Question: I’d like to reduce my electricity bills, especially with summer coming and the air conditioner running. What’s the easiest way to cut my consumption?

Answer: We talked briefly about conserving electricity in our post about Lowfoot, where we covered points like turning off small appliances and using monitoring devices like Kill-A-Watts to help reduce your consumption. But there’s more you can do.

The best thing you can do: choose energy-efficient lighting

The best way to conserve electricity in your restaurant is to retrofit your lighting. Think about it: in a full-serve restaurant, lighting makes up approximately 23% of your energy costs. For fast food places, that doubles to 50%. If you replace just one 100-watt incandescent bulb with a high-efficiency compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL), you can save $44 per year.

If you’re currently using fluorescent lights in your kitchen or elsewhere, look at upgrading to electronic ballasts. Ballasts are the parts of the fixture that limit the lamp’s current and control the voltage. Many older fluorescent lamps use magnetic ballasts, which not only aren’t especially efficient, but produce that characteristic (and annoying) fluorescent light “hum.” Electronic ballasts are 30% more efficient than magnetic. In terms of fluorescent bulbs, look for T5 or T8 bulbs to use with your new, efficient ballasts.

If you have outdoor security or parking-lot lighting, replacing your incandescent or mercury-vapour bulbs with more-efficient metal halide or other type of high intensity discharge (HID) lamps will save you between 75 and 90 percent on your energy costs.

Check out lighting retrofit programs

Yes, a restaurant has a lot of lights, and the prospect of replacing all your lightbulbs can seem daunting from a bottom-line perspective. Many utilities, though, have incentive programs designed to help with the cost of installing new lightbulbs. (Check out Ontario Power Authority’s Small Business Lighting program for starters.)

Daylight is free (and highly efficient!)

Even if you can’t upgrade your lighting to the extent you’d like, you can still take advantage of a free lighting source: natural daylight. If your restaurant is open during the day, try and use natural light as much as possible. At the very least, use task lighting rather than overheads where it’s feasible.

One last (free) way improve your lighting

Finally, one way to maximize your existing lighting is to clean your bulbs. Making sure all your lamps are dust-free can increase their output by up to 50%.

In the grand scheme of energy upgrades, lighting is a relatively easy (and inexpensive) investment that can really pay off in energy savings.

Do you have tips for conserving electricity in your restaurant? Have you replaced your lighting and noticed a difference in your energy bills? Share your story in the comment section.

Image credit: Robert Leverington