New Range needed_Am I crazy to stick with Electric Coils?

foxmoorDecember 12, 2011

My wife and I are remodeling our 25 year-old kitchen with new countertops and a new range and refrigerator. I've been cooking for 25 years quite happily on a GE electric coil range/oven (30 in). I have a vented GE microwave/convection oven above the range, but I don't notice a lot of difference between the convection oven and the oven on the old range - both do a great job with the baking I do. I most often cook with cast iron cookware (personal preference), so a smoothtop electric range is out. I was considering a dual fuel range (i.e., Wolf), but at the cost, I'm seriously considering sticking with another $500 GE Electric coil range. It will handle the heavy cast iron cookware, the oven is still a great size (5.3 cu ft), reviews are almost totally positive, and it does it at a reasonable cost. Yes, more careful control is available on the gas range, but I don't do a lot of simmering, and for most cooking, the electric coils can generate a lot of Watts/BTUs fairly efficiently. I have only moderate outside venting through the over-range microwave (200 CFM), so that's a small concern too with the Wolf range. Am I completely nuts to stick with the GE electric coil range/oven? Thanks for any input.

Kent in Michigan

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Cast iron cookware does not rule out an electric smooth top. The only cast iron that cannot be used on a smooth top is that with burrs on the bottom. Pots and pans used on any cooking surface need to be flat and smooth in order to efficiently transfer heat into the pan. If your cast iron has snags and burrs on it that catch on your coils, then you should retire it regardless. If it's smooth and slides over the coils fine, then it will be fine for a smooth top range.

And, there's always induction if you'd like the control of gas but with an electric powered range.

The other elephant in the room is the condition of your old cabinets. If they haven't worn well or the drawers and finish are in poor shape, then step back and consider replacing them before putting new counters on them. New counters on top of cabinets that only have a few more years of life left in them is a poor decision.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 3:25PM
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Fori is not pleased

I use cast iron on a ceramic cooktop...have on three in fact, two of which were induction. Glass is tough stuff.

If you like cast iron, you'll love it on induction.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 4:08PM
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To answer the OP's specific question, this decision by itself is technically not diagnosable. But you really should look in to getting induction, instead.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 4:53PM
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Yep. Your are crazy. Coils are ick. Smooth top is better, induction is best. I hate my coils :)

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 7:23PM
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I don't want to go back to coils. I went from a Hotpoint with coils, to a Capital range.

BUT, a good cook can cook on anything. You seem to be doing a great job with coils. Will you be disappointed if you get another range like that?

If you up your btu's you will have to up your ventilation. And there my friend is the really expensive side of the beautiful powerful range.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 7:47PM
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We replaced an old worn-out coil top with a new coil-top last year. I didn't like cooking on the smoothtops I've used in vacation rentals (they were slower than my coils, and having pots slide around when they were wet on the bottom drove me crazy). Installing a gas line wasn't an option, and I didn't see an induction range that I liked the looks of and was willing to spend the money on. I didn't know much about it at the time and the ones I saw locally cost at least 4x as much as the coil top I bought. Someday I might get an induction range if I see one I like the looks of at a price I am comfortable with and can get over the sliding-pots thing. I am fine with our new coil-top; it does what I need it to and even has a convection oven (not "true" convection -- it recirculates the already-heated air -- but it's fun to use). I will say that although it was one of the more expensive coil-tops out there, the metal on it seems flimsier than the metal on the 1970 Kenmore that it replaced. The coils are faster and its performance is better, but I don't know if it will be another 40-year appliance. Time will tell, unless I do switch to induction at some point. Of course I am one who thinks the more electronics an appliance has, the shorter lifespan it will probably have -- but remember that I am used to thinking in terms of decades for appliances, not years.

If you are interested in induction, the Sears outlet has them at discounted prices from time to time. I was looking online the other day and they had a reconditioned one for $500 something -- a fairly good-looking one too, at least in the photo. It was located nowhere near where I live, but something like that might be an option if you want to try induction for a lower price. That kind of price wouldn't make me worry so much about my kids cracking the top with the cast iron once they start cooking. :)

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 10:17PM
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the glass top is harder than any other glass: it's vitroceramic. With induction you never have to worry about it overheating or cracking if someone wipes it with a cool wet tissue. That's because induction never gets that hot in the "glass" top.

The good news about a $500 electric coil appliance is that it's easy to send to the recycle center when someone wants to get an induction range.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 10:33PM
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The big problem is that coils are old tech and really only used on the bottom of the line appliances nowadays. You might not be getting the same quality coils you're used to, or the same quality oven. They might be fine, but you should check into that thoroughly. I know someone who had to replace a top of the line '60's coil cooktop with a GE. This was probably a dozen years ago. She wanted coil and GE was the only real choice. It works. She cooks. She's happier with it than if she'd changed it for gas, would have electric under glass for anything, and induction wasn't highly available then. She still complains about it however. I don't know entirely what makes it inferior, but it bugs her.

More than the burners, the oven might be very different from the one you have. Newer ovens are designed more for energy savings than cooking ability. If the range isn't energy star rated it might not be so engineered, but the question remains if it's their best old oven, or their worst.

