Less means more – the Reduction Revolution is upon us

‘Reduce – Reuse – Recycle’ has been the Environmental movement “catch phrase”, since the phrase was introduced for Earth Day in 1970.  It’s simple, clean, and powerful.  It’s misunderstood, however.  Ask yourself which of these three you do the most; I also said recycle.  It’s a great start but you can do better – we all can.


Think about it for a moment.  How often do you truly recycle?  How often do you reuse items like take-out containers or glass jars for food storage?  But, how often to you make it a priority to just use less of everything (for example, bringing your own cloth grocery bags to the grocery store)?  If we as individuals and businesses intend to really enact change we must focus on reduction.  Cape Town, South Africa has recently limited the water supply of all residents due to an extreme shortage.


The foodservice industry is making a major push to focus on efficiency with respect to the amount of food produced as food waste moves to the forefront of consumer’s minds.    Plastic waste is so bad that straws are being removed from restaurants (even McDonalds!) and people now have to pay per plastic shopping bags in certain states if they don’t bring their own.  Can you believe that in 2015, nearly 7 billion tons of plastic waste was produced but only 9 percent was actually recycled?  Come on people!  Even major brands are overhauling their whole product offering in efforts to ‘reduce’.  GM has set a goal to completely get rid of all gas and diesel vehicles and produce an all-electric fleet by 2023.   There is a theme here if you can’t tell;  reduction.  We, as a society, are finally changing our behaviors as a whole. It’s a slow burn, but I believe our society is on the cusp of the Reduction Revolution.


Enter, Melink’s Intelli-Hood.  Reduction has always been the name of the game!  Our pioneering system has been reducing commercial kitchen exhaust fan energy use for over 20 years in over 11,000 commercial kitchens to date; we have only scratched the surface!  Did you know that commercial kitchens consume over three times the energy of the average commercial building per square foot (as per the United States Energy Information Administration).  Within this energy intensive space, the kitchen ventilation system comprised of the exhaust and supply fans consume nearly 30% of this energy; this is even higher when fans are left on 24×7.  What a significant waste of energy and dollars!


Intelli-Hood simply reduces kitchen exhaust fan energy and also reduces the amount of “Make Up Air” or “Return Air” thus accounting for a reduction in the condition air as well!  The direct result of this means more money in our clients pockets.  Use less energy, save more money (not to mention the other intangibles benefits).


As an example, the foodservice industry sees an average profit margin of 3.5%.  The impacts of cost savings with DCKV continues to be incredibly significant to the bottom line profitability.  Here is a great case study showing how Intelli-Hood reduced the utility costs so much that we were able to save them over $14 million dollars which they could spend on the facets of their business that could drive more revenue. Incredible.


At the end of the day Intelli-Hood defines the reduce, reuse, recycle motto.  We reduce operating expenses, reuse those saved dollars to spend elsewhere while we live to recycle this technology in all commercial kitchens on planet earth. We intend to change the world here at Melink as we know that our children and future generations need this change.  While Melink continues to do more in terms of energy solutions, our society needs to use a little less.  The time is now.

What causes poor Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), or the condition of the air inside a building, is a very important building health attribute that can affect the comfort, productivity, and wellness of a facility’s occupants, workers, students, and visitors.

Poor IAQ has been linked to several symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and dizziness, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.  The more prolonged the exposure, the greater the effect.  Here are five common factors that contribute to poor IAQ:

Negative Building Pressure – A negative building, one in which the pressure inside is less than the pressure outside, will draw air through doors, windows, and any other openings in the exterior.  This air is unfiltered and unconditioned, so whatever is outside comes inside, including high humidity, pollutants, insects, and so on.

Inadequate Fresh Air Ventilation – Fresh outside air is introduced into a building through a series of fans and dampers. Relief air is also evacuated from a building in a similar manner. These air systems must be properly set up and adjusted for the correct amount of fresh air needed for the building based on its use and occupancy.

Insufficient Contaminant Capture – Contaminants that are produced from various operations within a building, such as heat and smoke from cooking, steam from dishwashing, or pollutants from work processes, are captured and contained with systems of fans and canopies.  These systems must be properly configured and adjusted for each unique process in order to capture and contain the effluent produced.

