Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Solar Decathlon: Induction stoves

Some day I will have an induction stove in my kitchen. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept let me explain. Forgive me if I start too simple. I've been rather disturbed with how many people required me to go back to the fundamentals when explaining this stuff.

When you run an electrical current through a coil of wire it produces a magnetic field. This is the idea behind an electromagnet.
The opposite is also true. Wave a magnet at a coil of wire and you "induce" an electrical current in the wire. This is induction. This is how turbines work.
In an induction stove a magnetic field is created by the stove. If there is iron in your pots then it will try to generate electricity in your pot. Since the resistance of your pot is so high it will heat up instead. This means that your glass and aluminum pots don't work on induction stoves. But there's still lots of workable pots in most stores.

pros and cons
Most of the homes in the Solar Decathlon use these instead of gas or electric because they're more efficient.
Gas stoves are about 30% efficient. You get heat instantly but there's lots of waste heat doing nothing but heating your kitchen. Plus you have to worry about an exposed flame.
Electric stoves are about 60% efficient. It takes longer to heat up but there's less waste since the heating coils are in direct contact with the pot. It's easier to forget you left it on since there's no flame. These days they tend to have solid surfaces which are easier to clean.
Induction stoves are about 90% efficient. There's little to no waste heat since the pan itself is heating up. The pan warms faster than with gas. You can boil water in just a few minutes. You can set your hand right next to the pot without burning yourself. If you drop a towel on it while it's on the towel won't catch fire. It won't burn stupid kids or forgetful elders. They also share the solid and easy to clean surface. On the down side you do need to watch out for your jewelry. One of the students talked about his necklace heating up.

The last time I went looking for induction stoves was about a year and a half ago. At the time most models were either massive systems for large and expensive restauraunts or little hotplate looking things. All except for Diva.
Now the market has expanded. I'm going to be pointing you to the various vendors.

Wolf has a nice little 15"x21" two burner jobbie with touch sensitive controls.

Bosch has.... ok, looks like I was misled. That was just an electric rangetop. Bad, Bosch. No treat for you.

KitchenAid I know has one. It says "induction" right on it. There's a five burner 36" wide model ( and a four burner 30" wide model ( also with touch controls. You know, you should just take touch controls for granted.

Diva I mentioned before. They have six models ranging from 12" wide to 36". Just go to and click on "Products".

Siemens sells them, but looking about it appears they don't sell them in the United States. I'm gonna make you international readers look for them on your own. Yeah, I know you're there. Someone is reading this at 2:00 in the morning.

K├╝ppersbusch has press releases talking about theirs, but nothing in their product list. seems to be showing off. Check out their song and dance at And it looks like we should be able to pop out to Sears to see one in real life.

To me the biggest drawback is the fact that it's only a rangetop. The oven still has to be purchased separately.

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