This simple switch reduces the expenses and environmental impact of restaurants.

Sponsored by Transformative Wave.

In 2015, as part of a U.S. Department of Energy campaign, Arby’s initiated a comprehensive portfolio-wide HVAC rooftop unit (RTU) assessment to determine which ones on its some 3,400 restaurants should be upgraded into energy efficient RTUs. By the end of that year, the company installed 238 upgrades to high-efficiency RTUs, resulting in “an estimated savings of 1.4 million kWh, worth $140,000 annually,” according to the Energy Department, which recognized Arby’s for implementing the “most innovative RTU management approach by a participating partner.” In 2016, Arby’s installed upgrades to another 250 high-efficiency RTUs.

“The moral of the story really is that the quick-service industry stands to gain when it takes a long view of energy efficiency and building performance,” says Dr. Michael Deru, a mechanical engineer and researcher with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “In the day-to-day chaos of the fast-food industry, the thought of your buildings having outdated or inefficient HVAC equipment may seem like an afterthought. But scores of studies show that aging infrastructure can really hurt a business’s bottom line.”

Addressing these issues proactively can yield advantages ranging from improved indoor air quality, enhanced comfort for both employees and customers, and even bragging rights. After it upgraded so many of its RTUs in 2015 and 2016, Arby’s, for example, can now boast that it has already met the Energy Department’s “Better Buildings Challenge” goal of reducing total energy consumption per transaction by 20 percent by 2020.

Fortunately, today’s extremely efficient HVAC control technologies can help any restaurant reduce its energy footprint using its existing HVAC equipment without compromising customer comfort and deliver cost savings that make it a no-brainer.

“For a lot of operators, HVAC energy usage can be 20-30 percent of their total utility expenses, so it can be a big line item on the budget,” says Justin Sipe, senior vice president of technology at Transformative Wave, a leader in the HVAC and mechanical services industry. “Now, there are simple upgrades with advanced controls that can make a big difference to the bottom line.”

Transformative Wave’s CATALYST system has helped brands like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Panda Express, save money, too. They were recently recognized with an award by the Advanced RTU Campaign, for its CATALYST system, which improves the efficiency of RTU’s and can be wirelessly connected with a web-based platform that tracks equipment performance and monitors for a host of faults. Depending on the fault, the customer can make control changes remotely to the unit, or schedule for maintenance to be performed according to the severity of the fault. Beyond the 25 to 50 percent hard savings delivered from the CATALYST technology, the automated fault detection & diagnostics (AFDD) notifications allow customers to identify and resolve problems before they become even more costly, or worse, catastrophic. 

As Deru says, “Quick-service restaurants are energy-intensive buildings, but fortunately, there are many options today for improving thermal comfort, reducing service calls, and reducing energy costs. The HVAC industry has made great improvements in high-efficiency HVAC upgrades, advanced control retrofits, and automated fault detection and diagnostics in recent years.”

Industry leaders, such as Transformative Wave, have proven solutions that can be easily incorporated into every business.

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