Change Gas Stove to an Induction Range
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Change Gas Stove to an Induction Range

May 21, 2024

For this CR editor, the switch to induction was totally worth it (a hole in the basement ceiling and burnt dinners notwithstanding)

After one too many nights of undercooked potatoes and random gas leaks, my wife and I decided it was time to replace our old beat-up gas range. That stove came with our house, and was at least 15 years old by the time we tossed it, according to my Googling—its time was up. We’d known for years that when the time was right, we’d turn off the gas connection in our kitchen and make the switch to an electric induction range. This was our opportunity.

You can read up on induction, but in a nutshell: Induction ranges and cooktops run off electricity, but heat up and cool down much faster than “regular” electric-resistance surfaces, and even a bit faster than gas. They’re consistently among CR’s highest-rated cooking appliances, with every model we’ve tested earning an Excellent rating on our high-heat test, which measures how fast a cooktop can heat water. Nearly all of them also earn an Excellent rating on our low-temperature test, where we try to melt chocolate without scorching it, and hold a pot of tomato sauce below a boil. Induction appliances also have some environmental benefits over gas-powered cooking appliances and might be better for your health, too.

But voluntarily switching away from gas ranges and cooktops is pretty uncommon. One big obstacle is the cost and hassle of setting up a new outlet and electrical circuit. Induction ranges also tend to cost a few hundred dollars more than gas or traditional electric models with other similar features.

So why did my family do it? Partly, we’d like to wean off fossil fuels when it’s practical. Cooking with ranges, cooktops, and ovens accounts for only about 2 percent of a typical household’s energy use, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even after accounting for the climate-warming impact of a gas range’s inevitable methane leaks, electrifying our range won’t turn out to be a major emissions-saver relative to other purchases like an electric vehicle, a heat pump, or solar panels. But we’d still love to be able to turn off our gas connection at some point, and this is one step toward that goal.

We also figured we’d like cooking on induction more. Water boils 20 to 40 percent faster than it does on the very best gas or electric burners, according to Tara Casaregola, who leads CR’s testing of cooking appliances. It’s also harder to accidentally burn yourself, there are never any smelly gas leaks, it keeps your kitchen cooler, and the smooth, flat, never-too-hot surface is easy to clean. Some of my wife’s relatives in Europe have cooked on induction for a while (it’s much more common there), and they’ve had mostly great things to say about it, too.

While we’d read about the indoor pollution and potential health problems that gas cooking can cause, that didn’t influence our decision, because we always ventilate our kitchen. In our current house, we turn on our range hood, which exhausts outdoors. In our last place, which didn’t have a proper range hood, we’d open a window and run an air purifier anytime we cooked.

On top of all that, I’ve written a handful of articles about induction ranges over the past decade, and I felt some nagging professional obligation to put my money where my mouth is.

Even as someone with a lot of book knowledge about induction, and a tiny bit of experience actually cooking with it, I realized as we started the project that I didn’t have a clear idea of how much time and money it would take to get the electrical work done (a lot of both), or what it would be like to learn to cook with a new medium (mostly very easy). So, here’s what I learned from my project that I’d like to pass on, in the hopes that having some concrete details will help you decide whether to switch.

Photo: Liam McCabe/Consumer Reports Photo: Liam McCabe/Consumer Reports

Most kitchens that are set up for gas cooking don’t have the right connection for an electric range—you can’t just plug it into a regular wall outlet.

An electrician will need to set up a high-amperage circuit (40 or 50 amps, 240 volts) connected to a four-prong outlet, using a very thick wire that can safely handle the amount of energy that a range will need. It’s the same hookup for a conventional electric range or certain electric vehicle charging stations.

If your kitchen is right above your electrical panel, for example, and you don’t need to fish the wire through any walls or finished ceilings, you’re usually in great shape. This could cost around $400, give or take, depending on where you live and the length of wire you’ll need. An electrician can handle this in a couple of hours.

Other homes will need a massive electrical upgrade to support an electric range. The apartment I grew up in, for example, only had 60 amps of electrical service. We couldn’t use our toaster, lamps, and TV at the same time as our window air conditioner without tripping the breaker. If we wanted an electric range, an electrician would have to run extra electrical service to the apartment. That work alone can cost thousands of dollars. According to Home Advisor, the typical cost of an upgrade to the modern standard of 200 amps ranges from $750 to $2,000, but it can cost much more than that.

To check your home’s amperage, open your electrical panel and look at the number on the big switch at the top—that’s how many amps you have. You might be able to get away with running an induction range on a 100-amp box (as I have). But if you have several other high-draw electrical appliances, like a clothes dryer, EV charger, or central air conditioner, it might be wise to upgrade to 200 amps. An electrician can perform a load calculation and advise you on what you might need.

Photo: Liam McCabe/Consumer Reports Photo: Liam McCabe/Consumer Reports

The electrical work my house needed was medium-difficult. The good news was that our panel had plenty of room for a new 40-amp circuit. The bad news was that the contractor would have to snake 35 feet of thick wire through a finished basement ceiling.

Every electrician we talked to said they’d have to cut into the ceiling in at least one spot, and maybe two or three depending on how many hidden obstacles they’d encounter. Our contractor initially thought the easiest route might be to fish it along above our recessed lights. But after poking around with a snake tool, he decided it would actually be quicker to run it through a channel alongside an air duct. And he had to cut the ceiling in only one spot, directly underneath the range. (We saved money by opting to patch the hole ourselves.)

Our project took five weeks from the time we started looking for quotes until the electrical work was done. That included two weeks of looking for contractors and getting quotes, and then three weeks until our preferred contractor was available. The work itself took two electricians about half a day.

