Feature

Gas versus Electric

Electric ovens dominate the market but would a gas oven be a better choice when it comes to looking after our environment?

gas or electric

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Australians are passionate about their roasts. Even a date with Tom Cruise gets canned if it means missing out on the aromatic Aussie feast.

It takes a lot of time and energy to cook a roast. Literally. The energy used for cooking in an average Australian home is responsible for the release of about half a tonne of greenhouse gas each year.

In Australia, electric ovens dominate the market but would a gas oven be a better choice when it comes to looking after our environment?

Manufacture

The differences in the manufacture of gas and electric ovens are negligible.

Indeed, some manufacturers produce both types, sharing many components between the two production lines. The main component of both types is metal, which makes up 84 per cent of their mass.

An oven survives for about 15 to 20 years and the energy used for cooking during this time overshadows energy spent during manufacture.

Energy use from cooking

The energy use of ovens in Europe is tested by cooking cold, wet bricks, which may explain the quality of British pies.

Researchers measure how much energy each oven uses to heat the brick from 5 to 60°C. The average gas oven uses 1.5 kWh whereas an electric oven uses 1.2 kWh.

This difference is not surprising considering more ventilation is required in gas ovens for safety reasons, which causes more heat loss.

Before singing the praises of electric ovens, we have to consider that to supply 1.2kWh of energy to an electric oven we've wasted an awful lot along the way.

About 78 per cent of electricity consumed in Australia is generated by burning coal.

This supply process requires several energy conversions and transport of the energy from its source. At each stage energy is wasted. The result is that about 20 per cent only of the energy produced by burning coal actually reaches the oven compared to 100 per cent of gas combustion energy.

The inefficiency of converting coal to electricity means that overall, gas is a much more energy-efficient way of powering ovens.

Greenhouse contribution

Coal is the most emissions-intensive form of electricity production; gas cooktops and ovens produce less than half the emissions of comparable electric units.

Whether you buy a gas or electric oven, choose a fan-forced model as they generate up to 35 per cent less greenhouse gas than conventional ovens.

Discarded ovens

Both gas and electric ovens can be shredded for metal recovery and recycling.

About 250,000 electric stoves, cooktops and ovens are discarded each year in Australia and about 70 per cent are shredded for metal recovery.

The Verdict

While we continue to source most electricity from burning coal, gas ovens will be the greener choice for most Australians. They use far less energy overall and produce far less greenhouse gas.

If, however, you have electricity coming from a clean renewable source such as GreenPower, then the electric oven would come out on top because you wouldn't be burning fossil fuel.

If you can manage to live without your roasted lamb and vegies, then give up on ovens all together. Up to 90 per cent of the energy that ovens use is wasted and it is usually much more efficient to use a microwave or stove top to do the job.