

For more insight into the energy-saving impact of a smart exhaust hood, book a free appointment with a BC Hydro Business Energy Advisor. The advisors, who specialize in the unique needs of small and medium businesses, offer customers free energy assessments for their electricity and natural gas usage.