The electric vs. gas stove debate is always spirited. But, when you’re whipping up your famous beef Bourguignon or paella, the thought of saving money and energy costs probably isn’t at the front of your mind. Yet you could be saving money every single time you cook these recipes–or any other dish–if you have an energy-efficient stove.
You may have comparison shopped browsed the least expensive electric models at your local appliance store, but looking at the purchase price alone won’t tell you how much you’ll end up paying in the long run.
Both gas and electric ranges fall into a similar price range, depending on the brand and model. Generally, you’ll spend $650 to $2,800 for an electric stove, and $800 to $2,300 for a gas stove, according to Consumer Reports. If you buy a lower-end electric stove, you may save money upfront, but the costs of operating that stove will start to add up the more you cook.
According to the California Energy Commission, most Americans currently cook on an electric stove, and they may not be taking advantage of the greatest energy savings. Click on the next page to learn why switching to gas could save you money on your annual energy bills.
How Do They Work?
To understand why gas appliances will save you money when compared to their electric counterparts, you first need to know how they use energy.
When you use a gas stove, natural gas enters your stove via the main gas line to your house. It’s carried to the burner, where it combines with air inside a mixer tube.
As that gas-air mixture is released through holes in the burner, it mixes with even more air. The ignition system lights the gas-air mixture, creating a blue flame. As you turn the burner control knob, you control exactly how much gas reaches the burner. The higher you turn it, the more gas is released.
How Gas and Electric Stoves Get Hot
Gas stoves contain one of two types of ignition systems: a pilot light or an electronic ignition system. A pilot light is a constantly burning blue flame near the burner. Because it’s always on, a pilot light uses a lot more gas than an electronic ignition system. An electronic ignition system creates a spark (you’ll hear this as a clicking noise) only when you turn the burner on.
When you use an electric stove, electricity runs to a wire inside the coils on the cook top. Smooth top stoves have an internal coil that sits underneath the cooking surface. When you turn the dial on the stove, the electricity flows to the coil and heats up the metal. You can tell that electricity is flowing to the cook top when it turns a bright orange color. The more you turn the dial, the more electricity flows to the burner and the hotter it gets — but the control isn’t as precise as it is with a gas stove.
The Winner in Efficiency
The clear winner in the energy efficiency battle between gas and electric is gas. It takes about three times as much energy to produce and deliver electricity to your stove. According to the California Energy Commission, a gas stove will cost you less than half as much to operate (provided that you have an electronic ignition–not a pilot light).
Although the government’s Energy Star program, which rates home appliances for energy efficiency, doesn’t rate ranges, buying a gas stove and then following our energy-saving tips (see sidebar) can help you spend less each year.
The final figure on your annual energy bill will depend on how much time you spend cooking on your stove, but energy company MGE asserts that you can expect to pay an average of $2.34 per month to run a gas range without a pilot light (based on a gas rate of $1 per therm, or 100,000 BTU), compared to $5.94 per month to run an electric range (based on an electric rate of $.14 per kilowatt hour).
Gas Stoves Are Easy to Use, Too
Gas stoves may also be the clear winner when it comes to ease of use. Although electric stoves sometimes heat up more quickly than gas, the precise temperature control unlocked by gas ranges is a major benefit. Also, electric stove burners tend to hold heat longer, so if you leave a pot on the stove it may keep cooking and eventually burn — even if you’ve turned off the heat.
Gas and electric stoves may be relatively similar in price, but the energy efficiency of the typical gas stove will save consumers money in the long run. So, feel free to go wild in the kitchen as you go green!
Are Gas Stoves Safe?
There are other factors to consider when shopping for a new stove. A number of observational studies have explored that question in detail, though few agree on the results.
For starters, any household appliance that uses gas can be a source of carbon monoxide. You can alleviate these risks by ensuring that your stove is properly maintained, and by making a habit of a turning on your range hood at the start of your cooking process [source: New York Times].
In 1992, researchers from the Duke University and the EPA posited that the nitrogen dioxide that emits from a natural gas stove may increase the odds of a child developing a respiratory illness. Then, in 2013, another study claimed that gas stoves account for roughly 12.7 percent of childhood asthma cases in America [source: Scientific American].
The news has inspired more than a few calls to ban gas stoves nation wide. The American Gas Association disputes the data, and continues to champion the safety of gas cooktops to this day.
You can trim your energy bill even further by following these cost-saving tips: Keep the flame as low as possible to use less gas. If the flame turns yellow (instead of blue), your stove isn’t operating as efficiently as it could be. Make a service appointment with the manufacturer to have the stove adjusted. Also, use the right sized pot for your burner: Putting a small pot on a large burner can waste 40 percent of the burner’s heat.