Are Gas Ranges Dangerous? What You Need to Know Before Installing One in Your Home
Gas stoves have long been the go-to appliance for many households, and with good reason. They are reliable, heat cookware quickly, and relatively affordable. New research suggests gas ranges can also pose potential health and environmental risks if they are not properly maintained or used correctly.
Before we make a statement that gas stoves are dangerous, it’s critical to look at what’s happening in the residential building industry today. New buildings are more efficient than ever. Airtight doors, windows, and seams mean that there is a greater need for ventilation. Ventilation is one of the least understood appliance categories. An estimated sixty percent of inhabitants use ventilation in their homes, and many households do not have a range hood or venting microwave in place.
At AjMadison, we always recommend a range hood or venting microwave for every stove and cooktop. If you have questions or want to learn more, please reach out to one of our appliance experts in our showrooms or by phone, we can help answer all your questions.
Lastly, the home appliance industry has seen an increased focus on metrics-based features, specifically, how powerful are the burners (with heat measured in BTUs) and how many options and cycles are available. In years past, your most powerful burner achieved temps of 15,000 BTUs. Today luxury appliance manufacturers offer stoves with single burners up to 35,000 BTUs. This increase coupled with tighter building construction and in some cases lack of ventilation is problematic.
In this article, we will discuss why gas stoves have been the top-choice cooking technology, address best practices to reduce the risks associated with gas cooking ranges, and suggest a few alternative technologies to consider.
Types of gas ranges & what makes them so popular
What are the health risks associated with gas ranges?
To summarize Brady Anne Seals and Andee Krasner’s study“Health Effects from Gas Stove Pollution”,all cooking appliances produce some pollutants and particulate matter. The study calculated the difference of emissions emitted by the fuel or the food. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) were found to be primary pollutants produced from the combustion of gas. The research concluded that old poorly maintained stoves are most likely to emit elevated levels of toxins. Electric and induction cooking stoves do not emit levels of combustion pollutants and are therefore inherently cleaner than gas stoves. Unlike gas water heaters, furnaces, and dryers, there is no uniform venting requirement for gas stoves.The study concluded that ventilation is important but cannot be relied on to eliminate the risks of gas pollution.
Critics of the study suggest that more research needs to be done before gas cooking appliances are ruled unsafe. Specifically, that more research is required across a wider sample of people and greater data tracking their exposure over time. It is also unclear if the research controlled for confounding factors like the gas output (BTU power) of the stove, the age of the stove, the ventilation system in the house, and the age of the home. It is my estimation that people residing in small apartments with older stoves and no ventilation are at the greatest risk.
Indoor air quality, once perceived as an afterthought is now top of mind. An estimated 60-percent of those surveyed do not open a window or activate their ventilation fan while cooking. Ventilation is one of the least utilized and least understood appliance categories. However, with the rise of air-tight homes it’s especially important to start the conversation early and plan. Properly sized ventilation hoods are essential for gas cooking stoves, and it is our recommendation to duct outside whenever possible. If venting to the outside is impossible, open a window while the stove is in use.
There are a few important factors to consider when selecting a ventilation hood. Vents come in many different shapes and sizes. Under cabinet hoods and chimney-style hoods are the most popular styles, followed by over-the-range microwaves, designer wood hoods and downdraft vents. Every situation is different, and that’s why it’s important to talk about ventilation every time you buy a stove or cooktop. The three main factors to consider with ventilation are: power (measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM), duct path, and capture area. A well vented hood must account for all three factors.
Hood Power (CFM)
Every vent hood has a motor, also known as the blower. The power of the blower is measured in CFM. The amount of CFM needed depends on the size, power, and fuel type of the stove as well as how often it’s used. While radiant electric and induction surfaces don’t require a specific amount of CFM, someone who cooks often will likely want a relatively high CFM to reduce odor and cooking residue in the kitchen.
If you’re cooking on a gas stove or cooktop, there’s a simple formula to determine the right amount of hood power for your cooking appliance. Simply add up the maximum output of all of your stove’s burners. For example, a 6-burner Thermador Pro Harmony Range will have 3 burners with maximum 18,000 BTUs per burner, and 3 burners with maximum 15,000 BTUs totaling 99,000 total BTUs. Divide that number by 100, and you will see that the recommended minimum CFM requirement should be 1,000 CFM.
The best practice for optimal ventilation is to get a vent that directs air to the outside. Non-ducted hoods, also known as recirculating hoods, were previously considered an option, but it’s my professional recommendation to duct a hood over a gas cooking surface to the outside whenever possible. It’s best to keep the vent path as short and straight as possible. Reductions, elbows, and long duct runs can increase a vent’s noise level and reduce its efficiency.
The capture area is how much the vent hood covers your cooking surface. It is often recommended to go up a size when selecting a vent for a powerful professional gas stove. Shallow hoods and microwaves with small capture area will not vent as effectively as larger models with large baffle filters. If your capture area is small, it’s recommended to cook using the rear burners for more effective ventilation.
Additional Ventilation Best Practices
At AjMadison, we always recommend a range hood or venting microwave for every stove and cooktop. It’s a good idea to turn on your vent 15 minutes before you start cooking and leave the vent running for 15 minutes after you are done. Some smart hoods sync with the cooking surface to activate automatically. One of the best ways to ventilate your kitchen is to remember to turn on the hood in the first place.
Ventilation hoods can become an exciting design choice in the kitchen as well. Once the forgotten appliance, the abundance of beautiful and exciting hood vents available make planning for proper ventilation easy and fun.
