How do Induction Cooktops Work?

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Heating Appliances

As a general rule, heating appliances are the most logical when calculating energy use: the more heat, the more energy they burn. This is true for both cooking appliances (cooktops, ovens, ranges) and clothes dryers – the more you use them, the more they cost.

There is, however, one notable exception to this rule in the kitchen: induction cooktops.

Induction Cooktops

The new breed of cooktops not only looks great in modern homes but is also safer. There are no open flames, no fumes and the cooking surface remains cool until a pot is placed upon it – three major advantages for families with curious infants (or accident-prone adults).

In addition to these benefits, induction cooking is much more efficient than old-style cooking - so much so that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory did some research into exactly how much better they are. While conventional cookers vary from around 40% efficiency (gas) – or around 20% for pilot light models - to 74% efficiency (electric), induction cookers manage an impressive 84% efficiency.

This is because the magnetic induction system causes the pot to do the cooking rather than the cooker, which also speeds up the process and saves even more energy. With no wasted flames or fumes, it's a great fuel saver.

In tests, induction cooktops heat the fastest, are very controllable, remain relatively cool (because the pot does the cooking), are easy to clean and are safer than conventional cooktops because they can switch off automatically when the pot is removed – even if you forget to do it yourself.

There are down-sides, though. Induction cooktops can cost three or four times as much as conventional ranges and they only work if your cookware is made of iron or steel. Since they rely on magnetism to work, aluminum, glass and copper pots just won't heat up and even stainless steel won't always work (if a magnet sticks to the pot, it can be used).