Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy: Fighting Climate Change with a One-Two Punch

To invest in energy efficiency or renewable energy? A question often pondered by building owners, design engineers, investors, energy engineers, performance contractors, and anyone in between who has a say deciding how to invest money to make the strongest financial and environmental impacts. In an ideal scenario, one can invest in both efficiency and renewable energy.

Integrating Efficiency and Renewable Energy

When it comes to the materials we use in everyday life, we have all heard the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Well, there is a reason why reduction is mentioned first! It can be argued that the most sustainable energy source available is the energy that we never have to use.

Of course, there will always be energy used no matter how efficient a building is. But, in the energy spectrum, renewables reduce the cost for the electricity that must be used. Renewables also offer many other benefits, such as protection against fluctuating energy costs, incentives like federal tax credits, net metering, shaded parking lots… the list could keep going. And research confirms that investing in both energy efficiency options and renewable energy is a smart move. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) collaborated in a 2007 study, reporting that investments in both energy efficiency and renewable energy are essential for the United States to create a secure energy future.   

Boxing gloves

Creating an Energy Synergy

Think about it like this… If a boxer has a great right hook but a poor defense, he may win some fights but could easily lose to an opponent with a solid defense and a timely counterpunch. Combining two strengths to be stronger overall is called synergy. That is when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When energy efficiency and renewable energy are combined, they complement each other in a way that can maximize the total impact, both environmentally and economically. Consider this…

Right hook: An upgraded utility plan to reduce HVAC costs.

Left jab: Intelli-Hood®, Melink’s demand control kitchen ventilation system to further reduce HVAC costs.

And for the knock-out uppercut: A solar array made of super-efficient photovoltaic modules that meets the entire energy load of the building (taking into account the reduced energy usage from the previous energy efficiency measures).

And what’s even more of a win? By reducing the facility’s entire energy load, the upfront cost of the solar array is reduced. Plus, the quick payback as a result of the energy efficiency measures creates additional cashflow to help pay for a renewable energy source, like solar array (or even geothermal!).

Accounting for Energy Opponents

But what if? Let’s say that the uppercut was blocked in this scenario because, in many cases, the availability of renewable energy is limited due to geography and available space. For example, in the hills and valleys of Southern Ohio, wind energy is not going to be near as effective as compared to the plains of Northwest Texas.

Or, while solar performs well in Ohio, a building could have very limited space for an array. For the counterpunch here, one could implement new energy efficiency technologies and maximize efficiencies on existing equipment. Then, for the knockout, a smaller solar array like a parking canopy could still be very impactful.

The bottom line? There are many options at play when it comes to the powerful combo of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Together, this combo helps to reduce peak demand charges, which can be astronomically higher than off-peak charges. For example, if a new energy-efficient HVAC system is added to an office building, that building will still see high peak demand charges (although lower than before the upgrade) from the utility. However, capturing a renewable energy source, like wind or solar, can greatly reduce the impact of peak demand charges.

Renewable energy wind turbine power

Winning the Fight on Climate Change

In summary, combining energy efficiency and renewable energy delivers the greatest environmental and economic benefits. Melink Corporation can help building owners, engineers, and designers with both energy efficiency and renewable solutions. We know this combination works from experience, too. With our own Zero Energy Building and another LEED Platinum building, Melink does not just talk the talk, we walk the walk.

Contact us today to protect your business from the volatile energy market, commit to sustainability, reduce utility costs, and fight climate change.

Intelli-Hood: Preventive Maintenance Is Critically Important (Not Just in Times of Crisis)

Preventive maintenance is truly important to your business’ operation. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many business owners are continuously evaluating their corporate strategies to determine contingency plans. However, as we ride this roller coaster of uncertainty together, it is important to not just strategize for short-term implications of the virus. Now is the time to determine the best steps — like preventive maintenance and reducing the risk of damage to unoccupied buildings — to assist your company on the road to recovery.

And, just like any rollercoaster at an amusement park, the beginning and end have a pinnacle moment. Currently, we are adapting to the changes being implemented to minimize the impact. How we adapt will influence what the pinnacle moment will look like as we return to normalcy.

