The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for hot food holding cabinets, a product category covered by ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified products or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP's acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements apply to hot food holding cabinets only. Cook and hold proofing units, transparent merchandisers, and drawer warmers are excluded.

In the federal sector, hot food holding cabinets are used in medical centers and on military installations.

This acquisition guidance was updated in December 2021.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides hot food holding cabinet efficiency levels and product specification information on its ENERGY STAR website. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Get a list of ENERGY STAR-qualified hot food holding cabinets.

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save $1,031 or More by Buying ENERGY STAR

FEMP has calculated that the required ENERGY STAR-qualified hot food holding cabinet saves money if priced no more than $1,031 (in 2020 dollars) above the less efficient model. The best available model saves up to $1,034. Table 1 compares three types of 22.4-ft3 commercial hot food holding cabinets and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective.

Table 1. Lifetime Savings for Efficient Commercial Hot Food Holding Cabinet Models
Performance Best Available ENERGY STAR Less Efficient
Idle Energy Rate 298 W 299 W 672 W
Annual Energy Use 979 kWh/year 982 kWh/year 2,208 kWh/year
Annual Energy Cost $84 $85 $190
Lifetime Energy Cost $824 $826 $1,857
Lifetime Energy Cost Savings $1,034 $1,031 ======

Performance Column

Idle Energy Rate: The rate of appliance energy consumption while it is holding or maintaining a stabilized operating condition or temperature. 

Annual Energy Use: Calculated using ASTM Standard F2140-11; assumes a 22.4-ft3 commercial hot food holding cabinet used an average of 9 hours per day, 365 days per year.

Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.09/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities throughout the United States.

Lifetime Energy Cost: The sum of the discounted value of annual energy cost and an assumed hot food holding cabinet life of 12 years. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are from Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis–2021: Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 (NISTIR 85-3273-36).

Lifetime Energy Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of the ENERGY STAR model or best available model.

Best Available Model Column

Calculated based on the December 2021 ENERGY STAR List of Qualified Products; values shown are rounded to the nearest dollar. More efficient models may be introduced to the market after FEMP's acquisition guidance is posted.

ENERGY STAR Model Column

Calculated based on current ENERGY STAR eligibility criteria; values shown are rounded to the nearest dollar. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.

Less Efficient Model Column

Calculated based on ENERGY STAR’s assumption for "Conventional Model."

Determine When ENERGY STAR Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements (e.g., the best available model).

Contact ENERGY STAR for more information about annual and lifetime cost savings available from ENERGY STAR-certified products.

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through FedMall (formerly DOD EMALL). Products sold through DLA are codified 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.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Commercial Hot Food Holding Cabinet Schedules and Product Codes

DLA's ENAC for commercial hot food holding cabinets is "HD."

The UNSPSC for hot food holding cabinets is 48101510.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

When buying a hot food holding cabinet, the most important feature to look for is an insulated cabinet. In addition to saving energy, insulated cabinets radiate less heat into the kitchen, which helps to keep the work environment more comfortable. The insulation will also make the interior temperature more uniform from top to bottom. Select a cabinet size that is appropriate for the amount of food typically served.

Choosing an oversized product will increase purchase cost and waste energy. Make sure the product purchased is the right capacity for its intended use. Hot food holding cabinets are available with other energy-saving features, such as automatic door closers, magnetic seals, and digital temperature and humidity controls. Split doors (i.e., Dutch doors) allow users to open one compartment without letting the heat escape from the whole cabinet.

The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) and its member utilities have developed an efficiency specification for hot food holding cabinets that exceeds the ENERGY STAR requirements by 50%. Federal agencies looking for even more efficient models should consider products that qualify for CEE Tier 2. Learn more about CEE’s Commercial Kitchens Initiative and High Efficiency Specifications for Hot Food Holding Cabinets, and get a list of qualified products.

Many states and electric utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives. FEMP’s Energy Incentive Program helps federal agencies take advantage of these incentives by providing information about the funding-program opportunities available in each state.

User Tips: Use Products More Efficiently

Hot food holding cabinets are often left on overnight. Because most products require only 15 minutes to warm up, turning off hot food holding cabinets when they are empty could save substantial annual energy costs. Make sure that door gaskets and automatic door closers are maintained in good operating condition. Worn door gaskets and faulty automatic door closers allow hot air to escape from the cabinet and increase energy consumption.

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