A Thriftier Kitchen Helper is on the Way

Restaurants, cafeterias, and commercial kitchens everywhere will soon get help saving water and energy under a new proposal just announced by the Department of Energy (DOE). A new standard is being proposed for the efficiency of pre-rinse spray valves, the lowly hand-held fixture that is widely used to rinse off plates, trays, pots, and silverware with hot water as commercial dishwashers are loaded up. The new standards will reduce both energy and water use by an estimated 9%, while adding no measurable cost to the purchase price of a new spray valve. Owners are expect to save between $70 and $80 per valve each year compared to the cost of operating an existing valve meeting today's less stringent standard. If finalized by the end of this year as expected, the standard would cover all new valves sold beginning in 2019. Pre-rinse valves have an estimated life of about 5 years, so the more efficient new valves will quickly replace those currently in use as old valves are removed.

In this proposal, DOE is dividing pre-rinse spay valves into three separate product classes based on the type of application (e.g., light duty, standard duty, heavy duty), which is something NRDC recommended for consideration. This allows for spray valves dedicated to heavy-duty use, such as rinsing pots with baked on food, to operate with significantly more water than is needed for light duty applications, such as rinsing cafeteria trays. The recommended performance levels for the light- and heavy-duty classes are the maximum that DOE finds to be technically feasible, while the performance level for the standard-duty class is just slightly above the "max tech" level. The pay-back period for valves meeting the new standards is immediate, because DOE found that increasing efficiency did not result in increased product costs, only lower operating costs for commercial kitchen operators.

The cumulative reduction in CO2 emissions through 2030 from this new standard amounts to 1.83 metric tons, which DOE estimates to equal the emissions resulting from the annual electricity use of about 251,719 homes, and represents another small step toward President Obama's goal of 3 billion tons of carbon pollution reduction by 2030.

DOE will hold a public meeting on the proposed rule in Washington on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Written comments will be due in late August, with the specific deadline to be set 60 days of the publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register.

About the Authors

Ed Osann

Director, National Water Use Efficiency, Water Initiatives, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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