Improper Air Distribution – The various spaces within a building have their own ventilation and pressurization needs, so the air movement inside a building is vital.  The air distribution systems must be properly configured and adjusted throughout the entire building.

Deficient HVAC Maintenance – The various fans, dampers, filters, coils, and other devices comprising a Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system must be cared for, and maintained correctly and frequently in order to support proper indoor air quality.

Effects of dynamic air flow in kitchen environments and the importance of air balancing


As we all know, the hospitality industry is developing a lot these days. Owners are investing heavily into their hotels in order to globalize them and create unique destinations. This development is mainly due to the increase in international tourism and business travel driving the need to create different cuisine options. The multitude of cuisine options and equipment designs can have a significant impact on dynamic air flows and energy consumption.


In the hospitality industry, the focus is being given to the improvement of centralized kitchen air conditioning to ensure that the chefs working in the midst of heat are safe and comfortable. Even small-scale kitchens are focused on providing air conditioned kitchens now more than ever.


In the earlier days, importance was generally given to extract and discharge of exhaust air alone. Whereas now, in trending commercial kitchen ventilation system, the following ventilation systems are present to do air balancing and bring comfort in the kitchen zone-wise:

  • HOT Kitchen Zone – When cooking appliances are present, exhaust air and fresh air (makeup air) systems will be present to extract thermal plumes and radiant heat.
  • COLD Kitchen Zone – The preparation area and refrigeration area have conditioned air and return air systems present.
  • Dish Washing Zone – With the heavy output of steam, systems are in place to extract the steam immediately and recycle makeup air through the area.

Dynamic Air flow occurs due to the following reasons:

  • The heat load is not calculated per the equipment specifications.
  • Selection of improper kitchen equipment that leads to variation in heat load. Examples include wrong burner design, equipment without proper insulation, wrong electrical appliance selections.
  • High air draft transfer through doors/service door/high velocity diffusers
  • Equipment placement changes. An example would be changing the positions of equipment against the original kitchen design.
  • Extraction hood is undersized as it affects suction.
  • Increase in the number of people in the building.
  • Improper selection of exhaust fan, make up air fan, and exhaust & make up air ducting system

As a result of the air draft energy savings plummet!


Something that I have observed quite often, is the high draft air transfer through different doors. This is a primary cause of dynamic air flow. Optimal kitchen design would allow the natural hot air from cooking to go undisturbed.

Service door opening affecting dynamic air flow.Service door opening allowing natural air flow.

In the 1st image above, the service door is open so the hot air that is rising is disturbed due to the high draft air from the next room, creating turbulence. The high draft should be balanced to decrease energy loss.

In the 2nd image above, the service door is closed allowing the hot air to rise without disturbance.

When there is a turbulence, the temperature in the kitchen will quickly rise as the extraction does not happen correctly and it combines with exhaust and supply air. Therefore, this makes the kitchen staff become very uncomfortable, air conditioning is increased to cool down the kitchen, and the exhaust is ramped up. Because of this, extra energy is used when it could have been avoided. If this is constantly being repeated, it will result in discomfort, hygiene will be affected, and there will be a huge loss of energy.

As you are designing your next kitchen, be cognizant of the fact that kitchen design impacts more than meets the eye. Kitchen efficiency goes beyond the layout that makes it easiest for your staff to work in, it entails energy usage and safety as well.

Energy Upgrades In Prison Facilities

It is no secret that many prison facilities are outdated, understaffed, and overcrowded. Sadly, these problems can all be traced back to being underfunded.  With large pressing problems like this, it makes the idea of certain energy upgrades in prisons like installing a new LED light fixture or flow meters on hydronic components seem miniscule while the impact could greatly help the underlying problems.

The Problem – “There’s only three ways to spend the taxpayer’s hard-earned when it comes to prisons.More walls. More bars. More guards.” – Shawshank Redemption

Although it may seem like this statement is true, most of the costs associated with state run facilities is lumped into personnel costs within the operating expenses. Salaries, overtime, and benefits comprised over 66% of the cost to run state facilities. Additionally, an average of 17% of funding across the nation went to facility maintenance, prison programs, debt services, and legal judgments. This data tells us that most of the cost of prisons goes unsurprisingly, to operating costs. The operating costs can range from your day to day maintenance, to the utility bills, to providing food and supervision for inmates. The average salary of correctional officers in the US is $37,717 per year, so adding even one more CO to help an understaffed facility can have a substantial effect on the budget.

