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Equipment Considerations

When choosing new or replacement equipment for a food service facility, the type and model of equipment selected hinges on many factors - menu, floor space, size of operation, budget, operator ability, cooking style, available utilities and many others. Likewise, each energy choice poses its own unique considerations. When specifying natural gas equipment, the designer must consider several factors.

First Cost - As a general rule, electric models usually cost less to purchase than comparable gas equipment and may appear to be more efficient. The real cost of any piece of equipment is its lifecycle cost which includes not only the initial purchase price, but the lifetime costs of energy, maintenance, consumables and repairs. Both the Food Service Technology Center and GTI developed tools that make it easy to compare the lifecycle costs of various pieces of food service equipment. The Applications section of this module also offers calculators for comparing gas and electric options. A formula for evaluating the efficiencies of gas vs. electric units is discussed in Comparing Energies.

Venting - Regardless of energy choice, food service kitchens require at least minimal and possibly a substantial level of ventilation to eliminate heat, grease, vapors and smoke generated by cooking and dishwashing equipment. Proper venting usually involves exhaust hoods positioned over or near the equipment. The ventilation system also serves to remove the products of combustion produced by natural gas equipment, but its design is not governed solely by the choice of energy. Factors that play a significant role in the venting needs of a commercial kitchen include the type of equipment, the type of food cooked, the cooking process (e.g., frying vs. baking), and the style and placement of the venting hoods.

Makeup Air - For exhaust hoods to operate effectively, the HVAC system must include some type of makeup air to replace the air that is expelled with the heat, grease, vapors, smoke and combustion products. Otherwise, negative air pressure will build up and the undesirable cooking effluents may not adequately exhaust from the kitchen. In some instances, the HVAC system alone may provide sufficient air to compensate for the air lost through the exhaust hoods. However, for most full-service restaurant and institutional kitchens, their makeup air needs are substantial and a dedicated makeup air unit may be the most practical and energy efficient solution.

Service Lines - The gas lines required to fuel natural gas equipment can sometimes be a challenge to install and an additional expense, especially in some of the newer, non- traditional "kiosk" facilities at airports, malls and similar venues. Newer piping solutions such as CSST (corrugated stainless steel tubing) and gas convenience outlets are making it easier and less costly to pipe remote locations. Additionally, manufacturers and natural gas trade organizations continue to work on developing technologies to meet the needs of emerging markets.