Which is the More Energy Efficient Stovetop – Gas, Electric, or Induction?

Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

×

Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.

Updated:

Green cookware and organic, locally grown food are just two ways to make your kitchen eco-friendly. What you cook your food with also matters though. There are pros and cons to cooking on electric, gas, and induction, but one is the standout winner for the most energy efficient stovetop.

Table of Contents
  1. What if your induction stove is powered by a coal-burning power plant?
  2. How to make induction cooking even more energy efficient
  3. Final thoughts on the most energy efficient ways to cook

It’s normal to have a clear preference for gas, electric, or induction when buying a new cooktop. Often, though, this is based on old habits and what feels familiar.

If you’re a conscientious consumer, you might be ready to stir things up in the kitchen and switch to a more climate friendly cooktop.

Consumers want green home appliances, both for air quality and energy efficiency reasons. We broke down the pros and cons of three popular types of cooktops: gas, electric, and induction, to determine once and for all which is the best option for an eco-friendly kitchen.

Check out our top picks for more sustainable electric and induction cooktops.

Often, this is based more on familiarity than on what is energy efficient and healthy. 

Which type of stovetop is the most energy-efficient and healthy? Below, we look at the energy efficiency of the three main types of cooktops:

  • Gas
  • Electric
  • Induction.

Some cooktops have a mixture of electric, induction, and gas burners, but these are rare.

In contrast, a range can have either a single fuel source for both the cooktop and the oven or a dual fuel source. So, for example, your appliance might have a gas stovetop and electric oven or a gas oven and induction cooktop.

The energy efficiency of gas, electric, and induction cooktops

Let’s not bury the lede: Research clearly shows that induction cooktops are more energy efficient than other cooking methods.

  • Gas cooktops are about 40 percent efficient
  • Electric-coil and standard smooth-top electric cooktops are about 74 percent efficient
  • Induction cooktops are 84 percent efficient.

Induction cooktops also heat food or liquids faster compared to gas and electric.

In one experiment, an induction stovetop could boil water in just 5.8 seconds, versus 8.3 seconds with a gas stove.

Put another way, when cooking with gas, about 60 percent of the energy is wasted, compared to just 16 percent with induction and 26 percent with smooth electric cooktops.

You can calculate the energy efficiency of an appliance or system using the following formula:

Total energy input minus waste energy [i.e., useful energy output] divided by energy input

With gas stoves, you lose a lot of energy to the surrounding air. With electric smoothtops or exposed coils, some energy is lost because heat has to transmit from the coils to the pan. This is not the case with induction, where energy transfers directly from the electromagnetic elements to the ferrous metal in pots and pans, with no intermediary where losses can occur.

If you’re cooking with a gas or electric cooktop and use a burner size that’s larger than your pot or pan, you’re also wasting energy heating what doesn’t need heating. With induction, the elements match the pan size and thus reduce energy waste.

What if your induction stove is powered by a coal-burning power plant?

Ah, the perennial question, and one I get a lot in the comments and via email.

Is an induction stove still energy efficient if it runs on electricity generated at a coal-fired power plant?

The short answer is: Yes, probably.

The longer answer is… it’s complicated.

There’s no simple equation to work out the overall efficiency of a gas-power-plant-powered electric induction cooktop.

Instead, what we have are average efficiencies for power plants, estimated loss of energy through transmission, and efficiency of the cooktops themselves.

Sure, it’s not as good as powering your induction stove using clean, green electricity sources such as wind, microhydro, or solar, but it’s still better than burning fossil fuels directly to cook your food. And induction is still better than electric cooktops that run on the same electrical grid.

Good old math, physics, and data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration can help us a bit here.

What's powering your stove?

Most electricity in the U.S. is still generated by burning natural gas. Thankfully, while coal-fired electricity generation was the largest source of electricity generation in the U.S. in 2015 (at 1.352 million GWh), by 2020 coal had dropped to third place (0.774 million GWh).

Natural gas powers most power stations (1.617 million GWh), with nuclear generation in second place (0.790 million GWh). Renewables such as solar and wind are increasing their market share, but slowly.

Running the numbers

Modern combined cycle natural gas power plants can be up to 60 percent efficient. If you combine this with the 84 percent efficiency of induction and factor in a 5 percent energy loss through delivery, you have an overall efficiency level of around 47.9 percent. (0.84 x 60 x .95.) This is still better than the 40 percent efficiency of gas stoves.

Even if we assume the power plant is only 50 percent efficient at generating electricity from natural gas, we still have an overall efficiency of 39.9 percent. And given the other downsides of gas cooktops, I don’t think the potentially 0.1 percent loss of efficiency is worth ditching induction for gas.

What about an electric cooktop? Even this remains more energy efficient overall compared to burning gas directly. Using the same math, an electric cooktop works out to around 42.2 percent efficient (0.74 x 60 x .95). With a less efficient power plant, it is just 35.15 percent efficient overall though.

Why is induction more efficient than gas?

Thanks to the efficiency of energy transfer with induction cooking, you use less energy for the same result compared to burning gas directly on a gas cooktop. With gas cooking, you waste a lot of energy heating the air around the pan. With induction, all the energy goes into the pan itself.

How to make induction cooking even more energy efficient

What if you have a choice of electricity provider and you know the source of the energy? The EIA data shows that to power an electric or induction cooktop, it is marginally better to burn natural gas versus coal (in terms of carbon dioxide emissions).

The better option for emissions, though, is to look for a green energy provider near you, sign up to community solar, or to install rooftop solar.

