Induction and power outages - help thinking it through

yeboNovember 2, 2012

I was all set on induction and then this 4-day+ power outage in NYC, where I live came. It was very nice to boil water for hot drinks on my gas range, and if I'd been more prepared w/ food, I could have cooked with gas -- with an induction range, cold only.

So I'm trying to rationalize - power outages here aren't that often or long; so what cold food onlyt for a few days.

But I am wondering both other people's reasoning and if anyone has an inside backup they like, (not an outdoor grill or propane).

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I have one of these guys: It's a butane stove. I've used it to keep things warm and supposedly you can use them indoors (I have but with a window open).

They're cheap and the refills are cheap too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Butane Stove

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 9:56PM
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I have a little low powered single burner butane stove that I use after hurricanes, but I only use it inside because I've got plenty of ventilation (four sliding glass doors and a window). I'm not sure how well it would work when there's a blizzard outside and you can't open up the house--I'd be nervous.

But even in steamy FL it's nice to be able to make coffee, and of course it's nothing for us to be without power for two weeks after a storm.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 10:03PM
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Yebo: I understand exactly what you are asking, but I think you are asking the wrong question and that you should be fine with getting an induction stove if that is what you otherwise want.

Of course, I am not talking about what you should do right now in the face of super-storm Sandy. We are talking about planning for the future.

Here is my background for what I am suggesting. I live in the Rockies. We get annual hurricane type wind events (sustained 100+ mph) every year. (We call them "chinooks" but everybody else would call them hurricanes.) We also get the ridiculous springtime-in-the-Rockies "snow events." Like having three feet of cement dumped over your property in a couple of hours. (We get them in the fall, too.) We are no strangers to power "interruptions."

Still, I am very partial to induction. So what did I buy when my stove died just before Labor Day? I bought a gas stove (an NXR from Costco, to be specific.)

Did I buy it because I think gas is more wonderful than induction or better for the annual weather events?


I bought it because it seemed to be the best stove for me for what and how I cook.

When the grid goes down ---- and it does --- I certainly can run the gas cooktop when I could not run an induction unit. For one thing, my portable generator does not out the 240v power that is required for an induction stove or electric oven. Any basic generator can output the 120v current needed to tun the NXR oven but I do not care.

Now, the portable generator will run my heating systems (water heater and radiant floor heat plus a back-up 24v gas floor furnace), as well as powering the fridge and freezer enough to keep everything okay for weeks, if need be.

I suppose I could power my NXR stove's oven. But, if you've got a gas bbq, why bother? I've got a Weber gas bbq which runs off propane tanks with no electricity. (BTW, until I bought the NXR, the best bread I had ever baked came from layering the Weber gas BBQ with quarry tiles.)

For stove top cooking, I've got a two burner (10k btu-hr) Coleman camp stove that I can use if the whole system is completely down. I can use it in the house by plugging the the range hood to the generator.

A basic portable generator can be had from Costco or a big box store for $300 to $700. A very nice Coleman propane-fed camp stove can be had for well under under $100.

So, I say that that you get the induction stove or cooktop that you want and look into emergency back-up systems for a few hundred dollars more.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 11:45PM
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I would consider a generator, but not for cooking. If you have an outage in the dead of winter, you need heat. In parts of the country, you may need power in order to get water from wells. I lived in New England and went through several power outages during nor'easters. We managed with a wood stove which kept the house and us from freezing. For cooking, a small camp stove would be enough to reheat canned or frozen food, as others have already pointed out.