Of course, it is anticipated by many that financial strains will be incurred by companies across the United States as well as the world. In recent years, the buzzword “resiliency” has swept many energy tradeshows. One thing to add to this — although not glamorous — is the critical importance of executing preventative maintenance on equipment. A few benefits of preventative maintenance include:

  • Maximizing the efficiency of the equipment
  • Reducing downtime cost
  • Avoiding costly, last-ditch-effort service repairs
  • Improving reliability

Therefore, during an economic challenge, it is critically important to the bottom line of any company to have its systems operating correctly.

Intelli-Hood preventive maintenance

Intelli-Hood Preventive Maintenance

Melink Corp has implemented Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV) systems across thousands of kitchens as an energy control measure to reduce operating costs. When preventive maintenance is not performed, it can lead to expensive repairs and downtime. Consider these examples…

Systems are designed to “fail safe,” meaning even a simple error can result in all associated fans operating at 100% speed.

One VFD reaches its end-of-life cycle and fails. Instead of replacing the component, Operations decides it is best to bypass the VFD, which now has fans operating 24/7.

These examples have obvious implications to the facility’s bottom line and operating costs.

And taking the idea of preventive maintenance even further, businesses should plan for staff turnover. For example, if a system was installed 15 years ago, the likelihood of the same staff on site is low. Therefore, it is important to have all individuals trained on the equipment to understand standard maintenance operations.

Taking Preventive Maintenance Steps

So how can your business prevent fix-on-fail for DCKV systems and other equipment?

Discuss with manufacturers to see if preventative maintenance services are offered. The cost of a service is low compared to the potential savings that can be lost with a system not operating correctly. The goal is to have a company maximize its bottom line to become financially stable or, should I say, resilient.

Think of preventive maintenance actions as opportunities. Take advantage of the opportunity to complete a preventative maintenance service. This is the time to make adjustments to maximize efficiency and provide training to your team. All this assures your facility’s DCKV system is operating correctly to maximize comfort within the work environment.

We shall all remain hopeful and confident that through working together, we can ride out the roller coaster ride of COVID-19. Melink’s team of technicians is available to help with Intelli-Hood preventive maintenance or troubleshooting. Or maybe you’re wondering if it’s time to discuss a facility upgrade for your aging system. Contact us today.  

Specifying Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation Systems: Top 10 Best Practices

For many of us in the commercial kitchen ventilation industry, we have seen major evolutions in Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV) over the last 20+ years. Some have been good – codes once prohibiting automatic variable-speed fans now allow them and often even require them. And some have been bad – several manufacturers have gone down-market to the point their controls are saving very little energy if any at all.

Cook using DCKV with visual optics to adjust fan speeds based on his cooking activity.

The general trend has been positive though because DCKV is no longer a niche but a mainstream solution across the U.S. and increasingly around the world. Running exhaust and make-up air fans at 100% speed all day long regardless of the actual cooking load is antithetical in the sustainability and IoT age in which we now live. As buildings, cars, and everything else get smarter and more efficient, it is only logical that kitchen ventilation systems do as well.

As the original pioneer and market leader of DCKV since the early 1990’s, we at Melink Corporation want to continue helping building owners save energy – safely, cost-effectively, and efficiently. Having installed over 15,000 systems worldwide, we have assessed the most common problems in the marketplace and feel uniquely qualified to provide the following Top 10 Best Practices for specifiers.

TOP 10 BEST PRACTICES

1. Unless the foodservice consultant has knowledge and experience with fans and motors, he/she should consider letting the consulting engineer specify the hoods and DCKV system. The reason is, DCKV is a control system for the exhaust and make-up air fans on the roof. Though the kitchen hoods are ducted to these fans, they are comparatively simple stainless-steel boxes that only contain the rising heat and smoke from the cooking operations. The actual work of removing this heat and smoke is performed by the fans and motors on the roof along with their controls. Foodservice consultants, of course, provide a vital service in specifying the kitchen equipment below the ceiling, and this can still include the kitchen hoods and DCKV system if they have the requisite knowledge and experience of the rest of the ‘system’ above the ceiling. Otherwise, costly errors such as those described below are apt to occur.

