Gas or Electric—Which Stove Is Better?
Mr. Green heats up a pot of solution
Hey Mr. Green! I'm in the market for a new kitchen stove. What's the best choice, gas or electric? It's all kind of confusing, given the various options now available.
—Miranda in Des Moines, Iowa
A gas stove is better than an electric stove in terms of total energy consumption. However, the gas stove can produce more indoor pollution if it's not ventilated to the outside, and the fracked gas that fuels your stove is a threat to water quality, public health, and the climate. So one of them is more efficient while the other is potentially cleaner, which makes it tricky to recommend a "best choice." A third option is the induction stove, which uses less power than a conventional electric but usually costs more. This stove also requires steel or iron pans, as it cannot heat aluminum or other nonmagnetic metal.
You may also want to consider difference in cost. A gas stove with an electric pilot light costs less than half as much to operate as an electric stove—roughly $20 a year compared with $45. An older stove needs around 30 therms per year to keep its pilot burning (natural gas is measured in therms, or BTUs). That can cost anywhere from $20 to more than $100 per year, depending on local gas prices. (The U.S. Energy Information Administration tracks prices in your area: bit.ly/eiaprices.)
To reduce the release of carbon monoxide from a gas stove, never put foil on the bottom of the oven, don't cover the slots there, and never operate the oven with its door open (heating a room with the oven is a no-no). Also, avoid slapping tiny pots on big flames, as the mismatch can squander 40 percent of a burner's heat.