Buying Gas or Electric Ranges
Selecting a new range for your home will involve many choices. Some are a matter of personal preference, or the price you are willing to pay. Other choices may be dictated by your existing kitchen design and your utilities.
Basic Choices: Narrowing The Field
Gas or electric fuel, size, style, and cost will be the first decisions to make in selecting a range. Once these choices are made, you can focus on models that you can realistically consider.
Gas or Electric: You will probably replace an electric range with another electric, or a gas range with another gas one. But if you are replacing the range as a part of a major remodeling of your kitchen that includes wiring and plumbing, you might examine both gas and electric models before deciding. Both gas and electric ranges offer new innovations compared to the models of earlier years. And while gas ranges are still slightly more expensive, they typically cost less to operate.
Size and Style: Ranges come in a variety of sizes and styles. Widths vary from 20 to 40 inches. Most models are free-standing and require no special cabinetry. Separate built-in cooktops and wall ovens are also available. Slide-in models which have no backsplash, and drop-in ranges which rest on a low pedestal between two cabinets are less common.
Regardless of the style, measure carefully if you are going to use your existing kitchen cabinets. If your new range does not fit the existing gap between your cabinets or the new cooktop and wall oven require a different size cut-out in your counter top or wall, you will increase both the cost and aggravation of replacement.
Budget: The price of a new range can vary from as little as $200 for a strip-down model to over $1,000 for a self-cleaning model with electronic oven controls. Knowing your budget before shopping can help you resist being steered to models that are out of your price range.
Once you have decided the basic type of range for which you are shopping, you can consider other choices that mainly affect convenience and appearance. Consider your cooking habits, cookware, personal preferences, and budget to determine which options will be most useful or important to you.
Cooktop: Electric ranges offer three basic categories of cooktops: regular coils, solid disk elements, and smoothtop surfaces. Smoothtops may cook using radiant heat or the newer halogen or induction elements. Smoothtops are the easiest cooktops to clean, and today's models include indicators to alert you that a unit is hot. Solid disks are also easy to clean.
Both disks and smoothtops operate most efficiently with cookware that is perfectly flat on the bottom; smoothtops work best with metal cookware. Consider the types of cookware you currently have. With a smoothtop or solid disk model, you may have to choose between replacing many of your pots and pans or dealing with inefficient cooking and higher energy costs. Some surfaces are not appropriate for special uses, such as canning or cooking with a wok.
In gas ranges, you have the choice of standard burners and sealed burners. Sealed burners simplify cleaning by preventing bits of food and spills from falling into the area beneath the cooktop.
Oven: Both gas and electric ovens offer three cleaning options: standard (meaning you do the cleaning), continuous cleaning, and self-cleaning. Continuous cleaning ovens, which are the least common, burn off moderate amounts of soil during normal baking. Self-cleaning ovens use a special, high temperature cycle to burn off accumulated soil. Standard clean gas ranges have a separate broiling compartment, but self- cleaning gas ranges broil in the regular oven cavity. As a result, these models will have storage drawers under the oven as do electric ranges.
Controls: Burners are still typically controlled with dials, but oven controls may be either dials or digital. In either case, controls should be easy to reach and easy to understand.
Storage: Electric ranges provide the largest storage drawers underneath their ovens. Self-cleaning gas ranges provide smaller drawers, and other gas ranges typically have no storage compartment.
Oven window: Not all ovens provide a window for checking cooking progress. Frequent door-opening will increase energy consumption and jeopardize the quality of temperamental baked products.
Service contracts, also known as extended warranties, are sold by many appliance dealers. Do not confuse the service contract with the manufacturer's warranty, which is automatically provided when you purchase the product. You must pay an additional fee for the service contract. Check to see exactly what parts or services the contract covers, whether you will have to pay a deductible, where you must take the product to get service, and whether the service contract duplicates coverage already provided by the manufacturer's warranty.
Making The Big Decision
As with any major purchase, you should visit two or more appliance dealers to become familiar with the choices and to compare prices. Be sure to ask about additional charges for delivery and installation, and don't be pushed into an extended warranty.
Federal Trade Commission. (1983). Service Contracts (Facts for Consumers). Washington, D.C.: Federal Trade Commission.
Consumers Union. (1994). Guide to choosing a gas range, Consumer Reports, 59(1), 12-17.
Consumers Union. (1993). Guide to choosing an electric range, Consumer Reports, 58(9), 604-609.
Leonard, W. B. (1992). Consumer reports money savings tips for good times and bad. Yonkers, New York: Consumers Union.
Wilson, A., & Morrill, J. (1993) Consumer guide to home energy savings. 3rd ed. Berkely, CA: ACEEE.
Prepared 6/94 by Karen Chan, Consumer & Family Economics Educator.