Tips for Renters and People Who Can’t Replace Their Gas Stoves
Whether you are renting, or simply don’t have the ability to replace your stove, there are measures you can take to improve your health and safety. It’s important to prioritize good air quality. If you do not have proper ventilation, open a window while you are cooking. Regularly check for gas leaks. If you smell gas, call the gas company immediately and cease cooking.
Some emissions cannot be detected by smell. To test your existing range, purchase a propane or natural gas leak detector. It is important to regularly inspect your gas range for any signs of damage or blockage, and make sure that your range hood is functioning properly.
It's code to have a functioning carbon monoxide detector. Make sure your CO alarm is working properly. Some smoke detectors, like Nest Protect, also include CO detection capabilities. One of the most common health risks associated with gas ranges is the release of toxic gases like methane or carbon monoxide.
Lastly, invest in a good air purifier. Air purifiers with HEPA filtration can help eliminate several dangerous contaminants and unhealthy pollutants.
When is it time to replace your old gas stove?
The research suggested that older stoves were most likely to emit toxic pollutants. If your old stove is on the fritz, or if you occasionally smell gas, it is time to consider a replacement.
Consider switching to an induction cooktop. While professional style gas ranges are still in high demand, induction cooking is quickly gaining recognition as the easy-to-clean eco-friendly alternative, and we are noticing a shifting in demand toward induction cooktops and ranges.
The Inflation Reduction Act does provide a rough framework such as a homeowner could receive a rebate of up to $840 on a new electric cooking appliance and up to an additional $500 to help cover the costs of converting from natural gas or propane to electric. If the home’s electrical panel needs to be upgraded to accommodate an electric range (or any other electric appliance upgrade covered by the Inflation Reduction Act. Next to professional gas cooktops and ranges, electric induction is a top choice contender. Consumers are choosing to update with induction for its cleanability, safety, speed, and efficiency. We are noticing increased interest in the category.
In 2022, induction cooktop sales increased by thirty-five percent and represented twenty-nine percent of all cooktop sales. There are over 200 induction ranges and cooktops industrywide representing over 30 different brands. There is an extensive selection of professional-style induction ranges as well as affordable stoves starting at $893 and cooktops starting at $1,193. It is anticipated that induction will eventually supersede gas as the best available technology.
“I shock so many people with my love for induction because as a pro chef, most people automatically think I am going to love gas ranges more"
“I love cooking, but I hate cleaning. So, when I am at home, I want to have a smooth and efficient surface. I also love the precision of induction, going from zero to boil in 90 seconds is incredible. And being able to sear a steak or hold sauces and soups at potentially a warm plate function, with gas you still cannot get as low as you can with induction. Induction has so many incredible benefits and a lot of people are switching.”
-States Culinary Educator, Recipe Writer and Food Content Creator, Saba Wahid Duffy, who was the 2020 winner of Chopped: Martha Rules Grand Champion.
Safer, planet friendly with easy cleanup and installation: induction is the fastest-growing cooking technology in the United States. AjMadison anticipates that the demand for induction will increase in the future as more consumers are learning about the benefits of this innovative technology. With induction, there is an electromagnetic reaction between the burner and the pot or pan itself. If there is no pot or pan on the burner, just turning the burner on will not generate any heat, safer for young children, aging family members and pets. Within a few minutes of turning off an induction burner, both the pan and the burner become cooler quickly, making burns less likely. The key to making an induction cooktop or range work is to use a specific magnetic pot or pan to generate the electromagnetic reaction to cook the food. Typically, this will mean using cast iron or magnetic stainless steel. An easy test is to take a refrigerator magnet and hold it up to a pot and pan. If it sticks, the pan should work on an induction cooking surface.
For large kitchens where home cooks can share the space, AjMadison recommends a 36-inch cooktop paired with a double wall oven, steam oven, microwave drawer, or even a pizza oven. In a medium or small-size kitchen, ranges are the top choice. Most buyers choose induction ranges as they are budget-friendly and can easily replace an older electric range. Since induction cooking is faster than traditional stovetop cooking, it also uses less energy. It generates less residual heat (any heat will be in the pot or pan and not coming from the stovetop itself). This makes for less energy usage and lower electric bills. Induction also requires less ventilation, so it is a great solution for city dwellers, or homes where venting outside is not possible. Furthermore, induction cooktops are smart. If the appliance senses a boil over, most will turn off automatically, and induction heats the cookware, not the glass. This means that the glass is far less likely to cause cooking burns. Cleanup is also easier. The glass cooktop requires only a wipe down and since the stove stays relatively cool throughout, food seldom sticks to it. This is because induction cooktops are different than radiant electric cooktops. With regular electric cooktops, a heating coil under the cooking surface heats the glass which heats the pan, so the glass becomes scorching hot. If one spills on a radiant electric cooktop, burnt circles result over time which can be difficult to clean. Induction is different in that the inductors cause the pan to heat up, not the glass. Although the glass under the cookware will be quite warm, one is less likely to experience those hard-to-clean messes. This means the induction range or cooktop will look brand new for years to come. One can wipe the induction surface after cooking, with a damp cloth or paper towel. For an even easier clean-up, one can place a towel under the cookware to catch splatter. Finally, induction cooktops and ranges are easy to install. If one has an old electric range, it can be replaced with an induction model. Just make sure to check the specifications to ensure the electrical breaker has enough amps. Induction cooktops come in all shapes and sizes and can make a terrific addition to a guest suite, pool house, in-law apartment, or even a home office.