Photograph by Diana Lundin/Shutterstock
for National Geographic's Green Guide
Ovens and ranges don't compare with the fuel-guzzling power of the big energy hogs in your house, like the refrigerator or water heater, but there are some simple things you can do to save energy in the kitchen.
First, pick a good range. It doesn't matter if it's an all-in-one cooktop-and-oven combo or if the two are separate. Putting them together won't save energy.
No Energy Star Ratings: Don’t look for an Energy Star rating. Ovens are not part of the Energy Star program for green appliances. Electric ovens are somewhat more efficient than gas but tend to cost more to operate, although their purchase price is lower.
Convection: In conventional ovens, hot air rises to the top and stays there, meaning the inside of your oven isn't one uniform temperature. That can make baking a little tricky. Most ovens on the market now are convection ovens, which are basically conventional ovens that incorporate a fan to circulate the warm air. (There’s usually another heating element near the fan to make sure it’s circulating hot air.) These ovens are much more efficient, in addition to being more convenient: they'll cut about a quarter off your energy use.
Electric Ignition: If you're buying a gas oven, find one with an electric ignition instead of a standing pilot light that eats up energy all day long.
Rapid-Cook: There are some rapid-cook ovens that use some of the high-speed, high-efficiency power of a microwave oven but give you the flavor you can get only from a real oven.
Gas vs. Electric: Choosing a surface to cook on is mostly an exercise in personal preference. About 60 percent of U.S. households use electric stoves, although many cooks prefer gas, which allows for more control. There’s not an overwhelming difference in efficiency between standard gas and electric cooktops, but gas has a slight edge (as opposed to ovens, where electric has the edge).
Induction Cooktops: The gold star for efficiency goes to induction cooktops. They're the smooth-topped ranges that don't even get hot—they generate heat electromagnetically, so energy isn’t wasted heating up the burner, when really all you need to heat is the food inside your pot.
The downside there is that you need specific pots and pans made of ferrous materials for this kind of stove. Non-conducting materials like glass and ceramic won't work.
Ceramic Glass Cooktops: Ceramic glass cooktops that use halogen elements for heating provide some savings, too, but only if you have very flat pans that maintain good contact with the burner. Otherwise, you’ll lose heat.
Hot Plates: At the bottom of the list are solid-disk burners, such as hot plates, that take a long time to heat up. These burners can be easier to clean, but they don’t involve any significant energy savings.
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