Cooking Up Sustainable Appliances

By Suzanne Owens Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Kenyon International, Inc. | May 17, 2015

Through the years, design and construction professionals have sought the best innovative products for hospitality construction, however, the challenges to contain per key building costs for extended stay hospitality has limited acceptance of advanced products and competed with the best efforts of green practitioners to select sustainable cooktops. The great recession presented new pressures on next generation products with built-in safety features. Fortunately, with the recovery well underway, the latest generation of innovative cooktop products is gaining acceptance and traction and offers the utmost in user and facility safety and efficiency.

Cooktops are manufactured and classified by construction type and method of heat energy transfer. The specific type used for extended stay hospitality, resorts with kitchenettes, and time-share lock-outs has traditionally been of the compact electric 2-burner type with knob control. The marketplace has traditionally offered 2-burner cooktops in either the coil, sometimes referred to as calrod, or the smooth top ceramic variety. Both of these deliver the heat by radiant transfer of energy from the burner to the cooking vessel. The cost differential between the coil units and the ceramic models has faced numerous challenges, and over the last decade, the delta between the two has narrowed, due to raw material costs of the cooktop components. Furthermore, the features, advantages, and benefits of the smooth top ceramic cooktops far outweigh the initial cost advantage of the coil type units; although this cost differential is not as great as it was 10 years ago. In the final analysis, these ceramic cooktop value added features have promoted their use from "upgrade" to "brand standard" in the product selection process. The movement towards sustainable hotel construction is reinforced by the ceramic cooktop savings over their coil counterparts, as after-purchase savings are realized from greatly reduced maintenance, significant decrease of replacement parts purchases, and higher energy efficiencies of 10-15% over the coil models.

Coil cooktops, in review, were around before the words green and sustainable were part of the daily operating vocabulary of a hotel. They feature the old familiar circular rings or spirals of steel attached to the base of the cooktop through a plug-in connection. The steel coil, not being protected in any way from the elements, can rust and corrode, especially in high ambient humidity. The plug-in connection is also prone to corrosion, which will prevent the proper operation of the heating coil. This usually means replacement of the element on an annual basis, or more frequently, due to failure at the connection due to corrosion. In addition, the drip pans become messy and corroded and need to be replaced. Protective disposable aluminum pans are available to shield the drip pans, but they are only a temporary measure. Taken together, the coil cooktop requires long and tedious cleaning, parts, and maintenance. In addition, the coil does not transfer the heat efficiently – about 65% - due to the irregular surface upon which the cooking vessel rests - or wobbles.

All of this adds up to wasted resources and extra costs. And as electric costs continue to escalate, small differences in operating efficiency are no longer a trivial comparison. From time to time, the argument resurfaces for a return to obsolete coil cooktops when project cost overruns are anticipated, but this false economy is neither a sustainable choice or advantageous to the operating costs of the building – in other words, it is not "green" from an environmental or fiscal perspective. Unfortunately, during the great recession, a few unflagged properties relaxed the rules and even some of the flags permitted a return to coil cooktops, however, this was still the exception and not widespread even under budget pressures, as the benefits of the smooth top ceramic cooktops are well documented by green guru's and field tested and proven by hospitality developers, owners and operators. Coil cooktops present a false economy, given the post-purchase operating costs.

Based on their sustainability and value added features, in the past 10 years +/-, ceramic cooktops have been the established "green" standard for extended stay hospitality, resorts with kitchenettes, and time-share lock-outs. This is attributable to their easy-to-clean smooth surface, absence of replacement parts excluding knobs, reduced maintenance needs, and savings from better energy efficiencies of 75-80% due to the enhanced transfer of energy from the cooktop surface to the bottom of the cooking vessel.

As an example, consider the typical minimum savings of a 100-key extended stay property using smooth top 2-burner ceramic cooktops in place of coil "calrod" cooktops:
Projected Annual Property Cost Savings Calculation:
Using a figure of $50 per room per year to replace malfunctioning coil elements and corroded unsightly drip pans = Replacement Parts Savings of $5,000.00

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