2. The DCKV drives must match the fan motor ratings on the roof. If the foodservice consultant cannot obtain the voltage, phase, and frequency information from the ‘M’ drawings, or provide the fan package along with the hoods to ensure a proper match, the wrong drives can be specified and sent to the jobsite. This often causes frustration, time delays and extra costs. Moreover, the DCKV drives should come from tier 1, brand-recognizable manufacturers that have enough confidence in their product to offer a 3-year warranty. These highly sophisticated electronic devices are the beating heart of every DCKV system and therefore should not be selected based on low cost only. Performance and reliability should be the top consideration.

3. The DCKV system must be compatible with the make-up air heating (and cooling, if applicable) system. If the foodservice consultant does not communicate the minimum speed setting of the drives or provide the fan package with the hoods to ensure proper matching, the wrong type of make-up air system can be specified and sent to the jobsite. Not all make-up air systems are capable of heating and/or cooling at low-to-medium speeds and therefore the assumed energy savings by the foodservice consultant will not be achieved for his/her customer. This often causes frustration to everyone involved, and most importantly buyer angst and future bad-will because the purpose in he/she agreeing to buy the DCKV system was to maximize energy savings.

4. The specifier should weigh the risks vs benefits of adding modulating dampers inside the grease ducts for the following reasons: a) Dampers are obstructions inside grease ducts and such ducts are better designed to be completely open for the easy removal of heat and grease/smoke; b) These obstructions add resistance to airflow which force the fan motors to work harder and expend more energy, not less; c) Modulating dampers add another level of moving parts to the system which require regularly scheduled maintenance; d) These dampers are mounted inside the duct and above the ceiling where they are either likely to be damaged by hood cleaners or never seen again and maintained; e) When–not if–these dampers fail, the consequences can be serious if the heat and grease/smoke accumulate to the point of causing a fire; f) These dampers are often used in high-rise applications where only one duct can be run up to the roof and connected to one fan – making the consequences of a fire all the greater because there is more property and human life at stake; g) If more than one damper closes, the fan can cause such a severe negative pressure inside the grease duct that it collapses and renders the entire system unusable and in need of replacement (yes, we have seen this before). Most all engineers agree these risks are not worth the potential benefits.

Please see the photo below of a damper causing almost 100% blockage inside a grease duct. Also see the photo of a hood collar and fire suppression system coated in grease which can act like a ‘glue’ to the dampers above.

5. The engineer should design a dedicated exhaust fan for each kitchen hood whenever possible to improve reliability and energy savings. This allows each hood/fan system to operate independently according to the actual cooking load. It also eliminates the risks of a multi-hood system connected to a single fan which include the following: a) There is no redundancy in the event the single fan goes down due to a fan, motor, drive, or belt failure; b) There is no justification to use modulating dampers inside the grease ducts to achieve energy savings (see above).

6. The engineer or consultant should specify direct-drive fans whenever possible to further improve reliability and energy savings. In the old days, fan and motor pulleys and belts were used to adjust the fan speed to achieve the proper airflows during the original air balance. But today, the DCKV drives can be programmed for a minimum and maximum speed and thereby eliminate the need for these pulleys and belts. This improves reliability because belts are the infamous weak-link in most every HVAC system; and it improves energy savings because belts just create additional efficiency losses in the system.

7. The specifier should consider DCKV systems with both temperature and optic sensors for maximum energy savings on Type I hoods. This is because there are two main by-products of most cooking processes: heat and smoke/steam. If the DCKV system only senses heat, it will not quickly respond to a fast-rising plume of smoke/steam into the canopy. As a result, the hood will ‘spill’ this smoke/steam into the kitchen space and cause comfort, health, and other concerns. The typical way to counter this problem is to program the DCKV system at a high minimum speed of 80-90% with a low-temperature duct-stat so that the fans operate at 100% even with the slightest amount of heat. However, this eliminates most of the fan energy and conditioned air savings that your customers want during idle-cooking conditions.

