Choosing cooking appliances has become quite complex over the last twenty years. Besides the standard range with four top burners and an oven, we now have down-vented ranges with pop-out grills, fancy cook-tops, separate ovens, microwave ovens, and convection ovens.
These are available for either gas or electric cooking. All new gas cook tops are required to have electric ignition instead of energy-wasting pilot lights. With electric cook tops, you can choose from several different types of burners.
Although they are more attractive than coils and easier to clean, they heat up more slowly. Because they take longer to heat up and because higher-wattage elements are generally used, energy consumption will be higher. Good contact between pan and burner are especially important with solid disk elements. Pots and pans that are slightly rounded will reduce cooking performance and correspondingly increase energy use.
This type of cook top offers excellent cleanability and heats up faster than a solid disk element, though not as quickly as conventional coil elements. The energy efficiency of ceramic glass cook-tops is higher than coil or disk element cook-tops.
These elements use halogen lamps as the heat source under a glass surface. Although the lamp delivers instant heat and responds quickly to changes in temperature setting, the main mode of heating a pan with halogen lamps still comes from contact of the pan with the hot ceramic glass surface. Therefore, the heating efficiency of halogen units may not be better than ceramic glass units; and halogen elements will only provide marginally faster speed. Improvements in heating speed will not generate enough energy savings to justify the higher cost of halogen cook-tops.
Having proper ventilation for cooking appliances is very important. The range hood should ventilate to the outside and not simply recirculate and filter the cooking fumes. This is especially important with gas ranges. However, be careful with the size of the fan. Too large a fan can waste energy and possibly even cause health problems. When a ventilation fan is used, it creates a slight vacuum in the house. To balance the pressure difference, cold air is sucked in through the cracks in the walls and around the windows (infiltration). This causes the heating system to work harder, thus wasting energy.
Today, consumers have more to choose from than just the standard electric and gas oven. There are now convection ovens, microwave ovens, and combination models.
Standard gas or electric ovens that are self-cleaning are more energy-efficient because they have more insulation. However, if you are using the self-cleaning feature more than once a month, you will end up using more energy with the feature than you will save from the extra insulation.
This type of oven is more energy-efficient than standard ovens because the heated air is continuously circulated around the food being cooked. As a result, you get more even heat distribution, and temperatures and cooking times will decrease. On average, the use of a convection oven will save about a third on energy use.
In microwave ovens, the energetic waves penetrate the food surface and heat up water molecules inside. Energy consumption and cooking times for some foods are significantly reduced, especially small portions and leftovers to be rewarmed. Overall, energy use is reduced by about two-thirds. Also, because less heat is generated in the kitchen, you also save on air conditioning costs during the summer.
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