By exploring new processing methods and technology that enhances energy efficiency, bakeries can lower their operating costs, boost their bottom lines and avoid taking the heat from consumers and customers who get fired up over climate change and other sustainability issues. 

To do this, many bakers are looking at options that provide electric thermal heat for their ovens.

Xavier Gotti, ovens product manager, Mecatherm, said it can be used alone to eliminate carbon dioxide or in hybrid ovens to provide flexible energy consumption, especially in international markets where natural gas or other fuels fluctuate or skyrocket in price, he noted. 

At last year’s International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), Flynn Burner introduced a hybrid gas-electric burner/heater.

“It generated tremendous interest, and as a result, we have started working with a number of major bakers to implement this concept into their bakeries’ lab ovens,” said Dom Medina, president, Flynn Burner. 

“After successful trials, the technology will be tested in production lines,” he added. “The technology is aimed at reducing the gas consumption partially or fully, helping customers in regions where gas is becoming more difficult to source, as well as meeting their goals in reducing their carbon footprints.”

Remco Bijkerk, product group leader, AMF Den Boer, an AMF Bakery Systems brand, said the MB-VITA Tunnel Oven uses AMF’s patented hydrogen-fueled oven burners to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 99.9% within the baking process. The burners can also be retrofitted on existing gas-fueled AMF Den Boer ovens.

“While ensuring consistent product quality and maximum control, the modular MB-VITA offers efficient installation with flexibility for future growth,” he said.

Additionally, AMF’s Sustainable Oven Service (SOS) helps bakers to improve on efficiency and quality while reducing energy usage on ovens. Specifically, Mr. Bijkerk said, the SOS saves up to 20% on natural gas and lowers CO2 emissions by up to 20% while improving product quality and consistency.  

“This new feature makes ovens ‘connected’ and combines data analytics, artificial intelligence and personal consultation from AMF oven experts to give the operator expert recommendations on temperature, vapor exhaust, steady-state and other advice to enhance the oven to its optimal configuration,” he explained. 

Launched in 2022, the SOS is standard on all new AMF Den Boer ovens and is currently being tested on AMF BakeTech and AMF Vesta ovens. 

For baking cookies and snacks, Reading Bakery Systems (RBS) uses an electric penthouse design for both convection and Emithermic oven zones. The Emithermic technology creates balanced and energy-efficient baking using radiant and convective heat and a humidity-controlled product zone. For bakers, this means greater control over product development and spread, noted Shawn Moye, vice president of sales, RBS.

“In these electric ovens, the air flow and baking functionality is the same as in gas ovens, but the penthouse has been redesigned for the electric heat source and for operational efficiency,” he explained. “The electric penthouse offers one electric element per plenum, allowing bakers to control top and bottom air speed and temperature separately. On existing RBS convection and Emithermic ovens, there is an opportunity to exchange the gas penthouse for an electric version.”

At IBIE, Auto-Bake Serpentine unveiled the F3 (Fossil Fuel Free) convection oven.

“This latest oven technology uses the same robust air delivery technology as its gas-fired counterpart but with an electric-powered heat exchanger in its place,” said Scott McCally, president of Auto-Bake Serpentine and Hinds-Bock, both Middleby Bakery companies.

“For Auto-Bake, the F3 oven is the precursor to the RF3 (Rapid Fossil Free) convection oven,” he added. “The RF3 is a hybrid oven technology that combines convection heating with radio frequency to reduce the bake time by up to 50% in products with high-fat and high-hydration levels. This technology has the potential to quickly compete at the exact operating cost per unit of production output of traditional gas-fired ovens.”

Mr. McCally said the F3 convection oven enables bakeries to use power supplied by gas, solar, hydroelectricity, nuclear, wind or other sources.

In another initiative, Babbco’s air impingement oven provides 35% or more energy efficiency by using high turndown burners coupled with high volume convective airflow, which optimizes heat transfer and lowers gas usage, according to Clint Adams, vice president of sales and marketing, Babbco and CBF Bakery Systems.

“If you’ve ever used the convective fan in your home kitchen oven, then you know how bake times and temperatures can be dramatically reduced with this added tool,” he said. “In addition, our multi-fuel technology CleanBake ovens can be fitted with electric elements or hydrogen burners to further lower or eliminate the carbon footprint without any change to developed product baking profiles.”

Joakim Nordell, export sales manager, Stewart Systems, a Middleby Bakery company, explained that the precise location of the burners along the pan path in a conveyorized oven generates energy efficiency and a uniform baking profile. He said Stewart’s Chevron burners supply a gradual and even heat distribution around the pan and product. Correct airflow in the oven also affects baking consistency.

“We recommend longer runs of the same product to maximize efficiency rather than short and multiple changeovers,” Mr. Nordell said. “It’s also important to follow maintenance schedules and ensure the oven and its combustion system are well-tuned.”

On new or existing ovens, Mr. Nordell pointed out that utility monitoring systems may also alert operators of unusually high gas consumption that may be caused by running exhaust fans too high, burners needing cleaning or untuned burners, which all result in excessive heat and wasted gas.

Nicola Menardo, president of TP Food Group North America, said the company’s ovens can integrate burners capable of diluting a fraction of hydrogen or liquid propane gas in the standard fuel used, leading to greater efficiency and environmentally friendly operations.

The company also offers electric inline and spiral ovens that can rely on renewable energy. In cyclothermic ovens, he added, heat recovery systems reuse exhaust gases to bake products, while spiral ovens can integrate air impingement technology to maximize the use of preheated air.

Moreover, spiral and multideck ovens provide additional options to lower energy consumption.

“Typically, these ovens feature a single burner heating up a flow of thermal oil feeding a set of pipes placed in a properly insulated baking chamber,” Mr. Menardo explained. “With such oven designs, operators can efficiently achieve high oven springs by using less than 8 kW per square meter of thermal energy.”

He said even more savings can be achieved in thermal spiral ovens by minimizing the size of the infeed and outfeed sections of the baking chamber together with reducing oven belting exposed to the outside environment. TP Food Group’s ovens can also install automatic product detection and monitoring systems that regulate the oven steaming system used for creating many specialty and artisan breads and rolls.

Gemini Baking Equipment has added various turbulence features in all zones of its ovens to provide an even bake color and avoid weak and lightly baked sidewalls in panned products, noted Jerry Murphy, the company’s vice president of sales.

Mr. Murphy said Gemini’s most recent innovation, a Quad turbulence zone, is comprised of four, 3 hp Siemens balanced recirculation power packages mounted in each turbulence zone on opposite sides of the oven for enhanced convective baking.

Gemini/WP tunnel ovens also offer gap control where oven temperatures are lowered to manage heat flash when products aren’t in the oven.

Meanwhile, Koenig Bakery Systems offers the Roto Passat SE with a potential of 20% energy savings for mid-sized bakeries that use rack ovens.

The company said the ovens rely on a flow-optimized heating coil, high-quality sandwich insulation with an aluminum intermediate layer and a continuously adjustable steam and control system to cut down on energy usage. The increased energy efficiency can lower a company’s carbon footprint over time.

Additionally, to save energy, Koenig recommends shutting off an oven after a 90-minute break in production instead of keeping it in standby mode, which maintains a temperature of approximately 240°C (460˚F) for quicker changeover of products.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Ovens, click here.