What’s Wrong With Semi-Automatic Draw-Off?

August 20, 2014

The contents of a grease interceptor, especially one that has not been cleaned out recently, is nothing short of breathtaking!

By 'breathtaking' of course I mean one whiff makes your eyes water and gives you the kind of nausea common on commercial fishing charters, while you reel backwards in a desperate fight for oxygen...and a gas mask.

I had the same experience one time when I accidentally smelled one of my teenagers dirty socks.

It's the kind of experience you are not likely to forget and if you are a restaurant owner it's one you are not likely to repeat - at least very often.

As the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention," and not opening a grease interceptor is considered, at least by some, a necessity.  

Enter the semi-automatic draw-off grease interceptor, which as one manufacturer's literature states, "permits removal of accumulated grease without cover removal."


Yeah baby, the holy grail of indoor grease interceptors, right?!

Not so fast.

Here are two major reasons that semi-automatic draw-off is not the right solution:


1. Typical cleaning instructions:
  • Run full stream of hot water (preferably 140 deg F or higher) for at least two minutes
  • Turn off hot water for three to five minutes - to allow grease to liquify
  • These interceptors come with a shut-off valve connected to the outlet - step three is to close the shut-off valve
  • Most units come with a draw-off valve on top connected to a hose or pipe - step four is to open this valve and place a container under the hose or pipe
  • Now run hot water through the unit at 1.5 to 2.5 gpm causing the unit to fill, raising the accumulated and now liquified grease into an internal cone and out the draw-off connection
  • Continue to run the hot water through the interceptor until clear water appears then shut off the flow
  • Close the draw-off valve and open the shut-off valve and the interceptor is now supposedly clean and ready for use again
As an owner you have to do this process each and every time you service the interceptor.  How many full buckets of the interceptor's contents - which, by the way contain the very odor the owner was hoping to avoid in the first place - would it take for the owner to give up ever wanting to service the interceptor again?

Another thing to consider is that some places employ teenagers whom will be tasked with this job.

Teenagers!

I raised three of them myself and I can tell you, based on my experience trying to teach them to make their beds every day, that I have grave concerns about trusting them to properly follow the instructions above...ever.

If you are a teenager reading this post and you feel that my comment does not apply to your bed-making skills then I apologize for lumping you in with my kids, and basically every other teen that has ever been born.


2. How are accumulated solids removed?

It is a well established fact that grease interceptors collect solids, which have to be removed regularly because they decompose inside the interceptor creating all kinds of problems not the least of which is the unforgettable odor I mentioned earlier.

To remove the solids you have to remove the cover, which should cause you to stop and think, "hey, wait a second, why would I want a semi-automatic draw-off if I have to take the cover off the interceptor to clean out the solids anyway?"

Exactly!

So what is the right application for a semi-automatic draw-off?

Let me see, that would have to be a restaurant that does not serve food of any kind and that does not employ teenagers whom would be tasked with the responsibility of maintaining the interceptor and that has an owner that doesn't mind bucket full after bucket full of the interceptors contents stinking up the joint.

So, doing the math, there are approximately 990,000 restaurants in the US according to the National Restaurant Association, and the total number that do not serve any food of any kind would be roughly 0.1% or about 990.  Of those, the number that do not employ teenagers or that have a masochistic owner would be...lets see...divide by...carry the zero...

We're working with very small percentages here, but I think the answer is one.

Whatever the number is, it is too small to justify the existence of the semi-automatic draw-off.

For most restaurants, there is a better way.

A High-efficiency and high-capacity grease interceptor installed outside with all of the kitchen fixtures routed to it, properly sized and properly maintained is the real solution!

ps. teenagers make great restaurant employees, just don't expect them to make their beds every day, or really ever.


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