Ranges & OvensCost of Cooking
It's Your Money
If you are considering buying a new range and oven, you can expect to live with your purchase for the next 20 years. The choice you make in the store can save you a little or a lot of money over the next two decades.
First, look beyond the initial price tag. All appliances have two costs -- the purchase price, and the operating cost, or the money that you pay out month after month, year after year, in the form of your utility bills. That ongoing expense is important to consider, for it may be as much or more than the purchase price.
Today, about 58 percent of American households cook with electricity, but gas cooking is making a steady comeback, for good reason. A gas stove costs less than half as much to operate as an electric one, provided it is equipped with electronic ignition instead of a pilot light. The electronic pilotless ignitions reduces gas usage by about 30 percent over a constantly burning pilot light. These are also more convenient, eliminating the need to restart a standing pilot light.
Consider the new convection ovens. These are new designs that continually circulate heated air around the food being cooked. (Think of an oven with a built-in fan.) Convection ovens distribute heat more evenly than ordinary ovens, so cooking time and cooking temperatures can be reduced, cutting energy use by about a third, on average.
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Cost of Cooking
This table from the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings compares the cost of cooking a casserole in several ways. It assumes the cost of gas is $.60 a therm, and electricity is $.08 a kWh.
|Electric Oven||350||1 hour||2.0 kWh||$.16|
|Electric Convection Oven||325||45 min||1.39 kWh||$.11|
|Gas Oven||350||1 hour||.112 therm||$.07|
|Electric Frying Pan||420||1 hour||.9 kWh||$.07|
|Toaster Oven||425||50 min||.95 kWh||$.08|
|Electric Crock Pot||200||7 hours||.7 kWh||$.06|
|Microwave Oven||High||15 min||.36 kWh||$.03|
Newer ovens have additional insulation and tighter-fitting oven door gaskets and hinges to save energy. These include self-cleaning models, which use less energy for normal cooking because of higher insulation levels. (However, if you use the self-cleaning option more than once a month, you will end up using more energy than you will save from the extra insulation.)
With electric cook tops, there are a number of new types of burners on the market: solid disk elements, radiant elements under glass, halogen elements and induction elements.
Solid disk elements and radiant elements under glass are easier to clean, but they take longer to heat up and use more electricity.
Halogen elements and induction elements are more efficient than conventional electric coil elements. But remember that induction elements require that you use only iron or steel pots and pans. Aluminum cookware will not work with induction elements.
It's Your Money
First things first. Install your range away from your refrigerator. The range's heat makes the refrigerator work harder. If you have to put them next to each other, place a sheet of foam insulation between them.
Here's how to use your oven efficiently:
- Preheat it only when necessary, and then keep the preheating time to a minimum. Unless you're baking breads or pastries, you may not need to preheat your oven at all.
- Do not open the oven door often to check on your food. Each time you open the door, the oven temperature drops by 25 degrees. Watch the clock or use a timer instead.
- It seems obvious, but don't cook with the oven door open. This common practice does nothing but waste energy and cost you money.
- Bake several items at the same time.
- Don't cover your oven racks with foil -- it blocks the flow of hot air. Food cooks more quickly and efficiently when the heated air can circulate freely. That's why it's also a good idea to stagger pans on upper and lower racks to improve airflow.
- Use glass or ceramic pans in your oven. You can turn down the temperature about 25 degrees and foods will cook just as quickly.
- Clean a self-cleaning oven right after you've used it, to take advantage of residual heat.
- 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 provide better heat retention.
- Full-size ovens are not very efficient for cooking small- to medium-sized meals. It generally pays to use toaster ovens or microwave ovens.
- 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. (The same principle 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 -- they will reflect the heat better and save energy. If you need new ones, buy quality. The best on the market can save as much as 1/3 of the energy used when cooking on top of the stove!
- Match the size of the pan to the heating element; more heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air. A 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner will waste over 40 percent of the energy.
- On electric stovetops, use only flat-bottomed pans that make full contact with the element. A warped or rounded pan will waste most of the heat.
- When cooking on a gas burner, 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.
- Whenever possible, use a pressure cooker. By cooking food at a higher temperature and pressure, cooking time is reduced dramatically and energy use is cut by 50 to 75 percent.
- Your range hood should ventilate to the outside of the house and not simply recirculate and filter the cooking fumes. This is especially important with gas ranges.
- Be careful about the sizes of fans as well -- too large a fan can waste energy and cause combustion gases to backdraft into the house. This can be a major problem with large downdraft ventilation fans used with some cooktops and ranges. Ask about make-up air ducts available for these models.