Feature Article

Can Commercial Kitchens Go Electric?

An all-electric commercial kitchen offers potential energy and carbon savings over using natural gas, but making the switch can be complicated—and even controversial.

All-electric kitchens use induction cooktops and other energy-efficient equipment.

A smart, well-designed all-electric kitchen will likely contain energy efficient appliances that are not common in all commercial kitchens, such as induction cooktops, combination ovens, and rapid-cook ovens.

Photo: Frontier Energy
Filled with large appliances, sinks, fans, ductwork, and hard surfaces, a commercial kitchen is not exactly the type of space that inspires high design. Kitchens are defined by function and food. It’s no wonder they have long been afterthoughts to design teams. But for those looking to reduce their buildings’ carbon footprints, kitchens have become a priority.

Commercial kitchens are one of the most energy-intensive building spaces, consuming approximately five times the energy per square foot of a standard office.

A kitchen’s carbon problem is not just from the CO2 emitted during combustion. Kitchen appliances are often powered by natural gas (methane), whose global warming potential is 28 times higher than that of CO2. As a result, the environmental impact from using natural gas expands beyond the kitchen doors. U.S. emissions from leaks, abandoned wells, and other life-cycle impacts account for millions of additional tons of methane entering the atmosphere annually.

It’s no wonder that San Francisco and other jurisdictions are banning or restricting the use of natural gas in new construction. But switching to an all-electric kitchen is no easy feat, and in some cases may not even make sense for the owner. Cost, infrastructure, ventilation, water consumption and heating, food choices, chef preferences, and cultural differences can all play a role in helping decide whether an all-electric kitchen will work for your next project.

Published November 9, 2020

Ehrlich, B. (2020, October 22). Can Commercial Kitchens Go Electric?. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/feature/can-commercial-kitchens-go-electric