December 2009

Ovens Come Into The 'Star Fold

By Jennifer Hicks

There's no question the commercial convection oven is a workhorse in the kitchen. When it's not baking or roasting this oven is warming or reheating, so virtually all types of operations rely on it. And that's one reason the Environmental Protection Agency considered convection ovens a key category to be qualified under Energy Star.

EPA began researching the commercial convection oven market and its designs and technologies in 2007, says Rebecca Duff, senior manager of ICF Int'l., the consulting organization assisting EPA with Energy Star development.

The initiative to develop a new Energy Star specification for the wider category of commercial ovens was officially announced in October 2008, and the final specification became effective on May 16, 2009, when it was launched at the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago.

Happily the introduction of a commercial ovens standard was well received in the manufacturer community, Duff says, and several suppliers have redesigned their products to meet the Energy Star specs. The EPA also continues to receive requests to add other oven types to the specification.

Note the commercial ovens specification currently addresses full-size gas and full-and half-size electric convection ovens only and no other oven type. Full- and half-size electric and full-size gas convection ovens can earn the Energy Star by meeting minimum cooking-energy efficiency rates and a maximum idle energy rate. Cooking-energy efficiency represents the amount of energy absorbed by food product compared to the total energy used by the oven during the cooking process, and the idle energy rate represents the energy used by the oven while it is maintaining or holding at a stabilized operating temperature.

Standard gas convection ovens have a 30% cooking-energy efficiency and an idle energy rate of 18,000 Btu/h, says EPA, whereas Energy Star-qualified gas convection ovens must meet the specification requirements of 44% cooking-energy efficiency and idle energy rate of 13,000 Btu/h.

Meanwhile, standard electric convection ovens have a 65% cooking-energy efficiency and an idle energy rate of 2kW, and Energy Star-qualified electric convection ovens must meet the specification requirements of 70% cooking-energy efficiency and an idle energy rate of 1.6kW.

Overall, commercial convection ovens that have earned the Energy Star are about 20% more energy efficient than standard models, says EPA. And note that ovens designed for residential or lab applications are not eligible under this specification.

Other Ovens To Be Considered?
While only convection ovens are referenced under the current specification, EPA's intent has always been to cover more than just this category of oven.

"We chose [convection ovens] to start with because there was both a well-vetted test procedure and robust data set available for which to propose performance levels that represent the top performers," says Duff. It's important, she adds, to have a solid, industry-accepted and repeatable test procedure that takes into account cooking performance as well as energy consumption. And it's important that the test procedure come close to emulating real-world performance by using real food products.

Thus EPA says additional oven types will be considered for the commercial ovens specification depending on the availability of a test procedure and performance data that show differentiation in the marketplace. And at the moment EPA has no immediate plans to revisit the convection oven performance requirements but will be monitoring market penetration and the availability of new technologies for future revisions, says Duff.

Also, there's some interest in including smaller countertop convection ovens, those that accept four pans or less, but again additional data needs to be collected and analyzed and changes made to the ASTM test procedure (which requires a minimum of five pans) before EPA can consider including them in the specification.

Similarly there is interest in including rack and min-rack ovens but EPA does not yet have enough data to determine requirements for these product types. So inclusion of these additional ovens will depend on stakeholder interest, test procedure availability, and access to a sufficient quantity of product performance data.

The Overview
The bottom line on commercial convection ovens: EPA says each Energy Star-qualified electric oven can save operators 1,870kWh annually, or an average of $190/year on utility bills. Similarly each Energy Star-qualified gas oven can save 30 MBtu annually, or an average of $360/year on utility bills.

Visit for a list of qualified products.