26th Aug 2014

Gasket maintenance for your commercial kitchen equipment is imperative in saving costs and preventing food product loss. In this episode, Doug Hall shares the importance of maintaining your gaskets, how you can do so, and when is it time to call in the professionals.

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Hot points:

[0:42] Function of a gasket
[1:12] How cold gaskets function
[1:40] Maintaining gaskets
[2:55] What to do about torn or damaged gaskets
[3:48] Recommended schedule for maintaining gaskets
[4:39] When you should call in a professional
[5:41] Savings of having a Preventive Maintenance Program in place and what it includes
[6:31] Costs of not having gaskets properly maintained
[8:00] Hot side costs
[9:02] Impact of heat loss on food loss

Today we’re going to be talking about gaskets and sharing the importance of maintaining your gaskets for a multitude of reasons … and maybe Doug can share with us some ideas on what you can do on your own before calling in a service professional and in the process saving yourself some money.

So Doug, I’m going to hand this over to you and ask you to share some of the benefits of maintaining your gaskets, what to look for, any red flags, etc. So I’m going to let you take it from here.

Ok, thanks Michele. The first thing we have to do probably have to do is break down the world of gaskets into the hot side and the cold side. So, let’s talk a little about the cold side of gaskets first.

The function of a gasket, whether it’s hot or cold, is to keep either cold in or cold out or heat in or heat out, depending on the piece of equipment. But they also keep vermin out or pests in or out. They keep air in or out of products. So they offer a very vital role in the preservation of food, in the operation of the equipment and it’s critical to maintain them in very good condition.

So let’s talk a little bit about the cold side gaskets. So obviously the cold gaskets are going to provide a seal between the door and the appliance itself. And that seal operates under a bit of a vacuum. So that once the gasket is seated correctly – the door is seated correctly – the seal is made and it keeps the cold in and it keeps vermin and insects out.

So what can you to do on your own to make sure [gaskets are properly maintained]? Visually inspect them. Take a look at the gaskets and make sure that they are in tack; make sure that they aren’t torn – they often get torn.

Make sure that they are clean. One of the things that most service companies won’t do, is that they will not clean your gaskets. But because of the sealing nature of the gaskets – they tend to have crevices and ridges. And in those crevices and ridges collect things like grease or dust. That then becomes a wonderful playground for bacteria and mold.

So, the most important thing that a food establishment can do for their cold side gaskets is to make sure that they are clean. And I would recommend just warm soap and water and a rag and have somebody clean the gaskets.

There’s nothing more gross than seeing a gasket that is caked with gunk and grime because that just doesn’t look right; and health inspectors don’t really like to see that. So, that’s about the best thing that a foodservice establishment can do for daily or weekly preventive maintenance on their gaskets.

If they’re torn or damaged, or if there is a gap between the gasket and the door it could mean that the gasket needs to be replaced. It could mean that the door needs to be readjusted. And for those things you probably should call a service company because gaskets are a pain in the neck to replace and leveling or adjusting a door is also something that requires tools and a little bit of patience… Well most restaurant establishments are way too busy for that kind of a thing. So that you should call a technician for.

You said, daily or weekly, so what kind of schedule do you think would be best for people to be on to maintain their gaskets before they have to call on a service professional to do replacements or repairs … or anything like that?

Well I would say for the cold-side gaskets, I would this would be a perfect Monday activity. Monday tends to be a slower day, certainly in the retail restaurant environment. And so, this would be a perfect test to assign a cleaning crew to cover on a Monday when the doors are not opening and closing as much, and there’s not a lot of traffic in the restaurant.

But this would be a perfect Monday thing to do once a week. If you’re in a very high traffic environment, one where you’re operating daily, then I would recommend trying to perform this kind of cleaning perhaps even as often on a daily basis. But do that with the night shift cleaning that does come in and clean and have them focus on this as a responsibility.

