Sunday, July 16, 2017

Does an electric appliance save you money over using your stove and/or oven?

I've seen the argument numerous times that using a small electric appliance (electric pressure cooker, countertop oven, slow cooker, etc.) saves electricity compared to heating up that huuuuuge stove.

I'm guessing that a lot of people think that because a stove is sooooo big, it consumes a lot of power.

But does it?

I decided to do a little research, and I was pretty surprised at the results.

I found a site that compared the cost of gas and electric ranges, with normal usage of each, and using both the cooktop and oven on a somewhat normal schedule. A modern gas stove with electric ignition would cost about $18 per year to operate. If the oven is not included, it goes down to $15 per year.

With the same usage, an all-electric stove would cost $45 to operate per year. If the oven is convection, the cost would go down to $43 per year. If the oven is not included at all, the cost goes down to $39 per year.

Since an electric pressure cooker is more likely to replace stovetop cooking than oven use, I was most interested in the cost that didn't include oven use. But I have to say I was surprised that my stove wasn't costing me more. Like other folks, I assumed that the big thing was costing me a lot of money. In comparison, the other big thing in the kitchen - the refrigerator - costs about $16 per month. So my refrigerator costs me as much in a month as my stove does in a whole year.

Of course, costs ultimately depend on gas and electric costs in your area, which can vary seasonally. But we're just doing comparisons for giggles, not trying to create the national budget.

I found one manufacturer that had specifications on the kilowatts used for an average cooking session in their pressure cooking appliance. I did some math using the same kw/h price from the stove comparison site, and if the electric pressure cooker was used for that amount of time every single day would cost about $15 per year to operate.

Of course, that's not how people use that sort of appliance. Some weeks they might make a batch of yogurt that takes 8 hours. Another week they might use it for 20 minutes every day. Or they might skip a week when they're cooking on the grill. Just like not everyone uses their stove for the same amount of time every week of every year. It's all about the averages.

The $15 per year assumes an average use of the electric pressure cooker for 4 hours per week.

There are other financial considerations. 

An electric pressure cooker throws off less heat than cooking on the stove or in the oven.

In the summer, this means you'd save on air conditioning, so that's one point for the pressure cooker.

But in winter, that extra warmth in the kitchen is a good thing, and depending on the configuration of the house it can also warm adjoining rooms. So the stove gets one point there for cutting down on heating costs in winter.

No one wins this battle.

Of course, all these numbers are estimates and averages. Different electric pressure cookers draw different amounts of power, as do different stoves. Cooking habits and local power costs will make a difference. People who have electric pressure cookers will probably continue to use their stoves for some things. Some people will opt to cook on a grill in the summer and do a lot of baking and roasting in the winter.

My own personal experience (which somehow I forget until I'm reminded) is that a stove does not consume enough power to make a noticeable difference in my utilities, even though I cook a lot. I was without a stove for a significant amount of time on three separate occasions. Twice, I did the majority of my cooking on my outdoor grill, and the third time (winter, ya know) I relied on electric appliances for my cooking. I saw no significant change in utilities any of those times. When I was working on my cookbook, my oven was on nonstop from the time I woke up until I went to bed at night. The utility bills weren't any higher than normal during that time.

If you like your electric pressure cooker, toaster oven, microwave, rice cooker, slow cooker, or other appliances, they're fine tools to have. But if you're looking for money savings, you're probably not going to move that needle by filling up your counter with things that plug in, simply because your stove isn't costing you a whole lot to operate if you use gas or electric. (I've heard that propane is higher, but I don't have numbers on that.)

On the other hand, next time you need a new stove, gas will save you a little money over electric. Not enough to make it worthwhile to buy a stove before it's necessary, though.

Bottom line: use what you like.