There's nothing wrong with coils per se (though there's a huge bandwagon that will invite you to join the induction-o-philes (me too--I love induction)). The issue is whether you can really get a new version of the old ones you like.

Re what GreenDesigns said, you can also have any snags and burrs on your old cast iron ground off. The only problem with using it on a glass surface is that if there's a burr or something sharp enough to scratch the glass, the glass could break where the scratch is. That, and if you drop it really hard it could break the glass. The other problem with using cast iron on smooth top radiant electric is that cast iron isn't a good conductor and neither is glass. Put the two together and you have slow. Very slow. OTOH, with induction, the heat is created by a magnetic field exciting the molecules in the iron pan, and the glass doesn't heat up except for from the heat of the pan sitting on it. Very efficient and fast (though thin steel is even faster). I cook with cast iron too (have done on coil, gas and induction).

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 11:18PM
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We replaced our 20-year-old perfectly working coiltop with a Samsung induction. We were lucky to get a great deal on a floor model that was basically the price of the non-induction smoothtop. It is amazing to use the convection oven, and very gas-like in responsiveness. I have no regrets after a year and a half. I use the LeCreuset grill pan on it all the time. I agree with northcarolina, check out the outlet areas of appliance stores and/or Sears Outlet. We got ours at hhgregg. An advantage is that few people IRL know what is induction.

Induction has gotten some very positive reviews in recent Consumer Reports.

We were able to donate the coiltop to a local charity who came to pick it up.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 8:35AM
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You aren't crazy, but you might not be making the best choice.

There are definitely reasons to have a coil stove over a smooth-top. If you prefer coils to smoothtops, go for the coils *if* you can find one you like...the biggest problem is that as pi11og notes coils have effectively been relegated to the very low end. You won't find a lot of extra features on those stoves, and most are pretty basic looking (i.e., builder's grade looking). On the plus side, however, the tech in those stoves is so simple it is basically indestructible. There are also quite a few "vintage" coil stoves out there that are really quite beautiful, and also very robust from a repair point of view.

There are many fewer reasons to get a coil stove over induction. In fact, I can think of only three: (1) You really can't afford any induction stove (despite falling prices, coil stoves are still significantly cheaper...induction has come down, but you can buy a 30" coil stove for under $400), (2) you have a big collection of copper cookware you love and want to continue using (unlikely), or (3) you want to do canning. Canning is essentially impossible on induction OR on smoothtop need either a coil (with a special canning coil) or gas.

So unless one of those three things applies, I join those who encourage you to seriously consider induction...but if one does apply, or you just decide you don't like the available induction options, I say go for a coil stove and don't worry about it.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 3:10PM
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Many thanks for all the excellent replies - Wow! To respond to some of the queries - our cabinets are solid cherry, look great and are in excellent shape, so we won't be replacing them - just the countertops, range, and refrigerator. GE makes a nice 30" coil range in Black (my wife's preferred color) with a self-cleaning oven feature, so we are gaining at least one nice option. I'll have to be a bit of searching for any vintage coil stoves in the area - an interesting idea. While induction is intriguing, we're likely only going to remain in this house for another 6 years before retiring and moving elsewhere, so the additional cost for induction is harder to justtify. Still, I'll examine it more, as it is an interesting option. I tend to move my pots/skillets around on the stove a bit, so I suspect I might be tough on the induction range surface.

I do have a nice microwave/convection oven overhead of the range, so I have a convection oven to use when I want. I'm lukewarm on the benefits of convection - it is faster but I'm not sure it produces better baked goods that my standard oven.

Thanks again.

Kent in MI

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 4:43PM
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With any self-clean oven, it may be wise to use that feature a few times when the oven is still under warranty. Sometimes these appliances don't work so good (or at all) after self-cleaning. If that sort of trouble happens, you'll want it to be covered.

Put a silicone pad over an induction hob while cooking -- that'll protect the glass surface from sliding pans.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 5:34PM
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Sometimes these appliances don't work so good (or at all) after self-cleaning. If that sort of trouble happens, you'll want it to be covered.

Very true, but one thing about a coil stove is that there aren't a lot of electronics to get fried, so it may do better than many more deluxe stoves these days.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 8:36PM
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That's a good point, writersblock. I was thinking that any coil stoves that do contain electronics might skimp on both the electronic parts and on shielding, and may be more prone to heat-related problems during self-clean operations.

Its worth considering this in selecting the right coil stove, if Kent is intent on getting one.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 9:34PM
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It appears that electric coil ranges are still manufactured by GE, Kenmore, and Whirlpool in the color we want (Black). Any preferences due to quality and reliability, though, as noted, these basic devices are generally pretty bullet proof. I'm leaning toward the GE, based on the fact that the current range is a GE. Thanks for any input.

