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Are You Cooking On Gas & What You Might Need To Know About This Choice

blue flamesOver a third of all Americans cook on a gas stove while the rest prefer to use electricity. But if you are a fan of gas and you just love the instant heat and control, you might need to know that there are drawbacks to this popular method of cooking.

Use that exhaust fan!

Whether you have gas or electric for cooking, you should turn on that exhaust fan above your stove whenever you cook and not just when you burn something or there is a lot of smoke. These exhaust fan devices are very important for removing heat and odors and helping keep moisture and grime from accumulating on surrounding surfaces. In addition, they are designed to remove ultra-fine airborne particles created when foods are cooked, yet another source of indoor air pollution. Most important of all, they reduce potentially dangerous toxic byproducts produced by gas burners - nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and more. You might find it hard to believe but these three gases are the same three components found in second hand cigarette smoke. We have all been warned of the dangers of that and we certainly do not want the equivalent hanging around in our kitchens.

How safe is your gas cooker?

There can definitely be problems. Gas cooking burners can produce pollutants (as listed above) at levels that exceed health-based standards - particularly when there is no fresh air ventilation. While the biggest concern is for restaurant workers (who may be exposed to cooking and gas fumes for hours on end), even home cooks can be at risk if the pollutants are not properly vented.

If you cook by gas

Here is a check list of how to decrease the dangers
  • Always make sure your stove is fitted with genuine parts supplied by the original gas appliance manufacturer.
  • Be very careful to ensure adequate ventilation – ideally, open windows and operate the exhaust fan every time you cook.
  • Follow the instruction manual carefully.
  • Use cooking pots of a suitable diameter to that of the burner.
  • Keep the burners and trivets clear of grease by cleaning regularly, ensuring the burner holes remain unblocked. If anything should boil over, clean the burner as soon as possible.
  • Regularly check whether the flexible gas tubing is damaged or the connection joints have come loose.
  • Have the appliance checked regularly (every 12 to 18 months) by a registered gas contractor.

What are the most common causes of gas leaks?

Most gas leaks are caused by leaving an appliance in an unsafe condition including stove burners on (but not burning) or moving an appliance without checking the gas connections. The second most common cause of gas leaks is the use of very old or broken appliances. The third is poor installation of new appliances.

What to do if there is a gas leak

All gas supplies to a home can be turned off at the gas meter if the house is supplied with natural gas. Use a large adjustable wrench to grasp the square nut on the valve. Turn the nut until the two padlock holes line up. If the gas service is turned off to a house, all pilot lights will have to be relighted when the gas is turned back on. Pilot lights are used on older gas equipment such as water heaters and furnaces. Every gas appliance has a gas shutoff valve where the appliance connects to the gas supply. Most of these shut-off valves have a handle that lines up with the gas supply pipe when turned on and is at right angles to the pipe when turned-off. If the gas smell is not severe or hissing, the gas can be turned off until the gas company evaluates the leak. In the meantime, get people out of danger. Be warned that natural gas and propane are explosive and an accumulation of gas can destroy a building if it finds a source of ignition. Something as simple as turning on a light switch can cause the explosion. If there is any uncertainty about how severe the gas leak is, evacuate everyone from the house before calling for help from the gas company or 911 emergency services. If breathing is difficult, the smell is very strong or you hear gas escaping, then the gas leak is severe and you should call 911 from a neighbor's house.

Gas or electricity?

If you wish to change from gas, here are some of the advantages of today's modern and simple electric glass stove tops.
  • They are easy to clean. Being a flat surface, the glass stove top is 100% straight forward when it comes to cleaning.
  • They provide an additional surface. When not cooking, that flat surface gives you extra space for 101 different activities, making the kitchen more functional.
  • You can slide pots around without lifting – especially useful when dealing with large heavy pots.
  • You have cleaner indoor air. An electric stove does not introduce any carbon monoxide into the air in the same way that a gas stove does. Clean air choices should be high on the priorities list if you are using your appliance several times in the day.
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of both methods, you can make your own decision but I know which I would choose!