Slushy, muddy footprints. That whoosh of cold air every time the door opens. The delicate balance between keeping customers comfortable and not breaking the bank on heating.

Winter for a restaurant is one challenge after another. And heating (and cooling/ventilation) is the second-largest energy guzzler in a restaurant, second only to food prep.

With another messy, mucky, snowy season just around the corner, though, here are seven tips for getting your restaurant winter-ready without skyrocketing your energy costs.

  1. Keep your furnace clean. Make sure your furnace air filters are clean, otherwise your heating motor will have to work harder, wasting energy and reducing overall efficiency.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat. This is probably the easiest thing you can do that can have a significant impact on your energy costs. By automating your temperature settings, you’ll eliminate the possibility of human error—meaning that you’ll never be wasting heat on an empty restaurant. While you’re at it, lock up your thermostat so only a limited number of people have access to it. This ensures it won’t be tampered with.
  3. Set your thermostat to an appropriate temperature. For every degree you raise your thermometer, bank on an additional 4-5 percent added to your energy costs. Ideally, set your thermometer no higher than 20 degrees during your open hours, and back to 13 when your restaurant’s empty. Using your programmable thermostat’s nighttime set-back function is an easy way to automate the shift.
  4. Use passive solar heating if you can. Sunlight coming through a window can help warm a room without touching the thermostat. If you have a windowed area, consider keeping the blinds open during the day to take advantage of free heat from the sun. (If you have to, seat your customers elsewhere.)
  5. Consider installing an energy management system. These large-scale systems can help control your heating, cooling and ventilation from a single interface—and many will text you if there’s something amiss, even when you’re not on-site.
  6. Invest in an air door. An air door prevents hot air from escaping and cold air from getting in by creating a “curtain” of moving air in a doorway. If your restaurant is busy, or if your door opens on to your seating area, this measure can help you save money and keep your customers more comfortable. (If you’re interested in installing an air door, check out our our energy efficiency rebates section.) If an air door isn’t feasible, consider placing a heavy curtain—velvet works well—at your front door to help block the cold air from coming in.
  7. A ceiling fan can help circulate hot air. By making sure your airflow is as efficient as possible—something that a ceiling fan will help—you can reduce your temperature setting.

How do you deal with the challenges of winter and still keep your customers happy? Share your tips in the comments section.

Image credit: abdallahh