Kent in MI

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 6:13AM
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Kent, the Kenmores are probably also made by Whirlpool. Again, the big difference is likely to be the quality of the oven. I can't tell you which will be best, but you've mentioned a couple of times how good your current oven is. I'd look specifically for oven reviews on the ranges you're looking at. Since you're only going to be there another six years, are you sure you don't want to just fix up your current range? You haven't mentioned that it has any issues, just that it isn't new...

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 12:53PM
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In the kitchen remodel, my wife wants to go with Black colored appliances and this current oven is cream colored. As most other appliances have been updated over the past few years and are now all Black, the oven sort of sticks out, hence the reason for the new range/oven search!

Kent in MI

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 2:29PM
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GE typically gets good marks for ranges.

The first three digits (before the period, XXX.xxxxxxxx) in Kenmore model numbers indicates the manufacture source. Full model numbers typically are not referenced on and, so may have to check the tag on a display unit or question a sales rep.

Sears Manufacturing Codes (scroll down the page for the long list)

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 2:58PM
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I'm tempted to stick with GE, as the bullet-proof one in our kitechen is a GE. Frigidaire and Whirlpool/Kenmore also make electric coil ranges, so any input appreciated. After the holidays, we'll go to the local appliance store and see if any one 'feels' superior to the others.

Kent in MI

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 3:11PM
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You could also have an auto body shop paint your old range. :)

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 3:16PM
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GreenDesigns: Pots and pans used on any cooking surface need to be flat and smooth in order to efficiently transfer heat into the pan.

Amendment: Pots and pans used on any cooking surface THAT TRANSFERS ENERGY BY CONDUCTION IN THE FORM OF HEAT (do NOT need to be flat and smooth) need to have large surface-to-surface contact in order efficiently to transfer heat into the pan.

A cooking appliance that delivers energy by radiation, not conduction, does not require surface-to-surface contact at all. An induction cooktop or range, which transfers energy via an oscillating magnetic field, requires no surface-to-surface contact at all to transfer energy to a pot or pan. Magnetism operates even across a vacuum.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 12:04AM
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Friends here locally think I'm insane to do a nice kitchen remodel (new countertops, new frig) and stick with a $500 electric coil range. They showed me some photos and reviews of a Wolf dual fuel 30 in range and - WOW! - what a beautiful range. I cooked on a gas range in grad school and liked it, so this has me considering if I should scrap the coils and go with the Wolf dual fuel. Thoughts?

Kent in MI

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 9:32AM
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That's like asking if you should trade the Corolla for a Maserati.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 3:34PM
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Buy an "Inductorati" and blow that Maserati into the weeds.

It will be far easier to clean than that Italian Monster too and a lot more efficient, and most likely require fewer repairs.


    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 4:00PM
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I think you need to go to a good appliance store and look first. It looks like you have never seen a Wolf range in person. I am not talking about going to Sears or Best Buy to look at appliances.

Go to every independent appliance store in town and just look. Don't tell them that you are in the market. Write the brands and model numbers that you like, and do the research of the ranges that you like.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 8:03PM
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I don't think you can have a 200 cfm OTR vent with a Wolf range. Anyone?

You might want to look at the GE Cafe range, especially if you want gas or dual fuel. Or else look at the inductions.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 8:53PM
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I don't do a lot of high temperature cooking, so I thought for my general use, 200 CFM would be adequate. I know it isn't recommended for the Wolf DF304, but it seemed like a reasonable way to go. Not the case? Thanks.

Kent in MI

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 9:38PM
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No, you don't want a 200 CFM over a gas range. Really. Not the case that it would be reasonable over the Wolf. Do you know anyone who has one that you can try out? It sounds like you really don't have enough information about your own cooking style. You might absolutely love it! I have a little cooktop with Wolf small and medium burners--not even the large one--and it blows my old full sized gas cooktop out of the water. And that's just Wolf, which is restrained and very residential. It definitely needs a more powerful hood. You could easily replace the OTR with a low profile cabinet hood and put a microwave on the counter.

But I don't think you'd be crazy for keeping your old range since you like cooking on it. What's crazy about that? People pay the same as for a Wolf for restored mid-20th century ranges, that don't have any big power or anything. They're just good old ranges with good ovens and basic burners, and are very pretty.

Induction is also a great alternative to electric, but doesn't fit with the design scheme. You could also have a stainless front induction range painted black, if that's such a big concern.

But if you like your range you like your range. I wouldn't give it up just for looks, unless I was sure that the replacement was going to be as good or better. At least keep it in the garage until you're sure you like the new one...

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 9:56PM
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Since you are thinking of retiring in the not far future I would consider a gas range. Though Wolf is a great choice there are several other possibilities. People seem to like their GE Profile as well as Cafe range.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2011 at 9:27AM
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I have a similar question, and would love to know what you decided. Thanks

Here is a link that might be useful: My question

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 11:21AM
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Going gas would open a can of worms as you would need a higher CFM exhaust fan (see some of my other posts on make up air)
We went induction and can't wait til it is installed.
If over 400 CFM will need make up air system - but since you are not doing a complete remodel, you may not need to pull a permit and complete an inspection - but there are good reasons for the rule - just that the 400 CFM cut off seems a bit arbitrary.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 11:01PM
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