HomeEnergyCenter

Home Energy Library

Search

Contents

Cooktop

The two primary types of cooktops are ones that form the top of a kitchen range and separate units that install in a countertop and are used in conjunction with built-in ovens. Of the two, the separate cooktops are becoming increasingly popular in new homes and kitchen remodeling projects. Cooktops come in gas and electric models. Gas cooktops are preferred by some who say seeing the flame makes them feel better in control of the cooking process. Others say they like the fact that when you turn it on, it is on, and when you turn it off, the heat source goes away, unlike electric units where heat remains long after the energy is switched off. With gas, it is important to run the ventilation fan to remove the by-products of combustion from the home along with cooking vapors.

There is a wide variety of electric cooktop types available today. Some offer better cooking control, more efficient operation, and a high-tech look to the kitchen. Here is a quick summary of some features you may want to consider in selecting a new cooktop. The one most appropriate for you will be a balance of the cost and characteristics most important to you.

The least expensive and most common electric cooktops consist of four exposed metal coil burners in various sizes.

Solid disk elements are more attractive and easier to clean than exposed coils because they don't have areas where drips can occur. They do take a slightly longer to heat up and use a little more energy to operate because they have higher wattage elements. Moving up the cost scale, radiant elements under ceramic glass heat faster than solid disk elements and have the advantage of being easy to clean and can provide workspace when not in use. With flat cooking surfaces and solid disks, it is important to use pans with smooth, flat bottoms to conduct the heat.

Even more expensive, halogen cooktops use halogen lamps under glass to produce heat. An advantage is they heat instantly and respond quickly to setting changes, but their efficiency is about the same as that of a radiant unit. And it's unlikely you could justify the additional cost of this kind of cooktop on energy savings.

More expensive still and seen only in high-end stores, induction elements heat by transferring electromagnetic energy directly to the pan, a method that makes them very energy-efficient and intriguing. People are amazed that when the pan is removed from the cooktop, the heat is gone. Induction cooktops use less than half as much energy as electric coil burners. A disadvantage is they only work with a certain type of pan including cast iron, stainless steel, or enameled iron, but not non-magnetic aluminum ones.