We recommend both temperature and optic sensors–to detect both heat and smoke/steam. This allows the DCKV system to be programmed at a much lower minimum speed of 30-50% with a wider temperature span so that average fan speeds can be 60-80% and quickly go to 100% only when there is cooking smoke/steam present inside the hood. Though the optic sensor adds a slight cost premium, the additional operating savings will typically more than offset this cost within 1-2 years. If designed smartly, you will only need one optic sensor per hood, not one optic sensor per appliance. And if designed smartly, you will not have to worry about the optic sensor getting fouled with grease over time because it will be out of the air stream and protected by other capabilities (ie. air-purging, auto-calibrating) to ensure maximum energy savings each and every day.

Of course, if the cooking operations are mainly ovens and do not produce smoke/steam, then the optic sensors can be deleted from the specification to reduce first cost. But optic sensors would provide future flexibility in the event new and different appliances are installed. Moreover, optic sensors are fast-acting whereas temperature sensors are slow-acting, and this complementary combination makes for a safe and reliable control strategy. The lessons being learned from Boeing’s failure to use the right number and type of sensors as well as time-tested algorithms in its new 737Max airplanes are in some ways relevant to our industry. A first-cost obsession can be dangerous.

8. The specifier should be willing and able to logically argue against efforts to reduce the first cost of the DCKV system in the name of value-engineering. As indicated, we live in a world that often thinks in terms of first-cost only rather than total life-cycle cost. And this means that sometimes the optic sensors, if not the entire DCKV system, get value-engineered out of the specification. This is another reason why the consulting engineer is often better suited to specify the DCKV system. He/she is typically better able to make an informed argument to the architect and building owner that a well-engineered DCKV system is fundamental to the safety, health, comfort, and energy efficiency of a kitchen and these should not be compromised.

Having said this, we have also worked with highly-qualified foodservice consultants who have taken the time to learn the savings, costs, risks, and benefits of the various technologies and are just as capable of making this argument.

If a first-cost mindset continues to prevail, then the engineer or consultant should rely on the DCKV manufacturer to provide a comprehensive ‘energy savings report’ to show the expected financial payback and ROI based on the pertinent operating assumptions. The architect and building owner need to understand what they would give up in energy savings if they just install a code-minimum, auto on/off system. Fortunately, the world is increasingly trying to lower its carbon footprint – and this means maximizing energy savings, not just meeting code minimums for safety purposes.

9. Specify the DCKV system to be commissioned by the manufacturer or its trained/authorized representative for every installation prior to turnover to operations. It is our experience that too many systems have not been tested to ensure the owners will ever realize the energy savings they have been led to expect. Without this service, countless systems are operating at 100% speed all day long. We have found this problem at many locations where we are called to investigate as an independent commissioning firm. Invariably, the facilities managers state the systems have run this way for years. Verification and commissioning are essential.

10. Specify the DCKV system to have remote monitoring capabilities to ensure proper operation and energy savings for the life of the system. Like a car or any mechanical/electrical system, proper operation and performance are essential to ensuring a happy customer for life. And, therefore, remote monitoring is a highly beneficial and even necessary feature. Unfortunately, very few DCKV systems are equipped with this capability and so the specifier and the customer need to know which ones are and are not. In this day and age every facility manager should be able to ‘see’ how his/her systems are performing online.

If you follow these Top 10 Best Practices, you will not only save significantly more energy for your customers and the world at large, you will likely improve your reputation as an expert and be more successful in growing your business. At the least, be mindful that DCKV systems ‘touch on’ multiple professions and trades and therefore we encourage you to help promote good communication between the foodservice consultant and consulting engineer.

DCKV as a technology has grown leaps and bounds over the last 20+ years. We hope you and your customers fully benefit from all these advancements well into the future.

Contact us here or call us if you have any questions at 513-965-7300.

