Spring’s been a long, long time coming. And if it ever stops raining, you can bet restaurant  patios will be buzzing with people making up for lost time.

Summer’s an energy-heavy time for restaurants, and your patio can drive up those energy costs even further. (Think constantly opening doors letting all that nice cool air out…patio heaters working overtime for those chilly summer nights.) Here are a few tips to make your patio more energy efficient—without sacrificing customer comfort.

  • Install an air door. Air doors are downward-facing fans that are installed over doorways, and help maintain your indoor temperature by creating a barrier of air between indoors and outdoors. Many air doors are close to 100 percent efficient at maintaining your interior temperature, whether it’s heating or cooling season. Air doors can also keep out summer irritants like insects, humidity and smoke. (Interested in installing an air door? Check out our energy efficiency rebates page for info on how to save $300.)
  • Be smart with patio heaters. Patio heaters are important for maintaining your patrons’ comfort on chilly summer nights, but you can make them more efficient and effective. Don’t run them unless they’re needed, don’t install more than you really need, and design your patio layout to take full advantage of their heat. (To see how patio heaters can extend your outside season, take a look at the Success Story featuring Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant in Toronto.)
  • Investigate high-efficiency ice makers. According the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, patrons order more iced drinks in the summertime. (Yes, that’s somewhat of a no-brainer.) Make sure your ice maker isn’t bleeding energy by checking out water and energy-use ratings for ice machines at http://www.ahrinet.org/. If you are going to replace your ice maker, consider getting a larger machine. Bigger ice makers tend to be more energy-efficient than smaller ones, and their size means you can often limit ice-making to overnight or off-hours.

Do you have any tips for saving energy on the patio during the summer? Share them in the comments.

Image credit: D’Arcy Norman