The final cost is a little murky because we ended up combining the range installation with another job: an EV charger. (Just one contractor responded to our request for a quote on the range alone; when we added the EV charger to the project, we got three bids in three days.)

Our contractor, whom we found through a local green-energy advocacy group, charged us $2,200 total, but he didn’t break his quote into line items. I’d estimate that without the EV project attached, the range circuit would’ve cost about $1,000.

The two other quotes we got did break down the costs. One company we found through the HomeAdvisor marketplace wanted $3,100 for the project: $1,300 for the range, and $1,800 for the EV. And an electrician that a friend recommended asked for $2,800, with $1,100 for the range and $1,700 for the EV. It’s all expensive by anybody’s standards (plus, we live near Boston, where everything costs more than the national average), but we came away feeling like we did our due diligence and got a decent rate.

Photo: Liam McCabe/Consumer Reports Photo: Liam McCabe/Consumer Reports

Okay, the boring (but necessary) part is over. Here’s what it’s been like to use the new toy.

Induction cooktops work only with pots and pans made predominantly from magnetic metals, like cast iron and some stainless steel alloys. About two-thirds of the cookware we already own fit the bill, but we had to replace the rest. Some of our pots were weakly magnetic: Fridge magnets kind of, sort of stuck to them. But they didn’t work on the stovetop. Induction surfaces usually shut themselves off to save energy if they can’t sense a strong-enough magnetic vessel.

First, I needed a replacement for my trusty non-stick skillet, which I used every morning to make a pancake for my daughter. It was aluminum, and therefore not compatible with induction at all. I read a few guides to the best induction-compatible skillets, and while several of the top-performing models in CR’s skillet ratings will work with induction, they all cost at least $90, which was more than I was hoping to pay.

So then I looked for cheaper alternatives on Amazon. The trap here is that there are dozens of non-stick pans marketed as though they’re induction cookware. But when you examine the product description, it turns out that some of them are actually aluminum, a material that will not work with induction. I eventually settled on a $50 pan, and the whole thing felt like a confusing hassle.

Rather than repeat that whole process for the rest of our non-compatible pots, we brought a fridge magnet to a discount home goods store. When we found something that looked good and didn’t cost much, we’d see if the magnet stuck to it, and that was pretty much it. It took about 15 minutes, and we spent only about $65 for three pots, all of which work fine so far.

My wife and I both burned the first couple of dishes we tried to make, because the markings on the knobs didn’t align with our expectations. It could just be our particular range (the LG LSE4616ST, a CR Recommended model), but it seems like a common theme based on what I’ve heard from other induction owners, regardless of the make and model. Medium on the new range’s largest burner turned out to be more like the medium-high setting on our old gas stove.

I got in the habit of starting at a lower setting than I would have instinctively chosen, then working my way up slowly from there. This process wasn’t as tedious as it probably sounds, because the initial, lower setting was often correct.

However, the lowest settings on the induction knobs were much cooler than we’d been used to from cooking on gas. The lowest setting on gas, for example, is usually good for holding a simmer. On my induction cooktop, it’s more like a “keep warm” setting—sauce won’t even bubble, and grains absorb water very, very slowly. This is typical for conventional electric cooktops, but it was another adjustment we had to make coming from the world of gas.

Every new range—induction or otherwise—has a learning curve. But without the visual cue of a flame, and because the pans heat up almost supernaturally quickly, I suspect induction rookies are especially prone to scorching their dinners, or undercooking pots of rice.

After about a week, cooking on induction started to feel totally ordinary to me. My wife said it was about two weeks before she got used to it, but now she’s perfectly happy with it, too. Some people who have switched to induction say that they miss the vibe of an actual flame; fair enough, but we don’t.

Compared with gas or conventional electric-range surfaces, induction surfaces are a bit more restrictive when it comes to how you use your cookware.

For example, I keep forgetting that when I’m using my favorite pot for boiling mac and cheese, it won’t work on my stovetop’s largest, most powerful element. The base of the pot has to be at least as wide as the diameter of the magnetic coil, or it simply won’t work. Whenever I try, my range bleats out a distress signal, pulses a red LED, and shuts down the mismatched burner. (Other models have different techniques for gently scolding their owners.)

The good news is that the smaller burners still heat up super-fast, so it’s no big deal to use the medium-sized pots on the medium-sized burners, and so on. It’s just an adjustment from gas, where any burner’s flame can be adjusted to work with a pot or pan of any size.

Another common criticism is that induction cooktops sometimes give off a faint but high-pitched squeal or whine. I’ve found that it’s most likely to happen when I use my cheapest pots on the hottest cooking settings. But your experience may vary.

The most annoying quirk I’ve come across so far is that the cooktop’s auto-shutoff feature works against me whenever I need to pick up a pan—to toss vegetables, for example. If I don’t put the pan back down within about 10 seconds, the range cuts the power to the burner I was using. And it does not automatically turn back on when I put the pan back—yet the burner’s knob stays in the “on” position. If I don’t hear the warning jingle (like if I’m wearing headphones) or notice the blinking LED, the pan can sit there cooling off for a few minutes before I realize I need to crank the knob off and then on again.

At first, I thought about calling this article, “Do-Gooder Pays Through the Nose to Boil Water a Little Faster,” which is totally accurate, in a sense. But I’d still recommend an induction range to anyone who has the means. Everything we’d heard that was great about induction cooking turned out to be true. Induction’s speed and responsiveness let us bang out meals 5 or 10 minutes faster than we used to be able to. We rarely scorch anything anymore, either, so that means fewer burnt-on messes to scrub off our pans.