The Solution – Lower Operating Costs

However, the problem with initiatives and projects to reduce operating costs, is that they are met with red tape. Every state has their own nuances but all capital expenditures go through lengthy processes to determine what is necessary and when. So, how can a facility take control of own their operating costs without the capital expenditures? For multiple energy efficiency and water conservation measures in one project, energy service performance contracts can be a powerful tool if managed properly. These projects can range from low flow facets, to LED lighting, to control systems, to mechanical system replacements.

However, some states have different laws regarding performance contracts so if this route is not an option, individual conservation measures can be implemented creatively. For example, demand control kitchen ventilation is a relatively low-cost measure with a high ROI, making it a versatile measure for performance contracts and as a standalone facility upgrade. By slowing the kitchen exhaust fans in relation to the cooking activity, savings are realized through fan energy reduction and reduction of conditioned air that is wasted. In many cases there are even lease options among other financing routes that could make your project cash flow positive from the first month of implementation! With the saved money that would be going toward the electric bill, the extra cash can be used for other costs across the facility.

Putting Your Savings to Work

Implementing energy efficiency products like DCKV can save you money, but how much are we talking? For a large facility, let’s say you save $30,000 a year on your electric and conditioned air. In North Carolina, that is enough to cover the cost of one inmate for 335 days or 335 inmates for one day. In Florida, that is enough to cover the costs to house and supervise one inmate for 561 days or the salary of an entry level Correctional Officer. Why is Florida’s cost per inmate so much less than North Carolina? The state completes a lot of ESCO projects, so overall, their facilities are more efficient.

In the end implementing energy efficient technologies and practices, not only helps your prison run more efficiently, it reduces operating expenses so your cash can be used where it makes a  bigger impact; paying for more CO’s, building upgrades, and additional programs to reduce the recidivism rate.


Sustaining A Great Place To Work

During almost every interview or conversation I have with a non-Melinker, I am asked why I love Melink. My response is always the same, the employees!I am grateful for the “Good Mornings” as employees pass my office, to hear Lorie’s laughter, the conversations at the coffee pot, and sharing thoughts and ideas with my teams.  If you know Melink, you know that we are a leader in energy-efficiency and sustainability practices, but our biggest asset and greatest advantage is our employees.

Every year, one of our top strategic objectives is to ensure our organization is considered a Great Place to Work.  I am proud to say that for the last 2 years we have accomplished that goal! It’s very gratifying to know that 93% of our employees told the institute they feel management is honest and ethical in its business practices. What’s more, 96% indicated they have great pride in who we are and what we do!

So, how do we sustain and keep that momentum?

We have to be transparent about our goals and actions, and very intentional about making sure we are meeting the needs of our employees and providing a satisfying work life, which can certainly be tricky with half of our employees being remotely located across the world. That is why I love Springtime at Melink as we approach our Annual Company Meeting.  This is our own version of a big Family Reunion! We get the chance to be together in one and ensure all voices are heard. All employees gather at our headquarters in Milford, Ohio to reconnect (or meet for the first time!), catch up, and learn more about each other.  We share thoughts, conduct training, share our hopes and concerns for the coming year, and of course have fun!  We will beat up new processes, challenge each other to meet our customer needs, and focus on delivering the best results to achieve our annual and strategic goals. It is an all-hands-on-deck, no holding anything back type of week!

Our 2018 meeting is right around the corner and the planning is almost finished. Food has been ordered, hotels confirmed, flights are scheduled, and agendas finalized. Our remote employees will start to arrive tomorrow. Our days may be packed with educational sessions, brainstorming meetings, internal presentations, and forecasting, but we have plenty of fun planned too!  This year we are excited to have Scott Tallman share his BBQing talents for a cookout, and enjoy a dinner cruise down the Ohio River (thanks Lorie!).

The energy is building and we will soon conduct our survey again. How did we measure up? How do we impact our employees? How do we continue to keep them engaged? While I have a good pulse on where we stand, I can’t wait to show the world once again how Melink stacks up as a Great Place To Work!