The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) identified connectionless food steamers as a water-saving technology that is relevant to the federal sector, is commercially available, and offers significant water savings potential.

This overview provides agencies with key information to deploy innovative products and systems that may otherwise be overlooked. It also helps agencies identify water-efficient technologies for consideration when entering into energy savings performance contracts and utility energy service contracts.

FEMP considered the following attributes when selecting this technology:

  • Underutilized in the federal sector
  • Broad applicability across the federal sector
  • Water and cost savings potential
  • Market availability
  • Produced by multiple manufacturers
  • Ease of installation/suitable as a retrofit.

Technology Description

Connectionless food steamers, also known as boiler-less steamers, are closed systems that operate without a boiler or drain connection. They can replace traditional steamers or boiler-based steamers, which are water-intensive appliances. Connectionless food steamers have a heated water reservoir that is manually filled instead of the boiler connection required in traditional steamers. Very little steam leaves the cooking cavity and the steam not collected on the food remains in the system for reuse. Connectionless food steamers typically use an average of one to two gallons of water per hour, while traditional boiler-based steamers use an average of 40 gallons of water per hour. By reducing the volume of steam used and operating as a closed system, these units typically use less energy than traditional steamers. In addition, connectionless steamers can reduce maintenance costs by eliminating the need to descale a dedicated boiler.

Technology Considerations

Connectionless food steamers have operational differences from boiler-based systems that should be considered when selecting the appropriate appliance for the application. For example, connectionless food steamers have a tray in the bottom that must be manually filled. Also, cooking time of certain foods may be different. Therefore, make sure to get input from the cooking staff during the appliance selection process so that these operational changes are taken into consideration.

Specify an ENERGY STAR-qualified food steamer to ensure that the equipment is water and energy efficient.

Proven Savings Potential

A study by the Food Service Technology Center, a fuel-neutral scientific testing facility, found that traditional boiler-based steamers use on average 30 times more water than connectionless steamers. The study found that boiler-based steamers use approximately 407 gallons per day, or 40.5 gallons per hour, while connectionless steamers use on average 13.9 gallons per day, or less than 2 gallons per hour (source: Evaluating the Water Savings Potential of Commercial "Connectionless" Food Steamers, Final Report, 2005, Fisher-Nickel, Inc., Food Service Technology Center).

Additional Resources

For more information about connectionless food steamers, see ENERGY STAR Commercial Steam Cookers.