Hot Food Holding Cabinets


Hot food holding cabinets (HFHC) are used in hospitals, schools and other applications for storing and transporting food at a safe serving temperature. They are freestanding metal cabinets with internal pan supports for trays. Most are made of stainless steel and are insulated; however, there are some models that are non-insulated and are often made of aluminum. The main energy-using components include the heating element and the fan motor.


The first ENERGY STAR specification for HFHC set a maximum idle energy rate for hot food holding cabinets of 40 W per cubic foot of measured interior volume. In December 2004, the California Energy Commission adopted this level as a statewide minimum standard. The same standard was subsequently adopted by Connecticut, Washington D.C., Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. DOE is not currently required to set standards for these products. New ENERGY STAR specifications (Version 2.0), which went into effect in July 2011, set a maximum idle power consumption level based on the measured interior volume. For a 20 cubic foot unit, the new ENERGY STAR spec will limit idle power consumption to 294 W, which represents energy savings of 63% compared to the earlier spec.


Appropriate insulation in hot food holding cabinets is the key mechanism for reducing energy consumption. Insulated cabinets also have the advantage of quick preheat times, less susceptibility to ambient air temperatures, and a more uniform cabinet temperature. Other features that reduce heat loss include automatic door closers, magnetic door gaskets, and Dutch doors (half-doors).

Projected Savings


Federal Date States
2010 WA Standard Effective
2009 OR Standard Effective
2009 WA Standard Adopted
2009 DC Standard Effective
2009 NH Standard Effective
2009 MD Standard Effective
2009 CT Standard Effective
2008 NH Standard Adopted
2008 RI Standard Effective
2007 DC Standard Adopted
2007 MD Standard Adopted
2007 OR Standard Adopted
2007 CT Standard Adopted
2006 RI Standard Adopted
2006 CA Standard Effective
2004 CA Standard Adopted

Timeline reflects state standards from 2001 to present; federal standards from inception to present.