National Cut Your Energy Costs Day: Tips for Businesses

In the United States, January 10 is National Cut Your Energy Costs Day, a time that encourages people to look for ways to reduce energy usage and ultimately save on energy bills.

Melink offers five tips for businesses to cut their energy costs. Implement these solutions today to impact your business’ bottom line in the future!

Melink technician checking air flow in business for energy costs

Tip #1 — Ensure Your Building Has a Balanced Airflow

An air balance testing service is the process by which the performance of HVAC airflow is measured.  Once it is tested, the systems are then adjusted, or balanced, so that the air brought into a building is slightly greater than the air being pulled out of the building. The result is a comfortable, healthy indoor environment with an HVAC system that is optimized to perform efficiently. Read more air balance basics.

Keep in mind there are different degrees of air balance reports and you should choose an air balance contractor wisely. Not every balancing firm performs the same service or provides the same report at the end of the project. Hire a professional, certified firm like Melink Corporation.

Energy costs in busy commercial restaurant kitchens

Tip #2 — Conserve Energy in Commercial Kitchens

If your facility has a kitchen operation, this is an area where you can greatly reduce your operating costs, as well as occupant comfort. Consider installing a demand control kitchen ventilation (DCKV) system to control the variable speed of your kitchen’s exhaust fans.

Traditionally, kitchen exhaust fans run at 100% speed for constant periods of time.  With the addition of a variable speed system, like Melink’s Intelli-Hood®, fan speeds are reduced when cooking isn’t at its maximum. 

Dirty furnace filters can increase energy costs

Tip # 3 — Replace Used Furnace Filters

This may sound like a simple fix, but dirty furnace filters can lead to defective equipment, airflow issues, and ultimately higher energy bills. If a filter is clogged, airflow is reduced and the unit(s) will have to run longer to achieve the desired temperatures. Seasonally changing air filters within your building is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ways to ensure maximum airflow output.

Monitor your building for guests' comfort and to watch energy costs

Tip # 4 — Monitor Your Building

Monitor your building’s health BEFORE a costly issue develops, such as mold growth, high energy bills, safety issues, or comfort issues for occupants. Melink offers PositiV®, a standalone tool to monitor your building’s performance data. A small investment now can lead to a great reduction in future energy costs.

Rooftop HVAC Unit

Tip # 5 — Have a Replacement Plan

Whether your facility has an immediately aging HVAC unit or not, it’s important to plan for the future — especially with the phase-out of R-22. Emergency replacement, AKA “fix-on-fail,” is the costliest way to repair units. If you implement a proactive equipment replacement program, you can save approximately 70% per unit, which adds up to major energy cost savings.

National Cut Your Energy Costs Day may only happen once a year, but Melink offers energy-efficiency solutions for businesses year-round. With Melink, cut your commercial building’s energy costs. Contact us today at (513) 965-7300.

Determining if DCKV is Right for You?

When a customer is first debating if Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV) is right for their facility, there are multiple questions that come to mind. What is a good application for DCKV? What does it cost versus the lifetime payback? Does it actually slow fans down that much? What is the ability for service in the future?

All of these are valid questions. The most important thing is to partner with a company that works with your team to evaluate and determine what solution is best at the onset of reviewing the opportunity. In order to answer the above questions, the DCKV provider should be asking you the following at minimum:

  • What is the size of the hood(s) (Length X Width)?
  • What is the schedule of the exhaust fans, do they only run 8hrs/day, 12hrs, 24hrs?
  • What kind of equipment is underneath the hoods?
  • What are current utility rates for your area of the country?
  • Is there dedicated supply air to the kitchen space?

With this information the DCKV Manufacturer should be able to provide some advice.

What is a good application?

Four primary factors play a role in this answer. They include: utility rates, total fan horsepower (Exhaust + Supply), exhaust fan run hours and your geographic location.

The total horsepower is self-explanatory. The greater the HP the larger available savings. However, lower horsepower may not disqualify an application. If there is a total of 5hp between exhaust and supply, operating longer than 12hrs/day, with moderate utility rates of at least $0.08/kWh, DCKV systems can be a feasible savings opportunity.