We took out a gas cooktop and installed induction earlier this year. I would never allow the remote possibility of sustained power outages to dictate my cooking choices which apply 99.9% of the time. We have outdoor grills (gas and charcoal) and an outdoor gas burner if needed.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 1:02AM
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Following up on what Cheryl just said, a basic portable generator can run wells long enough to give you s water supply, run heating in the house often enough to keep things eaonable if not toasty, and keep your fridge and freezer at reasonable temps. If you've got a wood stove or fireplace and wood supply, so much the better. So, I agree with with her saying " I would never allow the remote possibility of sustained power outages to dictate my cooking choices which apply 99.9% of the time." Heck, I agree with that statement even when the possibllity of a power outage is not remote.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 2:38AM
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Great thoughts from people; thank you -- and the power is on!
I think a portable generator isn't possible, b/c I'm in an apartment in the middle of NYC (Manhattan)no place to put a generator, unless the building buys one and without great windowing for venting, and if the power is out, the range hood won't be working.
My question about butane, which sounds great solution -- any recommendations on something I can read about the safety of it indoors?
Thanks again, and of course if people have other thoughts, I'd love to have them as well.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 8:09AM
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If you google for "butane stove indoors" and "butane safety indoors" you'll get plenty of information. The biggest problem with butane isn't asphyxia but burns. It's very important to follow the directions and be sure you understand what you need to do, especially since butane cartridges are pressurized.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 10:29AM
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>be sure you understand what you need to do

Sorry, that was meant to be "be sure you understand what you need to do ahead of time". It's not always easy to read all the fine print once the power is out, if you aren't in a sunny location.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 10:32AM
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I get a bit discombobulated, nervousish, when the power is out and the last thing I think about it is cooking with heat. We eat sandwiches, salads, etc, which is what we often eat, with or without power. But cooking by candlelight, nah, not for me. I can't see. (even with flashlights and lanterns, no cooking)

Also, in a NYC apt., do you have good ventilation to cook with gas?

I love my induction.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 11:13PM
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Having been without electricity for up to 3 weeks I appreciate having water and some way to cook. Without water all bets are off, but with water and some way to cook life seems to go on. Still, after 2+ weeks, without electric lights and air conditioning in Houston, I began to notice a definite change in my mood. Personally, I would do what I could to plan to be as comfortable as possible without electricity. Given the aging grid and the unpredictable weather its a good bet that the future holds more and longer electrical outages.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 11:39PM
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There is nothing like an extended power outage to focus the mind on what is needed "ahead of time" for the next outage. Few (fortunately) can stand days without ability to bath comfortably. Most household appliances use electricity, and without electricity heating, cooking, refrigeration, clothes washing, etc. becomes difficult and inefficient.

Persons owning real property that they can modify can much more easily tolerate power outages if they install a permanent generator. The permanent type, run off of propane or natural gas (if dependable when power is down over extended areas) or even diesel fuel, can operate for days with high reliability and tolerable noise level outside and barely noticeable noise inside with closed windows and doors.

Persons trapped in city apartments, however, likely have no way to individually generate power. Depending on how corrupt their city is in stifling liberty, city dwellers may be able to cooperatively fund installation of such a unit for their building.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 9:47AM
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A propane Coleman camp stove would certainly work. They're relatively inexpensive and small enough to keep in a closet. Propane bottles are readily available at any hardware store and keep essentially forever. As for ventilation, I don't see why a camp stove would generate more carbon monoxide than a regular gas range but you can always crack a window.

Coleman even offers a propane powered coffee maker!

It's unlikely that any apartment building is going to let you run a generator inside the building because of the obvious safety concerns. And noise!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 10:15AM
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Before my reno, I had an electric smooth top, so the scenario is the same as with induction. Living in NE we have frequent power outages. I used a portable butane stove to get through it. They're really not that powerful, so the ventilation is not a big deal. At most, cracking a window is more than enough. Cooking 10-15 minutes on high is a non-issue even in a tight house. The worse case scenario would be running it until the canister is empty. That may be about an hour or so on high.

That butane stove got me through my 3 month reno. For about $20 plus a couple dollars per can of butane, it was a great investment. Even though I have gas now, I still use that butane stove for fondue nights. I prefer it over any portable electric hob because the last thing I want to do is to run a power cord to the dining table, creating a tripping hazard.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 11:19AM
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I did some research about indoor safety of butane/propane stoves, and what I read emphasized not to do them if ventilation is not good and to be sure stove isn't near anything flammable. My windows are far from my kitchen (least flammable) and venting will be just from hood (electric). Not being able to assess if my sources are exaggerating, I'd rather not risk it.

