Restaurants that invest strategically in energy-saving commercial food service equipment and fixtures can cut utility costs 10% to 30% through rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives.
Many utilities and governments offer significant financial and educational assistance to improve the energy and water efficiency of your business. Rebates range from $10 for high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valves to $1,000 to $3,000 for commercial steam cookers, high-volume dishwashers or other major equipment. Some utility companies also offer custom incentives for larger renovation projects or financing incentives.
To learn about cash rebates for energy-saving kitchen equipment, check out Energy Star Commercial Food Service program’s online tools. Its Commercial Food Service Equipment Incentive Finder (Excel) allows operators to search by equipment type and zip code to find available rebates as well as utility administrator contact information for each program.
The incentives apply to equipment certified by Energy Star or the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, a group that sanctions a broader range of appliances. Energy Star tests dishwashers, griddles, fryers, steamers, holding cabinets, ice machines, refrigerators and freezers, and ovens.
The tools are updated annually to include new programs. "We see more and more utilities interested in efficiency, so the list is growing," says Una Song, program manager for Energy Star, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Read on for more tips to find equipment rebates:
Speak with your local utility company directly. Make sure the rebate for a certain type of equipment is still available. "Utilities could run out of money," Song says. Local energy officials might know of a program that's about to start or specific information that can help you decide what to buy. Consult the CFS Incentive Finder for contact information.
Consult a knowledgeable CFS dealer or lighting specialist. Ask your local dealer about Energy Star equipment and lighting. If they don’t know what you are talking about or divert the conversation, find another Energy Star participating dealer here.
Partner with a manufacturer and finance organization to “pay for performance.” Some manufacturers, in conjunction with utilities or city governments, offer low-rate or zero-interest loans that you can pay off from your utility bill or energy savings. Called “on-bill financing” or “pay for performance,” the loans allow you to acquire expensive, energy-efficient equipment and pay for it over time. One example is LightingScience’s Cash Flow Positive program that leases LED lighting equipment through various payment mechanisms.
Consider a specialist. Third parties, such as Global Energy Efficiency in New York City, serve as restaurant advocates by matching efficiency opportunities with available incentives. Unlike equipment dealers or fuel suppliers, it aims to find the right technology and rebates, not make a sale.
Before applying for funding, ask yourself the following questions:
What type of investment do I want to undertake (e.g. building a new restaurant, replacing old equipment)? In what state or town? And when?
What are the requirements for applying for funds? Are there differences between chain and independent restaurants?
Does the equipment I want or need qualify for a rebate? This is critical: Just because a model says it’s “energy efficient” doesn’t mean a utility will give you money for it. Check the utility company’s qualified model list or ask them directly.
How much time can I spend on this effort? Would it be better to hire a consultant to fill out the paper work?