Fan operating hours additionally play a role based on the savings, the longer the operations the greater savings. This type of savings can be compounded depending on the geographic location as significant conditioned air savings can be recognized. 

What does it a system cost versus the lifetime payback?

The cost of a system will vary based on the complexity as well as the selected technology. Two options are a temp only based system or one that incorporates additional optic sensors. Although a temp only based system may cost less, it is important to evaluate savings over the lifetime of equipment compared to a system that incorporates optics.

Assume a 12-year life cycle of equipment. For the sake of this discussion, we will evaluate the following scenario:

  • Single Hood (20ft long)                  –   24hr Fan Operation
  • 5hp Exhaust (5000cfm)                  –   $0.10kWh
  • 3hp Supply                                          –   $1.02therm
Cost Avg. Run Speed Annual Savings Simple Payback Lifetime Savings (12yrs)
Temp – Only $7,000 80.5% $3,502 2.0 yrs $42,024
Optics Based System $16,000 58% $7,865 2.0 yrs $94,380

As seen above the lifetime savings of an optic based system is greater than twice the amount of a temp-only based system. It is important for a DCKV partner to offer a solution best for the customer’s needs, perhaps a blended system would provide the largest amount of savings. For example, perhaps on a larger kitchen, there is significant savings opportunities for one or two of the hoods. However, another single hood has only a single pizza oven underneath, this is when it is important to partner with a manufacturer who has technologies that will maximize savings, such as auto-temp spans and scalability of their system.

Does it actually slow fans down that much?

In the savings example above there is a significant disparity between the average runs speeds of a Temp Only based system and that of a system including optics. When reviewing and selecting a DCKV system, it is important to have proven data of performance. Look for manufacturers that have case studies for their technologies, and significant volumes of measurement and verification. Every market sector is different regarding a 24hr average run speed. As a buyer do not hesitate to ask for examples of performance for your market being evaluated. You can also utilize third party publications such as Demand Ventilation in Commercial Kitchens An Emerging Technology Case Study, written by Fisher Nickel, Inc found here.

What is the ability for service this in the future?

One final important aspect to consider is what happens post installation. Commitment from a manufacturer to service over the lifetime of a system is very important. Does your DCKV partner go beyond the standard warranty? Certain manufacturers offer 24hr engineering technical service. Do they have a service network of technicians available to visit your site if needed? Another consideration is where would replacement parts be purchased from. Some manufacturers have components manufactured outside the United States which can delay delivery and in return create a headache for you to provide consistent service to your customers.

Another important focus on the future would be, what is the adaptability of the system? Everyone has seen a kitchen space eventually be remodeled and cooking equipment is swapped out for a new concept. Perhaps there is increased heat from this equipment change, so can the originally selected system adapt to this change? Certain manufacturers have temperature probes that area initially calibrated at startup based on initial equipment. On the other hand, Melink Corporation’s Intelli-Hood, offers an Auto-Temp span, that self-calibrates, and spans based on trends of continuous data points and monitoring therefore, an equipment change resulting in an increase or decrease in heat load will be recognized and self-adjusted for maximum savings.

How to decide what works for you.

In closing, there are many important variables to consider when selecting a product including DCKV. To some, upfront cost is a primary concern, and to many other end users the most important may be what happens over the life of the system. “Will the manufacturer provide me support?” and more importantly “How much will this save me over time?” Many of us are always saving for our retirement, perhaps now is the time to invest in the savings that are available within your kitchen. Personally, I would love to save double that over a lifetime of a system for a product with the same initial payback.

The Culprit of Corporate Cafeteria Energy Consumption

Corporate cafeterias have taken off over the last decade, and the trend is not slowing. Businesses and building owners have been adding new cafeterias or expanding current ones to help with recruitment of the millennial generation, boost employee retention and satisfaction, and establish a more inviting work environment. While providing a value to employees, cooperate cafeterias are one of the largest operation costs within the building. After all, food service areas account for the highest energy cost per square foot in the commercial building sector.

