This Hardee’s restaurant, part of a chain of the largest privately owned franchisee of Hardee’s nationwide, overcame water heater problems with the installation of a new unit that maintains an ample supply of 160°F water for dishwashing and other cleanup chores.

Replacing “like-for-like” is practically standard operating procedure in the world of commercial water heaters. If a piece of equipment has met the demand for hot water until the “twilight” of its career, why monkey around with something different? Source a fresh version of what’s already in place, have it installed and get back to business-as-usual ASAP - right? Not so fast!

When it finally came time to replace the heat pump water heater at the Hardee’s restaurant at Azalea Plaza in Wilmington, NC, management knew that a “like-for-like” replacement strategy was not the best choice. “We are receptive to innovative technologies, especially if they will yield greater energy efficiency,” explained Rick Hammock, director of facilities management at Boddie-Noell Enterprises in Rocky Mount, NC. Boddie-Noell is the largest privately owned franchisee of Hardee’s nationwide, with 306 locations in four Southeastern states.

However, the search for something new and more energy efficient was not the main driver in Hammock’s decision-making process. The old heat pump heater was efficient enough; it just wasn’t effective, routinely failing to provide enough hot water during periods of peak demand.

The dreaded post-lunch letdown

The shortfall in performance was especially glaring in the hour or so following the lunch-time rush when the restaurant’s staff was busily washing pots, pans, and dishes, as well as cleaning the floors in anticipation of the evening traffic. “We often had to wait for the heat pump unit to recover before we could begin those cleanup chores,” said regional facilities manager Pete Colletti, whose area of responsibility encompasses the Wilmington Hardee’s.

In consultation with Richard Pettyjohn of RepSouth, the North Carolina sales agent for Rheem Water Heating, Hammock chose to install something completely different: an Eclipse Commercial Electric Water Heater, with an input of 24 kW, 85 gal of storage, and a recovery capacity of 124 gal with a 80°F rise in temperature. Beyond these specifications, Hammock was attracted by the Eclipse’s 10-yr tank warranty.

The 10-yr protection stems from the construction of the unit’s seamless, blow-molded polyethylene tank that prevents the kinds of rust and corrosion that can sharply curtail the operational lives of conventional water heaters. Because it is nonferrous, the tank needs no corrosion-fighting anode rod, which averts any potential odor problems due to the chemical makeup of the local water supply.

A raising of the eyebrows

Boddie-Noell’s openness to new technologies made it receptive to the Eclipse, although Hammock said, “I raised my eyebrows at first” at the unit’s dent-resistant, molded polyethylene outer jacket. “But I have come to see this feature as another plus.

“A restaurant offers many challenges where the water heater’s exterior. The polymer jacket seems to be more durable than the typical metal exterior,” he continued. “With this in mind, I don’t see corrosion being a problem.” Hammock added that the unit’s comparatively light weight - 165 lbs - made it easier to handle during installation.

However, the top benefit of the new water heater is found in its ability to meet the restaurant’s hot-water demand. Boddie-Noell contracts with EcoSure Audits to visit its restaurants every four months “to assure we are maintaining the highest standards of the restaurant industry,” said Hammock. One of the key checks performed by EcoSure involves measuring the temperature of the water at certain appliances.

“We expect 160° in our three-compartment pot sink where the dishwashing is done,” he continued, “and we maintain 105° to 110° water at our hand sinks. The heat pump struggled to maintain those temperatures, but we’ve had no hot water problems with the Eclipse.”