Induction Stoves: An Option for New Construction

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The Berkeley limitations on new hookups for natural gas will likely set a precedent for new construction activity in many cities and some states across the country. While the efficient, electrified replacement technologies for water and space heating are not well known, they are – at least – likely in the basement or garage. They are out-of-sight and out-of-mind. That is, of course, if they perform properly.

The same is not true for cook stoves. Residential customers interact with their cook stoves frequently.  For some households, maybe the interactions are not as often as they are with Uber Eats or GrubHub, but most people use their cook stoves pretty frequently. 

Some residential consumers strongly prefer gas for cooking. If a gas cook stove is no longer possible for a new residence, consumers may protest strongly. The efficient, electrified replacement technology for cooking is not electric resistance coils, but induction stoves (or individual burners). Like ductless heat pumps, they are not well known in this country. Also like ductless heat pumps, they do their job very well.

Kitchen Monkey is an online equipment supplier to the restaurant industry. Here is a (slightly abbreviated) version of their perspective on induction cooking for commercial kitchens.

”Induction is currently the only technology that offers the full range of gas cooking benefits, but without the cons. Up until now, gas was always regarded as superior to any electric cooking surface on the market, with many professional chefs feeling very skeptical about the fact that one day an electric induction cooktop would be deemed superior.

Performance advantages and benefits:

Faster - Cooking on an induction electric range is much faster. Since time is of the essence in the food service industry, the ability to cook food faster means greater profits.

Cooler - Traditional electric and gas ranges waste about 50% of the heat they generate which, in turn, costs restaurants a lot when it comes to cooling costs. However, by using an electric induction range, the heat is generated in the pan itself, so there’s zero ambient heat produced in the process.

Cleaner - With no grease or grates to worry about, cleaning up an induction cooktop is very simple. All you have to do is wipe it using a damp cloth and then wipe over the flat and that’s it!

Safer - Compared to other electric and gas surfaces, induction cooktops are much safer because there is no radiant heat source, red hot coil or open flame that may ignite flammable materials or fumes.

Cheaper - Compared to traditional electric or gas ranges, induction cooking is a lot more energy efficient. When using one such cooktop, ninety percent of every dollar spent on energy is going to go directly in the pan. Compared to gas, which delivers only fifty five percent to the pan and with electric ranges delivering sixty five percent, it’s clear how high the cost savings are. On top of that, when the pan is removed from the cooking surface, the cooktop automatically goes into standby mode which furthermore helps save energy.”

Some commercial kitchens, notably the very well-known French Laundry in California’s wine country, switched to induction cooking a decade ago. In addition to the above benefits, induction cooktops can also be very precisely controlled, which is critical for quality control.

A number of these benefits translate directly into the residential kitchen, probably with safety being the most emphasized. An additional potential advantage, especially in multi-family and smaller homes, is that induction cooking can be performed on the countertop with one or more individual burners, saving the space and the expense of the standard four-burner cook top.

The three primary barriers to greater consumer acceptance of induction cooking are familiarity, costs, and for some home chefs, the need to purchase cookware that works with induction heating (no glass, ceramic, aluminum, or some stainless steel). Costs are dropping, with some four induction burner stoves that include ovens coming in under $1,000. Consumer reports also rates several induction stoves among their top overall performers in the cooking category.

Cooking does not consume nearly the amount of energy used by water and space heating, but as bans on hook-ups and the development of further gas infrastructure become more common, cooking might be a consumer choice or expectation that becomes a “flash point”, especially for consumers who only remember older style electric ranges.

While we continue to develop strategies to educate consumers about advanced heat pump technology, we will need to do the same with this newer cooking technology in order to create options for consumers. The safety, flexibility, and speed of induction cooking creates significant benefits. Let’s make sure that this new technology does not create a hurdle for consumers as technologies continue to change.

This blog is part of Building Decarb Central, a series of blogs and other resources aimed at providing a constant flow of information on building decarbonization. Be sure to check out our web portal for more stories, resources, and information.

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