Induction cooktops have been dropping rapidly in price. I recently acquired two, single burner induction units plus a set of stainless steel cookware for $100. At those prices, you might want to consider retiring the old electric or gas range. There is no doubt that induction uses less energy than an electric resistance burner, but comparing it to a gas burner is more complicated. Thanks to Paul Scheckel, author of Home Energy Diet, we now know that induction cooking is 74% efficient while gas is only 32% efficient. Other sources show the efficiency of induction even higher, making 74% a conservative figure. Induction also heats faster. In Paul’s test, water boiled in 5.8 seconds using induction, while it took 8.3 seconds to boil the same amount of water with gas.

If you live in a zero energy house and power your electric cooktop and oven with solar it is, in Scheckel’s words, “fossil-free cooking.” If you’re living in a conventional home and want to chip away at your carbon footprint, you’ll want to consider the carbon emissions of your fuel choices. Burning natural gas directly to get 1 million btus releases 117 pounds of CO2. Burning coal directly for the same amount of energy would release just over 210 pounds. There aren’t too many people burning coal in the cookstove these days, so it makes the most sense to compare the total system efficiency of electricity with that of gas.

In Scheckel’s experiment the electric induction cooker released 0.29 pounds of CO2 to heat the water, while burning natural gas released 1.16 pounds. (CO2 emissions from propane are even higher than natural gas). So, even taking into account the gross inefficiency of coal-fired electricity, induction cooking dramatically reduces carbon when compared to gas (or to less efficient standard electric cooktops).

In addition to reducing energy use and increasing cooking speed, induction cooking has several more advantages. The electronics allow a wide range of programming. You can start, stop or change temperatures at pre-programmed times. You can precisely set the temperature by degrees. The durable glass top doesn’t get hot, so fingers don’t burn and neither does spilled food, making cleanup easy.

Induction cooking works by creating an electromagnetic field (EMF) that excites the molecules in cookware. So, you need pots and pans made with ferrous metal, i.e., stainless steel or cast iron. If you don’t have those, then you may need to buy new cookware. Those issues aside, induction cooking is safe, efficient, and a perfect addition to a zero energy lifestyle.