Memberships Since 1995
(buy, sell rent, rebates)

Appliance Buying Guide: Ranges

Published: January 15, 2010
When deciding on a new range, here´s what you´ll need to know about features, style, price, and performance.

Most ranges do a fine job of boiling water, baking cookies, and roasting the holiday bird. The major distinguishing factor will be whether the one you buy does so using gas or electricity. In general, a gas range with electronic ignition (instead of a gas-fired pilot light) can cost up to 50% less to operate than an electric model, depending on the price of utilities in your area.

Because there´s very little difference in energy consumption among ranges, these appliances aren´t required to bear EnergyGuide labels, nor are they included in the Energy Star program. Other than by fuel type, homeowners typically select ranges based on budget, ease of cleaning, appearance, and performance.

Cost range: $350-$2,000 and up

Likely additional costs: Delivery, installation, haul away, gas line hookup, or electrical outlet installation if none exists

Average life span: 11-15 years

Gas or electric: “When a customer comes in for a new range, the first question I always ask is ´Gas or electric?´” says Lenny Kaminski, sales manager at B & B Appliances, an 85-year-old retailer in Cleveland. Typically, it´s the home rather than the homeowner that will make this decision. Buyers who have a natural gas line in the kitchen will inevitably purchase a gas-powered range, while those without choose electric.

The one major exception is when a kitchen is undergoing a major remodel, allowing a homeowner to switch to gas with relative ease (assuming the house has a main line). Electric ranges typically require a dedicated 220-volt outlet.

Size: The standard width of a residential range is 30 inches. Those boasting side-by-side ovens and high-end “commercial-style” models can extend to 36, 40, and even 48 inches wide. However, smaller 20- and 24-inch models are available for kitchens short on space. The oven compartment on a standard-size range is 5 cubic feet, large enough to cook a 30-pound turkey.

Ease of cleaning: All but the least expensive electric ranges now feature smooth, ceramic glass cooktop designs rather than traditional coil burners, making them easy to clean. The jump from entry-level coil-burner electric ranges to those with smooth tops is roughly $150. Sealed-burner designs are present on almost all gas ranges and are relatively easy to clean.

Self-cleaning ovens are standard, appearing in models starting as low as $350.

Convection: One of the first major upgrades a buyer often makes, says Kaminski, is choosing an electric or gas range with convection heat. With convection, an internal fan circulates the hot air throughout the oven compartment, improving heat distribution and generally reducing cook times. Many home and professional cooks swear by the technology. Customers can count on spending an additional $200 to get the feature.

Burner quantity and type: The standard quantity of burners on a typical range is four, but buyers need not stop there. Stepping up to a mid-range gas or electric stove often comes with an additional fifth burner. Depending on the make and model, that burner could be an ultra-low “melting” burner or a centrally placed oval burner that accommodates griddle pans.

Likewise, a “bridge” burner is a smaller element located between two larger ones that, when on, creates one large heating element ideal for griddles and roasting pans. Five-burner ranges generally start around $800.

Burner performance: “BTUs absolutely affect performance, with some of the higher-powered burners boiling a pot of water in half the time of standard one,” says Kaminski. Both electric and gas burners have gotten more powerful over the years, offering increased performance at a relatively modest extra charge.

While 9,000 BTUs is standard, so-called “power” burners can climb up to 15,000 BTUs. Conversely, ultra-low “simmer” burners prevent stove-top scorching thanks to their scaled-back BTU output. Expect to pay around $200 extra for these well-equipped appliances.

Going pro: Avid home cooks—or those who follow current trends—often prefer the look and feel of a commercial-style range. Like the restaurant appliances they emulate, these residential versions boast ultra-high-powered burners, multiple large-capacity ovens, and convenient grill/griddle inserts.

Homeowners should expect to pay between $4,000 for a 30-inch unit up to $10,000 for a top-of-the-line 48-inch model. Likely additional expenses will include the installation of an equally high-powered exhaust hood and possibly some enhanced structural support.

Warming drawer or extra oven: Many contemporary ranges replace the conventional lower-level storage drawer with either a smaller second oven or a warming drawer. A variable-temperature warming drawer is ideal for keeping prepared food hot or warming chilly dinner plates. Expect models with this feature to start in the $1,000 range.

Second ovens, even the smaller ones that take the place of the storage drawer, can be very useful when cooking multiple items. Though shorter than the main compartment, the additional oven easily accommodates casseroles, cookie sheets, and platters. Configurations are available that position the smaller oven above or below the main compartment. Models start at $1,200.

Additional useful features: Temperature probes that monitor the progress of cooking items ensure the turkey will never again be overcooked and dry. Unfortunately, the technology doesn´t appear on many models under $1,300. Battery-powered countertop probes, in contrast, sell for only $30. Smooth-glide oven racks, porcelain-coated racks and grates, and halogen lighting all make the cooking process less of a chore. The question is whether the additional hundred dollars each is worth it.

Expected maintenance/repairs: Oven bulbs will need to be changed periodically. Coil-style electric burners often fail, but they´re easily replaced for around $30. Glow coils that ignite gas ovens can fail, requiring a $50 part plus labor. More costly is a cracked glass top on a smooth-top electric range, which can cost $250 to replace. Electric control panels, while reasonably reliable, can cost up to $250 plus labor to repair.

No comments: