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Covered Product Category: Commercial Steam Cookers

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for commercial steam cookers, which are covered by the ENERGY STAR program. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies meet these efficiency requirements in all procurement and acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

Meeting Energy Efficiency Requirements for Commercial Steam Cookers

ENERGY STAR sets efficiency requirements for steam cookers in its product specification. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Visit the ENERGY STAR website for the most up-to-date commercial steam cooker efficiency levels and product specification information, and a list of qualified steam cookers.

Defining the Product Category

This product overview and associated ENERGY STAR product specification applies to pressurized and atmospheric (pressureless) commercial steam cookers (also known as steamers). Steam tables and kettle steamers are excluded.

In the federal sector, commercial steam cookers are typically used in commercial food service operations like cafeterias in General Services Administration (GSA) buildings and commissaries on military bases.

Federal supply sources for commercial steam cookers are GSA and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells steam cookers through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage! DLA offers them through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through DOD EMALL. Products sold through DLA are identified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR. When buying commercial steam cookers through DLA sources, look for models with the ENAC "JQ" attached to the end of the NSN.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for use in eCommerce. It contains over 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each having a unique eight-digit identification code. Using the UNSPSCs will assist buyers with identifying covered product categories and improving record keeping. The UNSPSC for steam cookers is 48101524.

Reducing Energy Costs: Save More Than $800 When You Buy Energy Star-Qualified Products

FEMP has calculated1 that the required ENERGY STAR–qualified steam cooker is cost-effective if priced no more than $825 above the less efficient alternative. The best available level saves the average user more money: $2,645. The complete cost-effectiveness example and associated assumptions are provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Lifetime Savings for Efficient Commercial Steam Cookers
  Best Available Modela Required Model Less Efficient Model
Cooking Energy Efficiency 74% 50% 30%
Idle Energy Rate 260 watts 400 watts 600 watts
Annual Energy Use 990 kWh 3,080 kWh 4,060 kWh
Annual Energy Cost $90 $280 $365
Lifetime Energy Cost (12 years) $850 $2,670 $3,495
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings $2,645 $825 ======
a More-efficient products may have been introduced to the market since this table was published.


Determining Cost-Effectiveness

An efficient product is cost-effective when the discounted savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR and FEMP consider up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels so that federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified and products meeting FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. However, users wishing to determine cost-effectiveness for their application may do so using ENERGY STAR's Commercial Kitchen Equipment Savings Calculator.

For most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed the federal efficiency requirements, as shown in the Best Available column above.


Products meeting FEMP-designated efficiency requirements or ENERGY STAR performance specifications may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications, or in locations with very low rates for natural gas or electricity. In these cases, the agency may pursue an exception to the federal procurement requirement.

Complying with Contracting Requirements

These efficiency requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including guide and project specifications; construction, renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance contracts; lease agreements; and solicitations for offers. Energy performance requirements should be included in all evaluations of solicitation responses.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires federal agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 in solicitations and contracts that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products. FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into both the technical specification and evaluation sections of solicitations. Agencies may claim an exception to these requirements through a written finding that no ENERGY STAR–qualified or FEMP-designated product is available to meet the functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application.

Buyer Tips: Choosing Efficient Products

Features to look for when buying energy-efficient steam cookers include forced convection, vacuum pumps, closed systems, and compartmental insulation. Steam cookers idle approximately 75% of the time, so improved control strategies, such as standby mode, can save substantial amounts of energy and associated energy costs.

Connectionless steamers are equipped with a built-in reservoir that eliminates the need for a water supply and drain lines. Water is added and drained manually. The advantage of this design is that steam cannot escape from the compartment through the drain line. Although connectionless steamers are very efficient, they can increase cook times. If fast cook times are not essential, connectionless steamers are a good choice.

User Tips: Using Products More Efficiently

Implement an equipment start-up/shut-down schedule. For multiple compartment steamers, turn off unused compartments during slow periods. As most steamers can be preheated within 20 minutes, secondary compartments can be turned off without significantly impacting food service operations.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.

Updated August 2014

1 Based on the following assumptions: Assumes a three-pan, pressureless steam cooker is used an average of 4 hours per day, 250 days per year. The performance of the less efficient model represents what is commonly used in commercial kitchens, while that of the required model meets the ENERGY STAR eligibility criteria. The performance of the best available model was obtained from the ENERGY STAR list of qualified products.

The annual energy use was calculated using ASTM F1361-07 and includes preheat, active, and idle energy used to cook 50 pounds of food per day. The assumed rate for electricity is $0.09 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), the average at federal facilities throughout the United States. Lifetime energy cost is the sum of the discounted values of annual energy cost with an average commercial electric steam cooker life of 12 years. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are based on federal guidelines (NISTIR 85-3273-28) and are from the Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 and NBS Special Publication 709, Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life Cycle Cost Analysis - 2013.