Johnny Morgan | 12/11/2009 9:51:04 PM
A shaky economy and uncertainty about the future create a period of transition, according to Diane Scimeca, LSU AgCenter healthy homes coordinator.
Influenced by past economic hardships, consumers are now inspired to seek relief in their homes and other entertainment outlets.
Since the kitchen is often the hub of the home, consumers want it to offer an uplifting feeling of optimism. Lighting, cabinetry, colors and appliances combine to create the perception of comfort, security and that overall good feeling offered in the kitchen environment. Smart consumers also want eco-friendly appliances, not only saving for themselves but saving for future generations.
Today’s manufacturers, responding to consumer demand for free-standing stoves or ranges, have expanded their lines to be energy-efficient and stylish with a wide variety of colors, sizes and surface materials.
Although not EnergyStar-rated, models are continually appearing on the market that can save energy, money and time. Stove tops can include six or more burners, a grill, a non-stick griddle and dual-fuel options such as electric/induction.
Gas stoves burn more efficiently than electric stoves but must be used with a vent hood drafted to the outside through the roof or eaves to remove carbon monoxide as well as moisture and odors from the indoor air.
A blue flame means good combustion, and a yellow flame means that service is needed. There are three types of burners: conventional burners with standing pilots, conventional burners with electric ignition (the most common) and sealed burners, where the burner is fused to the stovetop. Sealed burners are easier to clean, and standing pilots can double the cost of gas cooking.
In addition to exposed coils (the most common), electric stoves offer the advantage of an easy clean, smooth, glass-ceramic cook surface. Radiant heat or halogen heat under the glass-ceramic surface is more energy efficient. Turn off the burner about five minutes before the end of cook time, and the burner will remain hot and continue cooking food in a covered pot.
Stove tops with induction elements under a glass-ceramic surface use about half the energy of a typical electric stove with coils. Induction heating is the transfer of electromagnetic energy directly to heat the pot. Energy efficiency alone cannot justify the cost of induction elements unless they are used often. The surface is cooler to touch than all other types of range tops.
Cover pots and pans while cooking to conserve heat. Use the correct size pot for the burner. For example, a 6 inch pot on an 8 inch burner will waste 40 percent of the burner heat. Burners are offered with heat outputs of 850 to 18,000 Btus.
In convection ovens, even, hot airflow throughout and even temperatures reduce cooking time. An estimated 20 percent of energy use can be saved over conventional ovens.
Self-cleaning conventional ovens are more energy-efficient than other conventional ovens because they have more insulation. The energy-saving feature is lost if the oven is cleaned more than once a month.
Multiple heating modes, such as dual-convection and conventional ovens, offer the functionality of commercial appliances. Microwaves have been proven to reduce energy use by two-thirds of a conventional oven.
Rapid-cook ovens combine microwaves with other oven types such as convection or halogen. Temperature probes, variable power settings and controls to turn off when the food is cooked are just some of the many features that save time and energy consumption.
A warming drawer is often included with a free-standing stove. Some come equipped with precise controls for time, temperature, speed and humidity.