This article was originally published in the November/December 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online November/December 1993



Trends in Energy is a bulletin of residential energy conservation issues. It covers items ranging from the latest policy issues to the newest energy technologies. If you have items that would be of interest, please send them to: Trends Department, Home Energy, 2124 Kittredge St., No. 95, Berkeley, CA 94704.



Hot Potato

Gas oven owners may be shocked to discover that their gas ovens consume significant amounts of electricity. Since almost all new gas-fueled appliances are pilotless, gas burners for ovens, furnaces, and clothes dryers require electric ignitors. The ranges on gas ovens employ electric ignitors that use negligible amounts of electricity to initiate the flame.

Oven ignitors, however, are quite different. Ignitors in gas ovens are glow bars which draw between 350 and 400 watts. Worst of all, these ignitors operate--and thus, consume electricity--the whole time that the burner is lit. For the length of time required to bake, the electricity consumed by the ignitor can really add up. It has been suggested that a conventional gas oven may use more electricity to bake a potato than a microwave oven (see One More Miscellaneous Use of Electricity, HE, May/June '93, p.14). I tested that hypothesis.

The results of the field measurements were conclusive. A conventional gas oven from a cold start required over 200 watt- hours (Wh) to bake a moderately-sized potato at 350deg.F. A pre-heated conventional gas oven (immediately after the first trial) consumed only 140 Wh. A microwave oven in the same kitchen, however, consumed only 110 Wh to bake potatoes of similar size. These energy readings completely ignored the energy represented by any gas consumed and the extra hour required to bake a potato in a conventional oven. Those with both a new gas conventional oven and a microwave should consider baking smaller items in the microwave. The idea of enjoying energy (and time) savings isn't half-baked after all.

-- Brian Pon


Brian Pon is a researcher in the Energy Analysis Program at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, in Berkeley, California.


Figure 1. A conventional gas oven uses more electricity to bake a potato than a microwave oven. The cold oven case included the electricity required to pre-heat the oven.


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