Stoves, Ranges and Ovens

New ovens and stovetops - also called kitchen stoves and ranges - have no federal energy regulations, so they don't carry EnergyGuide labels or ENERGY STAR recommendations.

These kitchen appliances can be powered by either natural gas or electricity. Electric ovens are usually less expensive to purchase, but since gas is typically less expensive than electricity, gas ovens usually cost less to operate.

Some cooks prefer the temperature control that cooking with gas gives. If you cook a lot, consider that a modern gas stove with an electronic ignition can cost half as much to operate as a standard electric stove. (Electronic ignition does away with the pilot light, reducing gas use by approximately 30 percent.

The energy efficiency of gas-burning cooktops with electronic ignition doesn't vary much. Electric cooktops, however, offer several energy efficiency options. The more efficient ones are initially more expensive, and may not be cost-effective unless you cook often.

In addition to the standard electric coil elements, there are a number of new types of electric burners on the market: solid disk elements, radiant elements under glass, halogen elements, and induction elements.

  • Solid disk elements and radiant elements are mounted under glass, making them easy to clean, but they take longer to heat up and use more electricity, compared to electric coils. >
  • Halogen cooktops use powerful bulbs filled with a halogen gas like bromine or iodine to create radiant heat under a ceramic glass surface to heat food. The food cooks because of radiation from the bulb itself and conduction between the ceramic cooktop and the pot. This uses less electricity than a standard coil element, but only if you have very flat pans that maintain good contact with the burner. Otherwise, you'll lose heat. Since the cooking surface is smooth glass, it is easy to clean, making halogen cooking a popular choice.
  • Induction elements are the most energy efficient technology, using 90 percent of its energy for cooking. (By comparison, a gas burner typically uses 55 percent, while a standard electric range uses 65 percent.) Induction elements use electromagnetic waves to turn the bottom of the pot into an active heating surface. They provide accurate temperature control while keeping the smooth cooktop surface cool. An induction element can boil water up to 50 percent faster than a regular stove.

A drawback of induction technology is that pots and pans must be made of steel or cast iron - in other words, a metal that will react with the magnetic field. Aluminum or copper or glass or pyrex cookware will not work. And while the initial cost of induction cooktops is falling with their increasing popularity, they can still be much more expensive than a regular stovetop.

Types of ovens

Ovens typically last for two decades, so when you buy one you'll have to live with your energy efficiency decision for a long time. In addition to the choice of electricity or gas, consider these oven variations:

  • Self-cleaning ovens have more insulation than a standard oven, so it will keep the heat in better and use less energy. During the cleaning process, the oven door locks to prevent it from being opened as the oven heats up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. This extreme temperature burns off food spilled inside the oven, leaving ash that can easily be wiped out. Self-cleaning ovens often cost more than standard ovens, but over time the energy and cost savings are well worth it.
  • Convection ovens continually use a fan to circulate heated air around the food being cooked. By distributing heat more evenly than ordinary ovens, convection ovens allow you to reduce cooking time and cooking temperatures and to cut energy use by about a third. Convection cooking can eliminate hot and cool spots for more even cooking. A turkey roasted in a convection oven, for example, will brown all over, rather than just on top. Convection ovens allow you to choose between conventional baking and roasting or convection baking and roasting.

Cost of Cooking

Even if you have an energy efficient stove, sometimes your other appliances provide a less expensive way to cook. A toaster oven or microwave oven may be a more economical way to cook small- to medium-sized meals.

Smart Buying

Consider these tips when shopping for a new stove:

  • Look beyond the initial price tag and consider energy efficiency. All appliances have two costs - the purchase price and the operating cost. If you cook a lot, remember the money that you will pay out month after month in the form of your utility bills.
  • Consider your family's needs. If you seldom cook, a high end, expensive induction cooktop will not be cost effective. Likewise, money spent on a bigger oven than you need will be wasted.
  • Make sure your kitchen has a natural gas connection if you're purchasing a gas stove. Adding a gas hookup will cost extra.

Smart Use

Consider these tips to make cooking as efficient as possible:

  • If at all possible, install your range away from your refrigerator. Heat from the range will make the refrigerator work harder and raise your electricity bill. If you do have to put the appliances next to each other, place a sheet of foam insulation between them.
  • Self-cleaning ovens have additional insulation and tighter-fitting oven door gaskets and hinges that make them more energy efficient. Buying one will likely save you money. Use the self-cleaning option after cooking a meal to take advantage of the oven's residual heat and use less energy. But use the feature sparingly - if you use self-cleaning more than once a month, you will end up using more energy than you will save from the extra insulation.
  • Convection ovens are efficient because they continuously circulate heat, letting you decrease the cooking time and temperature. That's why covering the racks of your oven with aluminum foil to prevent spills is a bad idea - it blocks the flow of hot air. It's also a good idea to stagger pans on upper and lower racks to improve airflow. Cooking multiple dishes in the same oven is more efficient.
  • Do not open the oven door often to check your food. Each time you open the door the oven temperature drops by 25 degrees. Watch the clock or use a timer instead.
  • Preheating your oven uses extra energy and in most cases is not necessary unless you're baking breads or pastries. Preheat only when necessary, and then keep the preheating time to a minimum. If you are roasting a turkey or making a casserole, you can simply set the temperature according to the instructions and begin cooking your meal.
  • Use Your broiler. It requires no preheating, so using it can save you money.
  • Occasionally check the seal on your oven door for cracks or tears. Even a small tear or gap can allow heat to escape. In addition, a clean seal will retain heat more effectively.
  • Use correct cookware. Pots with flat bottoms, straight sides and tight-fitting lids allow food to heat more quickly and cook more efficiently on the stovetop. In the oven, using glass or ceramic pans instead of metal will allow you to turn down the temperature about 25ºF and cook foods just as quickly.
  • Match the size of the pan to the burner. A six-inch pan on an eight-inch electric burner can waste more than 40 percent of the heat produced.

Tips for electric ranges:

  • Turn off your electric burners several minutes before the allotted cooking time is up. The heating element will stay hot long enough to finish the cooking without using more electricity - a principle that works with oven cooking, too.
  • Make sure your stovetop electric coils work properly. A worn-out element is a real power drain.
  • Keep stovetop burners and reflectors clean to reflect the heat better and save energy.

Tips for gas ranges:

  • Use a moderate flame setting to conserve gas.
  • Remember that a blue flame means your gas stove is operating efficiently. A yellowish flame indicates an adjustment is needed.

Definitions:

The terms "stove" and "range" are often used as though they are synonymous. The on-line Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a stove as a "portable or fixed apparatus that burns fuel or uses electricity to provide heat (as for cooking or heating)." A range is "a cooking stove that has an oven and a flat top with burners or heating elements," while an oven is "a chamber used for baking, heating, or drying."

In general, a standard kitchen stove has an oven along with two large burners and two small ones. Ranges can have more burners and might include griddles or grills as well. The burners are also referred to as a cooktop. And a cooktop can be separate from an oven.