Gas Stoves

Gas Stoves are great but do have some drawbacks

As an avid cook, I have come to gain an appreciation for gas stoves and cooking with gas. I grew up in a house with a gas stove.  Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury in my current home. Here, I am stuck using an induction electric range. (its benefits come in another post) Gas, especially natural gas, burns relatively clean and offers much better control in the kitchen. However, with the benefits come some drawbacks. I’ve gathered a list of a few things you should know about your gas stoves.

Gas flame color

Did you know that the color of your flame can indicate problems? It’s true. A properly calibrated gas stove cooktop will produce a solid blue flame. There could be flecks of gold or orange, but it should be predominately blue. If, however, you notice that your flame is broken or emits a variety of colors, it indicates the fuel did not burn properly. You may also have the wrong type of valve connected.  (Natural gas and propane require different valves).  Orange flames coming from a burner typically mean that there is incomplete combustion. What’s so bad about incomplete combustion? Well, that means that there are more harmful byproducts floating around in the air you’re breathing. Most notably, carbon monoxide. With incomplete combustion, part of the carbon in the fuel fails to completely oxidize producing soot and, as I mentioned, carbon monoxide. Orange flames may not always mean a defective appliance or incomplete burn. Sometimes other appliances may be influencing the flame color, such as humidifiers.

Humidifiers and Gas Stoves

A contemptuous debate follows one consistency. The consistency is that a humidifier operating in the vicinity of a gas cooktop will cause the burner to produce an orange flame. The debate comes in as to why this occurs. Some speculate it is the burning of sodium in the atomized water droplets. Others believe it is much more complex involving the normal black body radiation from the soot produced from the burning moisture. I’m not about to jump into the physics of that because someone already did it for me. If you’re interested in taking that deep dive, I recommend you take a look at this article on Physics Stack Exchange.  What’s the solution?  Move or turn down the humidifier.

Exhaust

Yet another contentious debate in the building industry (yes, there are many) comes in the form of exhaust.  At present, there are only a handful of jurisdictions that require gas stoves to exhaust to the outside.  All others fall into the trap of builders doing things the cheapest way possible.  What does that mean for you?  Simply, they rely on a recirculating fan from either a standalone appliance or a built-in microwave oven.  I restate, no codes require kitchen exhaust to be routed to the exterior of the home.  If you look at every other combustion appliance installed in the home, each requires an exhaust system to the exterior.  The claim is that the BTU of the range doesn’t compare to that of, say, a water heater or furnace.  That is irrelevant, especially when there is the potential for incomplete combustion (read Gas flame color above).

Indoor air quality

Beyond the previously stated harmful byproducts of incomplete combustion (carbon monoxide), even a sufficiently spent fuel omits byproducts that can be irritants to occupants in the home.  For those that have respiratory ailments, this can be an even bigger issue.   Some claims exist that children under the age of 6 that live in a home with gas stoves experience or develop asthma, wheezing, and reduced lung function.  Others state that the production of nitrogen dioxide causes asthma flare-ups in adults.  There are several studies that both support and discredit these claims, so take this information with a grain of salt… or just do your own reading.

Clearances

An open flame is a sure way to burn things.  Including your cabinets or other items located near the flame.  With that stated, there are some rules that apply when installing a gas range in the kitchen.  Clearances to other combustibles are specifically called out in the manufacturer’s documentation for built-in microwaves or standalone exhaust hoods.  In most cases, it’s not the appliance that is referenced, but rather the cabinets that those appliances are secured to.  Codes state that there should be no less than 30 inches of clearance for combustible materials and metal cabinets.  Some exceptions allow for a 24-inch clearance if there is a specific type of heat shield installed on the underside of the cabinets.  Other exceptions defer back to the manufactures installation instructions for both hoods and microwaves as stated above.

Article written by Joseph Boos, CPI – Realm Inspections, LLC

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