Disposing of used vegetable oil has always been an issue in the mobile food industry. In recent years it has gotten easier with the increasing demand for biodiesel. Now many food trucks and commercial kitchens depend on free pickup services by biodiesel companies as a convenient and cheap way to dispose of their waste fryer oil. Some even pay to have it hauled away.
But what if you could take that oil and use it to help yourself or your commercial kitchen to save money, instead of just giving it away? The Vegawatt power system uses vegetable oil to generate electricity and pre-heat water going to your water heater. It’s a self-contained unit that doesn’t require any special skills. It’s as simple as adding your oil, and cleaning the unit from time to time.
The savings on your kitchen’s electricity and hot water bills can be significant. Vegawatt says the unit can save a business about $800 a month in electricity bills, although that does include a $100 per month renewable energy rebate from local government, which may or may not exist in your area. Smaller operators probably don’t generate enough oil to take advantage of the Vegawatt power system, and the company recommends the machine for establishments that have 3 – 5 deep fryers and generate at least 50 gallons of waste oil a week. If you truck fleet does or your commissary or shared use kitchen generate that much oil, you can realize a return on investment in 2 – 3 years.
Your used vegetable oil is now worth a lot more to you if you keep over giving it or selling it to a biodiesel company or paying to dispose of it. It’s pretty amazing what a little ingenuity can do for a lifelong problem in the restaurant business. Of course, there is some up-front investment required here, something that doesn’t sound very appealing, especially in a tight economy. Vegawatt does offer a leasing program as well, and you’ll be saving more than the cost of the monthly lease. So even if you own a single food truck and work out of a commercial kitchen, speak with your landlord. They may be able to install this system, and at the same time, offer you a discount rate on your rent, or even a cut on the profits they make from installing a Vegawatt system.