Over the past few years, T&S has developed a very thorough water audit process. We’ve been in hundreds of QSR, fast casual, casual dining and grocery store facilities, auditing the flow and usage of spray valves and faucets, making recommended changes and reporting on projected water and energy savings.
Throughout this process, we’ve noticed issues operators are having, common misapplications and opportunities for savings in general.
Though water and energy savings are a huge piece of our water audits, it’s not all about reduced water usage – we don’t always recommend the lowest flow possible. Rather, it’s important to really understand how your plumbing equipment is being used and what options are available to you.
We often see consultants and end-users focusing their time and effort on high-ticket items such as cooking equipment and refrigeration when considering how to make an impact on daily operations. Our stance, though—and we’re starting to notice a paradigm shift in this direction—is that smaller items such as faucets, hoses and spray valves can make an equally significant impact on your operation as well as your bottom line.
Top 10 Ways to Save
The greatest savings are generally seen in the following areas:
1. 2- and 3-compartment Sinks
– A 2- or 3-compartment sink will be specified/installed for a kitchen with the assumption that the faucet needs an unrestricted flow to quickly fill up the sinks. In reality, those sinks are often being filled through a chemical dispenser, or they don’t actually need to be filled because they’re being used for lighter tasks such as rinsing pitchers or thawing meat. We typically see faucets flowing anywhere from 8-12 GPM—sometimes, even higher. As a result, we recommend, where applicable, lowering those faucet flow rates to 2.2 GPM; the savings are immediate and enormous. In one audit for example, the flow rate was 7 GPM; we reduced it to 2.2 GPM, which resulted in a $4,400 annual savings (combined water, energy and sewer, based on their specific usage data and utility rates).
2. Spray Valves
– Many folks are under the impression that spray valves are a one-size-fits-all product, and that is absolutely not the case. If your employees are drilling holes into the spray face to make it function better, if your spray valve looks worn out when it’s not that old, or if it is old and using more than 4 GPM, you should replace it. Based on your needs and usage, replacing an existing spray valve with the right one can save you time, water, energy, labor, frustration and even maintenance costs. T&S options range from a high efficiency 0.65 GPM model (B-0107-C) to a 1.42 GPM model (B-0107); each one is designed for a specific type of cleaning. In addition to varying flow rates, there are also varying spray patterns, each designed for a specific task. After auditing a casual dining chain, we recommended switching out their older spray valves, which were in the 4 GPM range, with our B-0107-C (0.65 GPM) valves. The savings—$1,500 a year per location in 350 locations—amounted to roughly $525,000. And since T&S offers six different WaterSense-approved spray valves, we can certainly provide a spray valve that’s right for you.
3. Pre-rinse Tees
– Often, rather than using T&S soap/chemical injection tees, we see soap dispensers that have been cut into pre-rinse units. Not only does this void the warranty, it often causes a leak in the riser. You can prevent this simply by ordering the complete pre-assembled model from T&S, or order only the tee and retrofit the pre-rinse unit accordingly.
4. Hose Reels
– During the audits we conduct, we often see garden hoses stretched across kitchen floors which, besides being dangerous and unsightly, can also harbor grime and grit. Not only do retractable hose reels and brackets provide a cleaner, more professional look, they significantly reduce wear and tear and eliminate safety concerns such as tripping. They also provide improved workflow and more efficient use of labor thanks to various mounting options, spray heads, hose lengths and diameters, etc.
– Standard plumbing code prohibits using water above 140 degrees Fahrenheit but, in our audits, we often see equipment deterioration that indicates much hotter water is routinely being used. We trust that you’re adhering to code, but if temperature fluctuation is causing damage to your equipment despite your best efforts, you can easily preserve it by switching to ceramic cartridges. Ceramic cartridges are completely interchangeable with our Eterna cartridges, carry a lifetime warranty and have non-wearing parts, significantly reducing—or even eliminating—related maintenance costs. Our Cerama cartridge costs the same as our Eterna cartridge and is tested to over 1 million cycles without failure.
6. Inconsistent Product Replacements
– Often, when we go in to do an audit for a QSR, we know what brand has been specified, but we see cheaper, lower quality products installed—usually the result of a quick fix when something was in need of repair. These cheaper products ultimately cost that restaurant more in water, energy, maintenance and repairs than if a proper replacement had been made in the first place. Consistently using proper parts, made by manufacturers whose quality standards are consistent and whose parts are easily accessible through local dealers and wholesalers, will always save money in the long run. At a corporate level, you can partner with a national parts firm to make sure local branches carry the exact models and replacement parts you need so they’re readily available to prevent downtime. You can also ask the manufacturer to create specific model numbers for your company; at T&S, we’re happy to do that, so you can simply tell your dealer or parts supplier what they need to stock. Finally, formalize communication with franchisees so they fully understand who to call when they need a part; we’re amazed at how many franchise owners have no idea where to order a needed part.
7. Hand Sink Faucets
– Plumbing code for public lavatories mandates faucet flow be no more than .5 GPM, and no more than 2.2 GPM for back of house kitchen hand wash sinks. Yet more than 65% of faucets we see in our routine audits are missing aerators and flowing at as much as 6-12 GPM. The solution is ridiculously easy—and ridulously inexpensive: a simple vandal-resistant aerator or flow control device placed in the spout or faucet body will save thousands of gallons of wasted water and thousands of dollars in the process. As an example, we converted one company’s flow rate to 2.0 GPM (their average ranged from 2.5 to 8.0 GPM) and the savings was approximately $400 per faucet, annually.
8. Installations Unsuited to the Workflow
– Over and over, as we’ve audited one facility after another, we discover installations being used improperly. In one kitchen, we found chicken being thawed in a hand sink because it was the closest sink to the work station. In another, we found non-restricted flow devices intended for rinsing and washing flowing full-on while employees walked away for extended periods of time. Talk to employees to find out how sinks and faucets are being used; we’ve found that most employees are pretty forthcoming about sharing how things are done and why. It’s possible that a spec that once made sense now doesn’t. As workflow demands or technology changes, it may be time to consider new equipment or an improved workflow. Or you might simply need to have a talk with employees about correcting bad behavior, ignoring specs or properly observing safety and sanitation rules.
– In most of the audits we do, dipperwells are inevitably overflowing and running 12-14 hours per day. Most come standard at 5.2 GPM when, in fact, .25 GPM is all that’s needed; T&S offers that as a standard dipperwell model. One casual dining chain we audited has approximately 800 units. With one dipperwell per store, running at about 1.5 – 2 GPM for 12 hours, we saved them more than 1.2 million gallons of water per year just by changing to a .25 GPM model.
– Leaks show up in audit after audit—generally unchecked and causing no great concern. However, once we educate store managers about just how much money is going down the drain, they get a bit more motivated about fixing those leaks. There is simply no reason for leaks to be ignored; leak gauges are available at no charge from the Foodservice Technology Center and, usually, fixing a leak is something as simple as replacing an O-ring.
It All Adds Up
While it’s true that addressing some of these areas may not seem to offer much bang for the buck, if you’re making changes in multiple locations, those small savings can quickly add up to big totals. Here are a few examples of the savings you can expect from some simple repairs or replacements:
We’d love to help you or your customers achieve similar savings. For more information about water-saving products from T&S, or to schedule a water audit for your facility, please contact Ken Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org.