Two of the goals for this house renovation are: Zero Energy Building and no combustion. A zero energy building gets all of its energy needs (heating, hot water, and electricity) from renewable sources; and no combustion means I don’t want to burn anything in the house — no oil, no gas, no corn, no pellets or wood. There are many sustainable ways to forest wood and pellets and corn are becoming a popular alternative to fossil fuels, but it is a goal for our renovation for personal reasons to help keep fumes down and allergies under control.
So this week I researched Electric stove tops (using radiation) and Induction stove tops. Electric radiation is much more common (and generally less expensive) than induction and basically involves using electricity to heat a coil below the pot or pan. The coil may be above the surface of the cooktop (and removable) or or it may be built in below the glass surface. It is sometimes called radiant electric heating because the heat radiates from this coil through the air, then to the pan, and finally to the food. With this stovetop you can see the coil turn red hot when it is on.
Induction heating works on the principal that an alternating electric current in the cooktop generates a magnetic field between the cooktop and the pan. Then the magnetic field generates an electric current in the pan directly. The only thing that gets hot is the pot or pan, which then heats the food. You can boil water in a pot with a piece of paper between the pot and the stovetop and the paper will never get hot enough to burn. The transfer of energy between the magnetic field and electric field is more efficient than transferring heat through the air first, then the pan and then the food. Induction heating is about 20% more efficient than radiant electric cooking.
Boiling a pot of water takes significantly less time with induction and the cook has more direct and immediate control of that heat than with radiant. You can get a very low simmer and you can get an immediate turn off of heat, which simulates the control you can get with a gas burner.
The disadvantage is that it is a bit more expensive and it only works with pots and pans that can react to a magnetic field and conduct current. You can determine if a pot or pan will work with induction by putting a magnet on the bottom. If it sticks, then it will work with an induction stove. Many pots and pans that we have in our homes already DO have the ability to work with the induction technology. If you have a whole set of cookware that is not capable of working with induction it is quite a bit more expensive to change over to induction since you would have to replace the pots and pans as well. Some manufacturers sell a hybrid induction/electric stovetops — 2 elements are electric and 2 are induction.
In our case, we have acquired quite a few pots and pans and that work with induction (just by chance) and over the last 2 years have found some eco-friendly green pans that are also induction capable. In case you are interested, the brands we have found with safe, non-stick surfaces, and are induction capable are: GreenPan and Scanpan.
We also have 2 young adults that are starting their own apartments and are happy to take our non-induction cookware, so at least we know it is getting recycled.