If you generate your own solar power, induction cooking becomes, in essence, emissions-free. Induction cooking is also usually better for indoor air quality because cooking requires less heat overall meaning fewer emissions of every kind.

Induction is better for overall carbon dioxide emissions

In the water boiling experiment I mentioned above, natural gas released 1.16 pounds of CO2 to boil the water in 8.3 seconds. The induction stove, powered by the electrical grid, was responsible for just 0.29 pounds of CO2 and boiled the water in just 5.8 seconds.

Propane is the worst type of cooking fuel for carbon dioxide emissions (and for other reasons, such as indoor air quality, cost, and safety).

Final thoughts on the most energy efficient ways to cook

Many professional kitchens have switched to induction cooking in the last few years. This isn’t surprising, given that induction offers better control, speedier cooking, and reduced exposure to fumes. It’s also more energy efficient and, therefore, often cheaper.

Still on the fence about your next cooktop? Check out the pros and cons for different fuel sources:

  • Gas
  • Electric
  • Induction.

And read more about the effect of gas cooking on indoor air quality here.

Free eBook: Simple Steps to a Greener Home

Concerned about climate change? Learn actionable tips for making each room in your home greener.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

15 Comments

Join the conversation

    • Thanks for this, Scott. Great to see that the US is shifting away from coal, though I’d personally prefer to see a much greater switch to renewables overall.

      I’ll update the article accordingly. Thanks again for reaching out.

      Leigh

  1. Very informative article. We just purchased our first induction/convection stove and it is great. We used to have electric then had gas, and much preferred gas, but induction is its equal and this article highlights other benefits. Once we got used to starting toast before the eggs! LOL

  2. Our glass top range failed under the weight of a pressure cooker loaded with jars (home canning). We currently use a coil type range for this reason. I would love to move to induction cooking, but need assurances that the range top will hold up to home canning. I hate throwing appliances away, due to premature failure and parts that cost more than the appliance did new.

    • Wow! That’s extremely unfortunate, Michael. Sorry to hear about this kitchen nightmare.
      Curious which glass top range this was and if it was under warranty?

      Definitely something to consider when shopping for a new stovetop if canning is your jam. Thanks for the heads-up!

  3. Thanks for the article. I’m pretty sure that the sentence above, “During a typical winter week, the researchers noted that 1.7 and 12 million Californians could be exposed to levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide exceeding indoor air quality standards if they didn’t use a venting range hood while cooking” was supposed to be “levels of carbon monoxide”. Hope this is useful.

    • Hi Jeffrey,

      You’re right! Thanks for the eagle eyes. I’ve amended the sentence.

      All the best,

      Leigh

  4. I am hooked on induction having been a fan of gas perviously. I like the flexibility, speed, cleanliness (no burnt overspills) and the fact its even cheaper than gas which was the front runner prior to induction. Ok, you have to get the appropriate pans containing ferrous metal to work. Being an engineer I actually thought about producing a cast disc to use as an ‘interface’ so that you could use pan ware not containing ferrous but it sounds like I have been beaten too it! Hey ho, another fortune missed !

  5. The article claims that gas is 40% efficient, while induction cooktops are 87% efficient. This ignores inefficiency in the generation of electricity. Any electricity generation that involves burning fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal) will be 30% to 50% efficient. Basic thermodynamics makes it hard to do better. Furthermore, electrical transmission is about 95% efficient. Taking this into account, gas is still 40% efficient while induction cooktops are between 25% and 40% efficient.

    If you are concerned about air quality or climate change, you really should replace that gas powered furnace as well. It burns a lot more gas than any stove over the course of a year.

    Instead, I recommend less drastic changes (like using the range hood) unless your household has one of the 650,000 susceptible individuals with childhood asthma. If it does, then induction cooktops (and heat pumps) are a viable (if expensive) option. Be sure to upgrade your electric supply in that case, to cover the additional power requirements.

    • You make a good point! And add further fuel to the fire to get everyone off fossil fuels as a source of electrical power. For folks whose electricity does come from coal or gas fired power stations, this is also a good reminder to look at installing home solar or switching to a different utility or a renewables plan from their current utility. Whatever we can do to transition away from burning inefficient and polluting fossil fuels the better!

  6. There is a mistake with the formula for efficiency. The article currently says:
    “Energy efficiency is calculated as: Total energy input minus waste energy divided by energy output”
    But unfortunately the error makes this nonsense.

    Perhaps it was meant to say: “Total energy input minus waste energy equals energy output”, which is a correct statement, but that is not how efficiency is calculated.

    May I suggest a replacement?
    “Energy efficiency is calculated as: Energy output divided by energy input”
    or, if you prefer to elaborate:
    “Energy efficiency is calculated as: Energy input minus energy wasted, then divided by energy input (again)”

    • Thanks JK,

      So glad you spotted the typo – I meant to say input, not output in the original! I’ve made the edit and hope it’s clearer now.

      Really appreciate the close reading and comment. Thanks!
      Leigh

  7. Thanks for the nice comparison, yet I still enjoy our gas stove. It’s heavy duty, has six burners and large venting system. Plus, with our national grid issue, monopoly power companies and our florida hurricanes, it’s good having a supply of gas to cook eggs when the lights go out. Love our solar panels too.

Leave a Reply

If you have a question about the subject matter of this post, ask it in the comments below. To better serve our readers, we have started answering some reader questions in dedicated blog posts.

Back to top