ENERGY STAR Logo High Efficiency

Guide for the Purchase
and Use of ENERGY STAR®
Qualified Hot Food Holding Cabinets

When organizations within the food services sector want to save energy and help the environment, they look for the ENERGY STAR symbol to identify energy-efficient products.

Restaurants, bars, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, churches, and institutional cafeterias all possess commercial kitchens. These foodservice facilities are among the most energy intensive establishments in the commercial building sector. The cooking and cleaning appliances consume a significant portion of the energy use. These facilities can reduce their utility bills significantly through the use of ENERGY STAR qualified equipment.

What are hot food holding cabinets?

Commercial hot food holding cabinets are fully-enclosed, heated, electric compartments that have one or more partial glass or solid doors. The cabinets are used to keep cooked food at high temperatures. Typically, they are used in operations that need to serve several types of meals at the same time, such as catering and healthcare facilities.

Design features that have a significant impact on reducing energy use are:

  • increased insulation levels that reduce heat loss and lead to greater temperature uniformity
  • magnetic door gaskets
  • auto-door closures
  • Dutch doors

Are ENERGY STAR qualified hot food holding cabinets readily available in Canada?

Yes, ENERGY STAR qualified models are available for purchase and can have one to four doors.

Several manufacturers provide ENERGY STAR qualified commercial hot food holding cabinets for the Canadian food service industry. Contact the manufacturers directly or speak with your food equipment supplier.

How do hot food holding cabinets qualify for the ENERGY STAR symbol?

Hot food holding cabinets that earn the ENERGY STAR qualification meet the minimum insulation requirements and meet a maximum idle energy rate of 40 watts per cubic meter (cubic feet.). These models may also offer additional energy-saving devices such as magnetic door gaskets, auto-door closures or Dutch doors.

The maximum idle energy rate is based on the “idle energy rate–dry test” in ASTM F2140-01. The interior volume of a commercial hot food holding cabinet is calculated by using straight-line segments of the gross interior dimensions of the appliance. The volume is the result of the interior height multiplied by the interior width multiplied by the interior depth. The interior volume does not account for racks, air plenums or other interior parts.

Is sample procurement language available to specify ENERGY STAR qualified hot food holding cabinets?

Organizations can use this sample procurement language in their contracts or purchase orders to facilitate the procurement of ENERGY STAR qualified hot food holding cabinets.

An example:

The vendor must provide commercial hot food holding cabinets that earn the ENERGY STAR qualification and meet the ENERGY STAR specifications for energy efficiency. Dual function equipment, such as cook-and-hold models, cannot qualify as ENERGY STAR. The vendor is encouraged to visit for complete product specifications and an updated list of qualified products.

Purchasing Guide

TheENERGY STAR Purchasing Guide contains an implementation plan for energy-efficient purchasing, tools on making the business case for ENERGY STAR qualified products and more. The guide is designed to help your organization purchase energy-efficient products, while working within your own framework and rules. Download your copy at

Did You Know?

Hot food holding cabinets that meet the ENERGY STAR specifications are up to 60 percent more energy-efficient than conventional models.

What can ENERGY STAR qualified hot food holding cabinets save me?

You must examine the business case to get a full understanding of the benefits of choosing an ENERGY STAR qualified product instead of a non- qualified product. The following table compares an ENERGY STAR qualified hot food holding cabinet with a baseline model.

A typical baseline cabinet that has an uninsulated solid door and has a capacity of 18 cu. ft. uses 9855 kWh annually. However, an ENERGY STAR qualified unit that has the same capacity uses approximately 3154 kWh annually. That difference is a savings of nearly 60 percent.

Potential energy savings of a high-efficiency commercial hot food holding cabinet
Parameter Per unit electricity consumption and cost
Baseline unit 9855 kWh/yr
High-efficiency unit 3154 kWh/yr
Electricity savings 6701 kWh/yr
Electricity cost $0.10/kWh
Cost savings $670/yr
Baseline unit cost   $2,000
High-efficiency unit cost $3,340
Cost differential $1,340
Payback period 2.0 yr

Source: ENERGY STAR Web site. Assumes 12 operating hours per day for 365 days per year.

If you purchase an 18 cu. ft. high-efficiency ENERGY STAR qualified hot food holding cabinet:

  • annual cost savings will be $670 and
  • the payback period will be 2 years assuming an incremental purchase cost of $1,340

Use the ENERGY STAR Calculator to determine the difference in energy savings between ENERGY STAR qualified and non-qualified commercial fryers.

The Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) provides a free “Life-Cycle and Energy Cost Calculator” on its Web site that automates the calculation of the annual and life-cycle energy costs of a hot food holding cabinet. The user can enter the cabinet volume, idle energy rate, product operating data, lifetime cost and electricity cost. The calculator then provides the annual energy consumption, annual operating cost and the lifetime operating cost.

Share your successes

Has your organization reaped the rewards of investing in ENERGY STAR products? We want to hear from you!

  • Submit your story to and be recognized for your energy saving efforts.

  • In your submission, include the name of your organization, contact information, and a brief description of your ENERGY STAR project, paying special attention to the energy savings your organization has achieved.