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THE SENSIBLE HOME : Fast-Heat Induction Cooktop Offers Advantages

June 25, 1995|JAMES DULLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Dulley is a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant

QUESTION: I am considering replacing my old gas range with a fast-heat electric induction cooktop. Easy clean-up and my children's safety are concerns. How efficient are induction elements and do they cook as well as gas?

ANSWER: Easy-to-clean electric induction cooktops (and ranges) are just one of many recent improvements in electric cooking. They offer instantaneous response and precise control over cooking heat like a gas burner does.

Induction elements work by creating magnetic friction (instant heat) in the pot or pan without heating the smooth ceramic glass cooktop. The glass cooktop stays relatively cool so spills do not cook on and wipe clean with a damp cloth. This also makes it safe around children.

Induction elements can provide intense initial heat. They can bring a quart of water to a boil in 4 1/2 minutes, yet provide precise low level heat for simmering a sauce or melting chocolate without a double boiler.

When a pot is removed from an induction element, the current automatically stops. If you remove the pot just briefly to stir or add some water and return it quickly, the heat automatically comes back on to the same level.

This makes it impossible to forget and accidentally leave the heat on, possibly starting a fire. Even if a child can manage to turn it on (built-in child-safe locks), and climbs onto the cooktop, it will not heat.

Induction is the most energy efficient method to cook. All of the heat goes into the pot and food, not the stove top or surrounding air. This is a real benefit in the summer because it keeps your kitchen cooler and reduces the load on your air conditioner.

Metal cooking utensils (iron, steel, stainless) must be used on an induction element. A favorite old pot with a warped bottom, that won't heat well on other electric elements, works great on induction elements.

Electric quartz halogen elements also provide quick heat initially. These elements use light energy to transfer heat to the pot. There is usually a radiant coil in the center of the halogen ring for even heating. Halogen does not provide as instantaneous a heat response as induction does.

Smooth top radiant glass cooktops clean easily. Any flat bottom pot can be used, but radiant elements heat slightly slower than halogen. Dual units combine a six- and eight-inch coil in a single element for various size pots.

Some manufacturers offer modular cooktops so you can mix and match various types of cooking elements, grills, woks, etc. for your unique needs.

Write for Update Bulletin No. 531 listing a buyer's guide of induction, halogen and radiant cooktop manufacturers listing number of elements, sizes, heating output ranges, features and prices. Please include $2 (and business size SASE) and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

How to Seal Off Fireplace in Summer

Q: We use our central air-conditioner the majority of the summer. I would like to find a simple method to seal off my fireplace opening in the summer. Is much cool air lost up a chimney and how can I seal it?

A: Even though cool air is dense and tends to sink, it can be drawn up a chimney in the summer. As the sun shines on a brick chimney, it gets warm. This heats the air inside the chimney and creates a strong upward draft.

Cut a clear acrylic cover, similar to an interior storm window, several inches larger than the fireplace glass door opening. Use adhesive-back magnetic tape on the acrylic to hold and seal it against the door frame.

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