So - I'm trying to imagine feelings in outage with no means of heating (induction) vs means of heating (gas) and feelings the rest of the time. This includes being in NYC - prone to outages but with many enterprising people, who were preparing and serving delicious food very soon after the outage.

Thank you, and I'll report -- definitely when I place my order -- and probably before, with questions, which seem to keep emerging.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 7:58AM
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"It's unlikely that any apartment building is going to let you run a generator inside the building because of the obvious safety concerns. And noise!"

Surely you didn't think I meant installing an external permanent generator inside the building. I imagined a roof installation. Generators suitable for inside use exist, and were the topic of some recent news from NY, but generally are larger than residential outside generators. Inside generators would be much more expensive per kw due to their exhaust needs, sound attenuation needs, and fuel safety requirements.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 10:00AM
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Fori is not pleased

I've lived in the upper midwest where we had our power outages in the summer when it was really hot, especially that long one that hit so many. We had gas but still would boil our water outside on the grill because we didn't want to open a window and lose what little coolness we had left or warm up the house. I wouldn't have minded so much in the winter.

Even so, a backup camp stove if you are in a disaster prone area is a good idea. It can be used in front of a window for ventilation and doesn't have to be in the kitchen (obviously one must be careful). Some people get by gently heating food over a can of Sterno or in a chafing dish over a tea light, but I'm not sure how well that would work for boiling water. But if you have enough fresh water stashed so that you don't need to boil, those are probably good enough.

I now live in an area awaiting an imminent earthquake and I suspect gas is as likely to be impacted as electricity. Either way, I do have a camp stove. We don't have extreme temperatures here (which I guess is why so many of us live on a fault) and that makes disaster prep slightly easier than places like NYC.

In other words, don't worry about it! The joys of induction cooking (or cleaning, really, because that's the best part of induction) will make up for having a Coleman stove in the closet that you have to use a few days a year.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 1:52PM
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>In other words, don't worry about it!

Excellent advice. As for sterno, that stuff is unbelievably fume-y in a confined area. I used to be a brunch musician, and a couple of hours performing next to the chafing dishes made me ill.

There are portable battery powered backups available that can run some stuff for a while, but aside from the problems of how long they last, the reviews are mixed. Xantrex and Duracell both have some, and there are some models that can be recharged from an inverter in your car.

I think this is probably the future, since battery technology is growing by leaps and bounds. Right after the 2004 hurricanes when I first looked into these, there was a lot of buzz about one that was about the size of a sofa table. Now you can get the same amount of power (not enough) in a unit that sits on your countertop, for less than a tenth the price of that model.

I'd certainly be much happier after a storm listening to the quiet than to dozens of sputtering, stinky gas generators.

As fori said, don't sweat it. If I could have afforded the big black credenza I would probably have done it, and now I'm so glad I couldn't.

If I were you, I would just put the butane burner on a metal tray on a table near a window, making sure the window treatments can't blow and catch fire from it.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 3:42PM
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I forgot to say that one good thing that will hopefully come out of this awful situation with Sandy is a renewed interest in developing backup power options.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 3:44PM
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We live in the country with no gas in the house. I have an electric smoothie and elec wall oven. Power outages are normal in our area so we have a permanent generator fueled by propane which keeps the basics going -- fridges, well pump, furnace, some lights and outlets.

So even with a generator I have no stove or oven during outages. I cook ahead of storms and reheat in microwave,. During Irene our generator failed and we bailed bail water Into the toilets and ate peanut butter sandwiches as folks did downtown last week.

We had a gas range in our NYC apartment and I'd go with that if I moved back. Its just more economical. If induction is a must and you have the counter space & for ventilation under, then maybe look into a 2 burner unit to supplement gas.

Personally, would not use any butane or propane in a high rise.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 4:28PM
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Fori is not pleased

You can turn a Prius into a generator for fun...

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 4:38PM
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