Any time you see a disconnect between a gasket and the body of a refrigerator, or freezer, or walk-in box, that’s a time to call a service company because in a simple way if you’re covered under a preventive maintenance agreement, probably adjusting the door hinges and reseating the door is probably included in the preventive maintenance program. You can wait until then. But call them in because the amount of energy loss and the amount of risk that you have by not having that gasket not seated properly is great and there’s no reason to do that.

So, torn gasket, gasket not seated correctly, call your service company and have them come in and adjust that.

OK, great so real quick. I wanted to talk also about the PM program and maybe you can share a little bit about the benefits of having one compared to a company that doesn’t currently have a PM program and what are they saving in having a PM program in place?

So, there’s savings on both sides. But the bigger return on investments on the cold side preventive maintenance – at least as it relates to gaskets … oh now, you know what? Check that. The hot side you can actually ruin a lot of food as well.

So let’s talk about what a PM program can do. A PM program almost always includes adjustments of the doors and the hinges to make sure the doors are seated properly … And make sure that the gaskets are sealing properly.

And it almost always includes inspection of the gaskets. And in some cases, depending on how customized your program is or how customized you want it to be, you can actually have your service company include replacement of the gaskets to make sure that they are in good condition.

But here’s what happens. Commercial refrigeration is designed to run probably 10-12 hours per day. And without proper seal on the gaskets, very often, the compressor or the main engine of commercial refrigeration or freezer equipment runs as much as 15-18 hours per day versus the 10-12 that it is supposed to.

That may not seem like a big deal, but here in New York City where energy costs range and certainly hover around $.25/kilo watt hour, that extra 5-8 hours worth of commercial refrigeration running, and that’s per 1 horsepower compressor, will cost a restaurant establishment $1100 or more per year guaranteed. So, if your gaskets are not seating correctly and you’re basically just leaking cold air into a hot environment, then you’re actually spending $1100 per year, per horsepower compressor.

If you have 10 or 15 or 20 pieces of refrigeration in your kitchen, well do the math. Think about how much your energy bill grows by not having those gaskets seat correctly. Having a PM program that can identify that, it’s really pennies on the dollar compared to what you’re going to save in energy costs.

Let’s talk a little about the hot side. So on the hot side it’s not that critical of a deal that energy is leaking out. Gas prices are not as crazy as the refrigeration prices are in terms of electricity. But I will tell there’s food crisis and once you have a gasket or door that’s not seated correctly on a piece of hot-side equipment, you’re going to leak out of that area.

And the way that that works is heat obviously flows from high heat to low heat. So you’re going to have a heat drain in that area where the gasket or door is not seated right. That’s going to give you a cold spot in your oven? What does that mean?

That means you’re going to have to rotate your trays and your pans almost constantly in order to get even cooking on your product. It’s a nightmare if you’re baking. But, it’s equally brutal when you’re cooking meat or cooking vegetables.

You’re going to have an incredible amount of food loss. You’re going to have to back corners of the oven are going to burn product and the front corners of the oven is going to have product that’s under-cooked. You’ll going to get the middle section that may be just about right.

So there are places we have seen that in essence one third of the food product is useable and cooked correctly, one third in the back is burnt, and one third in the front is underdone and then dries out when you try to cook it longer.

And so imagine throwing out two-thirds of your food product and saving one third. That’s catastrophic expense. That’s the kind of thing on the hot side where people don’t realize where there are sneaky costs that come in.

Yeah, it doesn’t seem like you’re throwing out a lot of string beans. Or doesn’t seem like you’re throwing out that first cut of prime rib or the first row of biscuits. But if you add that up over 365 days, that’s a lot of money that you’re losing on a hot-side gasket. And a PM can catch that and should catch that for you.

So definitely a lot to think about absolutely. So thank you so much Doug for sharing with us some things they can do to maintain the gaskets and at what point they really should be calling a specialist and why they should have a PM in place to make sure that everything is running properly.

So thanks for listening in and don’t forget to visit us at TekExpressNY.com and get onto our mailing list periodic tips, resources and foodservice industry news. Your partner in foodservice equipment repair signing off for now, take care.

Bye bye.

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