How to Choose the Right-Sized Commercial Oven

When it comes to new cooking equipment, production capacity – the amount of food a piece of equipment can cook at one time – remains one of the primary considerations informing purchasing decisions. An underproducing (undersized) oven may need to be used more frequently and require additional maintenance, while an overproducing (oversized) one may lead to wasted money and energy. Choosing the right oven for your commercial operation can save space, energy, and money. 

Selecting the Right Convection Oven Model

Ovens that earn the ENERGY STAR label are independently certified to use less energy than comparable standard models.  Selecting the right ENERGY STAR certified convection oven model that meets the specific needs of your commercial kitchen operation involves choosing:

Equipment type-- During the designing and planning phase of a new or retrofit kitchen, a critical consideration is the available space. Designing an efficient kitchen, not just in terms of energy, but also functionality can be a challenge. For example, if space is relatively limited, but the operator has a need for convective and steam cooking, it may make more energy sense to purchase an ENERGY STAR combination oven in lieu of two separate units: a dedicated convection oven and steam cooker. However, if the menu doesn’t require steam cooking, then a single ENERGY STAR convection oven would suffice.

Size, Pan Count, and Production Capacity--Next, think about size, pan count, and production capacity. Typically, oven size dictates production capacity, so it’s easy to think that the larger the oven, the higher the throughput. However, there are exceptions where smaller ovens may have a higher production capacity than some of their larger counterparts.

Using the ENERGY STAR Product Finder to Determine Size, Pan Count, and Production Capacity

The ENERGY STAR Product Finder tool includes energy efficient commercial food service equipment models with varying levels of throughput.  It allows you to look up equipment sizes, pan counts, and respective production capacities, making it easier for an operator to decide which ENERGY STAR make and model is needed.

Don’t Overlook Production Capacity When Selecting an ENERGY STAR Oven

For a given pan size and count, a higher production rate implies a faster cook time. Consider two operations that have the same food production per day (200 lbs.).

Operator 1:  Needs the product prepared in smaller batches over the course of an 8-hour period (production capacity: 25 lbs/hr). This operator would likely be satisfied with a half-size, 3 or 4 pans oven with a production capacity as low as 30 lbs/hr.

Operator 2: Needs the product prepared in a condensed timeframe of 2 hours (production capacity: 100 lbs/hr). This operator would clearly need a larger capacity oven, such as a full-size, 5 or greater pan count with a production rate of 100 lbs/hr to meet that demand. 

Failing to properly size the unit based on the operators needs can have unexpected consequences. Oversizing may result in higher initial purchase prices and ongoing utility costs. Under sizing may result in lack of production, so it’s important to find the right size for a particular operation.

Cooking Energy-Efficiency and Production Capacity

The good news is that with ENERGY STAR, from an energy perspective and assuming the production needs are met, you really can’t go wrong. Remember, cooking energy-efficiency is the quantity of energy imparted to the specified load, expressed as a percentage of energy consumed by the oven during the cooking event.

Though production capacity clearly goes up with increases in pan size and count (Figure 1), cooking energy-efficiency does not necessarily go down with increases in production capacity (Figure 2). In fact, even models with production capacities as different as 15 lbs/hr and nearly 140 lbs/hr can have just about the same cooking energy-efficiency of about 73%.  The reality is cooking energy-efficiency does not have to be compromised in the interest of production capacity. 

However, when considering the amount of time and energy consumed while an oven is in a ready-to-cook state (idle mode), the size of the oven has a direct correlation on the total daily energy use profile. Most convection ovens spend a significant amount of time in an idle mode, ready for the next batch of cooking. The higher the production capacity of the oven, the more energy is consumed to maintain that ready-to-cook temperature (Figure 3). Optimizing the right sized ENERGY STAR convection oven for an operation can help further reduce daily energy consumption.

Once you select and install the commercial oven, the best way to limit its time in idle mode and maximize production capacity is to implement an effective equipment start-up/shutdown schedule and maximize the load of product during each cooking cycle. Your bottom line will thank you. 

For additional information on potential energy savings, the ENERGY STAR CFS Equipment Calculator is available online. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder tool for local utility incentive offerings. 

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Author: Tanja Crk, ENERGY STAR Certified Products