I am getting a new stove. Any suggestions for a healthy, efficient, inexpensive replacement?

Asked by Carol Lucas
Veneta, OR

Home built in 1945, not well. No insulation, foundation is bad, but eventually I will rebuild and use what materials/appliances I have upgraded. It has a propane stove, electric lights and a diesel fueled heat furnace. (Yikes!!) I would like options for the stove, but electric is fine. Maybe dual source, but I know that those options are expensive, and cash is short.


Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Answered by Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Bainbridge Island, WA

A Kitchen That Works LLC

January 13, 2012

Dear Carol,

From my perspective, your question fits into the realm of design more than sustainable materials or design principals. That being said, I will attempt to answer your question from both perspectives.

You need a new stove and you thoughtfully want to purchase one that will stand the test of time and be suitable for your pending remodel. Herein lies the fundamental problem of selecting/purchasing materials before one has developed a master plan for their remodel - you can purchase one now and then find that you effectively “sub-optimize” your remodel because you feel the need to shoe horn your stove into your future remodeled kitchen.

So here are a few things to consider.

Buy used with the possibility of selling or donating

Purchase a dented, scratched, discontinued or refurbished stove from a reputable appliance retailer that is within your current means. This will give you an opportunity to “try out” certain features such as dual fuel at a discounted price.

If by chance the unit does not meet your needs you have the option of selling it or donating it to a charity but have had the use of it up until the time of your remodel. 

Buy new with the intention of keeping it as long as it operates

Purchase a new stove with the intention of holding on to it through the end of its useful life.

The features to consider for this more permanent option are:

  1. Fuel source – propane prices are very volatile while electric rates in your area of the country are very affordable plus you have the option when you remodel to incorporate alternative energy generation into your home. Further, propane requires higher CFM ventilation (think bigger, more expensive exhaust fan) for maintaining good indoor air quality; a discussion of EMFs is beyond the scope of this post;
  2. Consider a slide in model rather than a free standing model – slide-ins have easier to read controls and are safer due to the fact that you are not reaching over potentially hot elements (note that most dual fuel pro-models are free standing and come with a hefty price tag, however, there are some dual fuel models that are built as slide-ins);
  3. Concealed oven elements and convection fans are features that are definitely worth splurging on as they will make cleaning, maintaining and operating your stove more efficient;
  4. Size – what do you need with respect to size of the stove and what size will your kitchen accommodate? Four elements or five and how they are configured will depend on how much you like to cook and what type of cooking you do (soups and stews vs. stir fry). One oven or two? Do you want a storage draw below the oven or would you benefit from having a warming drawer below?; and
  5. When selecting any appliance, truly kick the tires. Open and close the oven door several times to make sure the handle fits well in your hand and that the door hinge works well with you arm strength, turn the knobs and make sure they fit your hands and are easy to manipulate, read the control panel carefully to ensure that it is easy to read for you (control panels on black stoves are sometimes more difficult to read than stoves with other finishes) and look at the oven lights and determine if the light level is right for you.

Evaluating the manufacturer's sustainability policies

Sustainability is a many faceted thing. At this time the US EPA Energy Star program does not rate kitchen ranges, ovens or cooktops so without energy efficiency as a benchmark for decision making, what is a consumer to do?

Consider factoring in sustainability in your purchase options by looking to the appliance manufacturers’ operations and corporate philosophy –

  • Do they produce their products domestically (don’t assume that if the company is foreign based that they do not manufacture domestically) or abroad?
  • Are their corporate policies with respect to manufacturing, packaging, distribution etc. pro-environment, neutral or anti-environment?

Here in the United States we are blessed with a wide variety of innovative appliance manufacturers, many of whom are really trying to do the right thing (environmentally), so I am confident that without too much difficulty you can find a manufacturer that is right for you.

As you are considering a future remodel, I would highly recommend that you consider purchasing the latest edition of Green Spec® (published by BuildingGreen) which is a comprehensive guide to sourcing sustainable building products/materials. You might also consider purchasing a copy of the Northwest Green Home Primer by Kathleen Smith and Kathleen O’Brien.

Wishing you much success with your remodel project!

Tagged In: energy star

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