Cafeteria Energy Consumption Culprit:
THE KITCHEN VENTILATION SYSTEM

The expansion of cafeterias and new cooking techniques create new challenges for kitchen design, code compliance, and added ventilation among other things. A commercial building’s HVAC system accounts for about 29% of energy consumption, and up to 75% of the HVAC energy consumption is contributed to the kitchen hood ventilation system. Kitchen hoods normally run at 100% fan speed from open to close — sometimes even running for 24 hours a day. Even during slow hours of operation, the system is continuously running at 100%. Any time the fan is on, the kitchen hood’s exhaust fans are pulling perfectly good conditioned air out of the building. At the same time, the makeup air unit is trying to respond to this and is heating/cooling the air to redistribute it back into the kitchen. It is a vicious cycle of wasted energy and wasted money.

Solution:
DEMAND CONTROL KITCHEN VENTILATION (DCKV)

DCKV systems utilize optic and/or temperature sensors to actively modulate the exhaust and make up air fans based on the cooking activity within the fume hood. So what does this mean? If your kitchen has downtime and there is no active cooking, the fans will automatically lower their run speed to conserve energy. As cooking starts, fan speed will rev up appropriately until it hits the maximum speed of 100%, if necessary. This allows the highest energy savings, as well as increased comfort and safety for building occupants. DCKV is also easy to implement. It is a low-cost project that is equally effective in new construction or retro-fit during remodels. Savings from installing DCKV can be used to accelerate your payback for the addition of your corporate kitchen, making the cost of the kitchen less.

Interested in seeing how DCKV could benefit your company or commercial building? Contact us for a free energy savings report to see just how much you could save!

Higher Education Taking Action Against Climate Change

Climate change has been a hot topic recently, and higher education is taking note and taking action. While hundreds of schools have already made pledges to increase sustainability across their campus, 13 schools are taking the lead and taking it a step farther. At this year’s 2018 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit, 13 North American research universities launched the University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3, a group committed to implementing green initiatives into their own campuses and leveraging their research and experience to help others do the same. For over a decade, these universities have been researching innovative ways to reduce energy consumption, and educating students on how to combat climate challenges that are quickly approaching, but now they taking it a step further to spread this expertise to accelerate change through all of higher education.

Colleges and Universities that have committed to take action on climate change
Colleges and Universities that have committed to take action on climate change. Source: Secondnature.org

As the first school listed on the Campus Carbon Neutrality commitment, Cornell University paved the way. They have made continual efforts to implement Energy Conservation Initiatives (ECI), committing $33M towards ECI’s over a recent 5-year period. The Ohio State University established goals to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to reduce total campus building energy consumption by 25%. Both of these schools have found ways to lessen their carbon footprint by implementing various sustainability practices and products campus wide. Reducing energy use in existing buildings have been an ongoing initiative by both universities focusing on modernizing building envelopes, implementation of building automation and control systems, heat recovery and lighting systems. Cornell states projects they’ve implemented to date have had a return on investment of five to seven years.

Intelli-Hood controls at Kennedy Center at The Ohio State University.
Intelli-Hood controls at Kennedy Center at The Ohio State University. Source: osu.edu

A place that can often be overlooked, but has a great impact, is the ventilation system in campus kitchens. With the demand of long hours to accommodate various student schedules, and high volume because of the dense population, campus kitchens tend to run a majority of the day. Depending where the university is located, various local and state codes may require fans to operate 24/7 if the site utilizes gas pilots on kitchen equipment which remain on overnight. The HVAC systems account for 29% of the energy consumption of a food service area, with up to 75% of this load able to be attributed to the commercial kitchen ventilation system.

Melink is the innovator of Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV) with the Intelli-Hood® system. Both Cornell University and The Ohio State University found the benefit of utilizing dckv systems across a majority of their kitchens. Using Intelli-Hood®, systems operate at a lower overall fans speed average. In an average day, the Melink Intelli-Hood system can recognize up to a 45% reduction in fan speeds equivalent to approximately 83% electrical fan energy savings. Additionally, this reduced operation results in a decrease of load demand of surrounding HVAC equipment providing additional conditioned air savings that can be recognized.

Lodging’s Consumer Dining Trends and Your HVAC System

Since 2010, the hotel landscape has changed drastically due to the emergence of Millennials in the marketplace. The days of long-term consistency, home-away-from-home value, and a friendly face at check-in are things of the past, and we are now seeing the need for hotel hot spots that are personalized, efficient, connected and trendy. The transformation makes hotels get creative in filling revenue discrepancies created by the quickly changing landscape, focusing more than ever on operational costs.

The change in buying power

Prior to 2010, the “Baby-Boomers” generation dominated occupancy demands. When Boomers were the bulk of the lodging customer base, focus was on consistency, more value for the customer’s dollar, a big screen TV, consistent food and beverage offerings, and a friendly, personalized check-in experience. Today, Millennials are all about Individualism, efficiency, mobile connectivity, creative and trendy food and beverage offerings, and online check-in. Due to this demand shift, along with the cost to build and the ever-changing consumer marketplace, developers are becoming more focused on the development of limited brand hotels. As of June 2017, “Upscale” and “Upper Mid-Scale” represent roughly 65% of all new build hotels.

In response to the change in customer wants and needs, hotels have majorly changed their strategy. Hilton developed the Tru® brand in response to these changes to make it easier and less expensive for developers to build. Marriott is doing an over-haul of their Courtyard® brand to create a hybrid solution to please guests from both generations. Previously, if you’d go to a major brand hotel on the east coast or the west coast, you could get the same exact cheeseburger. Those days are over! Hotels must now bring in local food and beverage options to not only keep customers eating at the hotels, but to provide a truly exceptional experience every time. A satisfied customer is no longer enough in any market today. With social media and other technologies, there’s now a need to “wow” customers. A good dining experience isn’t enough, it needs to be one of the best dining experiences they’ve ever had!

What does this mean for revenue?
In a recent article published by Lodging Magazine, Food and Beverage (F&B) profit margins are up roughly 5% since 2010, yet food purchases only rose by a CAGR of 2.3%. The two sources that continue to decline for F&B are “In-Room Dining” and “Mini-Bar” sales, which is consistent with the new emphasis of providing a unique social experience in hotel lobbies. Considering the decline in food purchases and the ever-changing marketplace, it is hard to imagine lodging has seen a 5% increase in F&B profit margins.

So how do all these items tie together and make for increased profit margins? How have the hotel management companies been able to make all these changes in a short amount of time and still increase profits? How can profit margins be up when we all know an ever-changing menu would make it harder to negotiate prices at a high-volume? It’s not one simple answer but I’ve personally seen the major management companies stepping up their game and working smarter. Revenue increases can’t be the main driver for the success. The operational efficiencies are where the differences are made!

Changing energy consumption is key

Electrical consumption for the typical US hotel is 50% in HVAC and 23% in lighting. Within food service facilities, HVAC systems account for 29% of energy consumption. Up to 75% of this load can be attributed to the commercial kitchen ventilation system. At Melink, we’ve seen many owners in the last 2 to 3 years begin installing a Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV) system in their kitchens to help lower operational costs and solve the ever-plaguing negative air pressure issues. With the help of these owners and major brands, we’ve also developed technologies to help solve this in the ever-growing Select Service markets. Many of these projects have been packaged with LED lighting to solve 73% of the problem (per the chart below). This allows the hotel owner to take advantage of the available utility incentives, increase profit margins in the changing F&B market, show an attractive ROI to the owner, help solve air pressure issues in common spaces, and increase overall guest comfort.

If there’s one thing that’s true in this industry, it’s that change is inevitable! Management companies, owners, brands, developers, and vendors have two options: change with the market or get left behind. I’m happy to report that most of the major players are making smart and energy-conscious decisions that are ultimately improving their bottom line and increasing guest loyalty and satisfaction.