Back in the fall, we went over the basic mechanics behind the average electric and natural gas cooktops that can be found in homes across the GTA. What we failed to look at in our guide was the latest in stovetop technology, the induction cooktop. It uses electric fields to cook your food, which makes it a rarity in kitchens today; however, as the more people learn about its greater efficiency and safety standards, it will soon be a familiar appliance in the years to come.
You may have already seen pictures of these stoves at work. Images of a boiling pot of water sharing an element with fully frozen ice cubes are all over the Internet, as are pictures of a piece of paper set between a sizzling pan and the induction cooktop. Common sense says these ice cubes should be melting and the paper in flames, yet an induction stove is able to heat the crockery without affecting the objects around it, even if they’re placed on the element.
What seems like magic is actually physics – electromagnetism, to be precise. While a natural gas stove uses open flames and a conventional electric stove uses direct heat, an induction cooktop harnesses the power of alternating electrical currents. There’s a tight spiral of (usually) copper wires in which these currents flow, changing directions up to 30 times a second. This process creates a magnetic field that can induce the same electrical current into the base of a metal pan placed above the coils. The metal isn’t particularly happy about this, however, and it resists the flow. In resisting, heat is created, which is conducted into the food you’re trying to cook.
Metal is necessary for this exchange to work, specifically stainless steel or iron, but any pan that a magnet will stick to would work. Any other material won’t react to the magnetic field in the same way and won’t create heat. That’s why induction stovetops are seen as a safer alternative to gas or conventional cooktops. There is no heat in the stovetop; it only creates it in reactive metals. That’s why you can place a piece of paper on an element turned up to full heat without having a fire on your hands, or touch it with your bare finger and not get burnt. It also means spilled food will never bake onto your stove top, and you can easily wipe away spills with a damp cloth.
Induction stovetops are also more efficient than their traditional counterparts. Not only do they heat more quickly than either gas or conventional electric, but more of the generated heat is used to cook your food. Typically a gas stove wastes up to 60% of the heat it generates when you turn it on. A conventional electric cooktop wastes 50%, but an induction stove wastes only 10% of the energy it creates. They are also more responsive, so when you reduce heat you’ll see the results immediately.
It can seem like these ranges are too good to be true, but like all appliances they are subject to malfunctions. Its operation relies on many intricate parts to work in tandem, and there are many opportunities for it to go wrong, all of which can be worsened by poor (or non-existent) maintenance. But just like your traditional stovetops, a fully qualified technician can perform successful repairs.
When your cooktop starts to give you trouble, get in touch with our operators. They can connect you with a knowledgeable and friendly appliance repair technician who can inspect and solve your stove problems – whether you have a gas range, conventional electric, or induction cooktop!