Green Cooking Solutions for En-Suite Hospitality Kitchenettes
By Suzanne Owens Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Kenyon International, Inc. | May 12, 2019
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 new technologies offered in 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, now that the great recession has been eclipsed by a sustained growth cycle, the latest generation of innovative cooktop products is gaining acceptance and traction and offers the utmost in user and facility safety and energy 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 radiant type with knob control. The marketplace has traditionally offered 2-burner radiant 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 physical contact of the burner to the cooking vessel, and are recognized by the familiar orange or red glow observed with applied heat. The cost differential between the coil units and the ceramic models has faced numerous challenges, and over the last fifteen years, 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 fifteen 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 argument towards socially responsible and 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.
Hob and Coil cooktops, in review, were around before the words green and sustainable were part of the daily operating vocabulary of a hotel. The hob cooktop is identified by the cast iron solid burner, while the coil type feature the old familiar circular rings or spirals of steel attached to the base of the cooktop through a plug-in connection. The hob and steel coil, not being protected in any way from the elements, can quickly rust and corrode, especially in high ambient humidity. The plug-in connection of the coil type is also prone to corrosion, which will prevent the proper operation of the heating element.
This usually means replacement of these parts 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, both the hob and coil cooktops deteriorate quickly under service and require long and tedious cleaning, parts, and maintenance. In addition, the coil burner type does not transfer the radiant 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 socially responsible or sustainable choice nor is it 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. The benefits of the smooth top ceramic cooktops are well documented by green gurus and field tested and proven by hospitality developers, owners and operators.
Coil cooktops present a false economy, given the post-purchase operating costs. Now in the years following the great recession, the vast majority of the cooktops specified and installed in extended stay hospitality are knob controlled radiant ceramic types at the minimum, but increasingly gaining a larger percentage of the installed units are the digital touch control radiant cooktops, and beginning to emerge as the superior technology are the induction cooktops.
Based on their sustainability and value added features, in the past 15 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
Using a figure of 20 minutes per room to replace the malfunctioning coil element and drip pans and test cook top x 100 rooms = 33.3 hours labor x $80.00 hr./labor = Savings in Maintenance Expense of $2,664.00
Using a figure of 6 minutes per cook top to clean the coil unit vs. 1 minute to clean a ceramic cook top = 5 minutes daily x 100 rooms = 8.33 hours per day x 365 days per year = 3,042 hours labor x $15.00 hr./labor = Savings in Housekeeping Expense of $45,630.00
Grand Total – Estimated Minimum Annual Savings per 100-key Extended Stay Property: $53,294.00
In addition to the above definable and measureable costs, the savings regarding lower electricity consumption due to higher appliance efficiency is significant with rising electric rates. Further savings are realized with less time spent ordering replacement parts and coordinating maintenance, fewer cleaning product costs, and savings on intangible expenses as lower insurance costs due to increased safety!
Another structural advantage of the smooth top ceramic cooktops is their overall compact size occupying a smaller countertop footprint compared to the coil models. Furthermore, these "trimline" size ceramic cooktops are shallow in depth. This maximizes the efficiency of the space utilization in the kitchenette and allows for cabinetry drawers underneath the cooktop or installation of the cooktop over refrigerators or dishwashers, provided space clearances are met as detailed in the manufacturer's product manuals.
In the past few years, proponents of sustainability have also found synergistic benefits yielding enhanced safety with many of the new innovative products being introduced into the marketplace. An example of that in 2-burner electric cooktops are the new generation of smooth top touch control radiant models, which builds upon the green strengths of the smooth top knob control ceramic cooktops already discussed above. These new models are equipped with digital touch control operation, which allows for simple clean-up of the cooktop and countertop simultaneously, without obstructing knobs. In addition, user safety is enhanced with a built-in automatic shut-off feature. This safety feature is also an asset to the fire protection plan of the facility.
At the same time, consolidating this feature into the touch control cooktop represents a simplification and cost savings over the smooth top knob control ceramic and coil cooktops, as external timers are no longer required to turn the cooktops off when/if they are left unattended. The automatic shut-off is preprogrammed into the touch control cooktop and varies with the heat setting, and will not activate unless the touch control cooktop is unattended for a given amount of time according to the model specifics.
And as in the previous cooktop generation, where the upcharge of the ceramic cooktops was offset by the value added features and energy efficiency over the coil predecessor, the upcharge of the touch control cooktops is offset by the elimination of the separate external timer, plus the labor cost to wire in a separate device. The result is a much cleaner installation with one appliance that cooks and unobtrusively acts as sentry managing the fire risk exposure to the user and facility.
Another safety feature afforded by the new touch control cooktops are a safety lock-out feature, which prevents the cooktop from being turned "on" or "off" accidentally by small children or animals that may jump up on the digital touch pad of the cooktop surface. Touch control radiant ceramic cooktops also allow for precise heat control and reproducible cooking cycles producing cooking satisfaction and enjoyment for the casual cook or culinary professional. And best of all, there are no special cookware requirements, as the technology is based on radiant transfer of energy, compared to the specialty induction type cooktops.
More recently, the new generation of compact 2-burner cooktops based upon induction technology is taking up residence at the inn. These induction cooktops offer even higher operating efficiencies of nearly 90%. And there is no need for built-in automatic shut-off as the heat is not generated by the burner at the surface, but rather through the excitement of electrons in the cooking vessel, where the heat is produced to cook the food. If the cooking vessel is not in contact with the electromagnetic generator under the ceramic panel, the cooktop is not using energy and is in resting mode.
This feature exponentially improves the social responsibility not only from a sustainability viewpoint but also from a safety and risk management approach. The limiting factor, as in any new technology, is the equipment cost, which is higher than the radiant counterparts on the market. Added too is the requirement for cookware that possesses a ferrous component, so that it will react to the electromagnetic field to cook the food.
A large majority of the stainless steel cookware on the market, while not marketed for induction, is compatible as the stainless steel is contaminated with iron. A simple check with a magnet can determine suitability. Lastly, the surface is easy to clean as there are no knobs, and one manufacturer provides a high-temperature silicone mat over the induction cooking surface to catch and contain spills and boil-overs.
In summary, each new generation of cooktop…radiant coil, smooth top knob and touch control radiant ceramic, and now induction cooktops have successively reduced or eliminated externally wired timers, cleaning time, user maintenance, and replacement parts, while at the same time have increased energy efficiency and/or enhanced user and facility safety.
The upcharges for these technological advancements results in overall lower costs based on simplification and efficiencies of operation. The drive to "green" cooking appliances is an economically viable option even under perceived budget cost overruns, and rewards the developer, owner, operator, guest and facility with safe, socially responsible and sustainable cooking appliances.
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