Electric vs. Induction Cooktop: Which Is Greener?

Is there more to sustainability than just hot air?

Detail of female hand using induction stove in kitchen

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Cooking with electricity is the 21st century way of life. As more cities require new buildings to ditch their natural gas lines for fully electrified utilities, consumers have their choice between electric and inductions cooktops.

Most contemporary electric and induction stovetops have flat, smooth surfaces made from a mix of glass and ceramic. Home cooks generally find these options easier to clean. And unlike gas stoves, electric and induction cooktops do not release greenhouse gases during use, making them cleaner for the planet.

These two cooktops may look similar in nearly every manufacturing specification, but they differ entirely in how they cook food. Here, we break down the differences between these two types of cooktops and determine which one is the greenest investment for your hard-earned greenbacks. 

How Electric Cooktops Work

Electric stovetop with a frying pan
You can see the infrared heating of the copper coils on an electric stovetop.

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Electric cooktops, commonly called radiant cooktops, draw their heat from a centralized source, usually copper coils beneath the surface of the stovetop. 

When an electrical current heats the coils, they transfer that heat to the cooktop surface through thermal conduction. On electric stovetops, the infrared glow of the coils shines through the cooktop surface. That radiant energy then heats the cookware, which transfers the food inside the cookware.

Efficiency

During this multi-step heat transfer, a substantial amount of energy is lost. Depending on the technology, type of cookware, and food being heated, electric stovetops range anywhere from 39% to 64% in efficiency.

Advantages

Since electric cooktops are so common and reliable, customers can expect simple installation. Some home cooks also enjoy the residual heat of an electric stovetop. Because of the heat conduction, the burners on an electric stove stay warm even after turning them off. Residual heat can be used to keep food warm or to complete cooking without generating excess energy.

Disadvantages

Unfortunately, residual heat can lead to accidental burns as well as damage to the cooktop surface. Electric cooktops also take longer to heat up, and the coils can sometimes provide uneven heat. If you're using a pan that's smaller than the surface being heated, you can also waste energy.

How Inductions Cooktops Work

A person cleans an induction cooktop with a cloth and rubber gloves.
Induction cooktops cool down quickly, making cleanup quick and safe.

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Induction cooktops also use copper coils, but they cook with the heat of electromagnetism. When an alternating electric current runs through the coils, they don't heat up—they produce magnetic fields, making induction cooktops cool to the touch even when turned on. (Induction stovetops that recently had hot cookware on them may be extremely hot from the heat conducted into the cooktop surface.)

Place iron-containing metal cookware on the surface of an induction stovetop, and the metal responds to that alternating current by conducting electricity and heating up. Only the surface area immediately outside the cookware is hot because heat is only generated when the metal cookware interacts with the current. 

Efficiency

Induction cooking is astonishingly efficient, using between 74% and 99% of the electricity generated to cook the food. Because there’s no energy loss through heat transfer, home cooks praise induction cooking’s ability to provide even heating across the surface of the pot or pan. Induction stovetops also offer instant heat and precise temperature control. 

Advantages

Induction surfaces cook faster than any other existing technology and consume less energy. It takes about two-thirds of the time to boil water on an induction stovetop than it takes to do so on an electric stovetop. Additionally, because there is no residual heat, induction stovetops cool much faster after cookware is removed, affording users quicker, safer clean-up.

Disadvantages

Induction cooking is generally more expensive than either electric or gas stovetops. They also work best with smooth-bottomed stainless steel, so if you cook with copper or aluminum, you’ll need to switch your pots and pans.

Lastly, some induction cooks complain that, at its highest settings, induction cooking creates a loud buzz, especially if more than one piece of cookware is on the surface.

Which Is Greener?

In all aspects of sustainability, induction cooktops rank higher than electric cooktops. Induction cooking provides reduced energy consumption, fast and even heating, and a safer cooking experience. Combine all this with easier cleanup than even an electric cooktop, and it’s plain to see what the buzz is all about.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are induction cooktops better than electric cooktops?

    Most of today’s electric and induction stovetops have comparable features and aesthetics, but induction stovetops still offer the fastest, most efficient, and greenest form of cooking.

  • What is the difference between induction and electric cooktops?

    An electric stovetop produces heat when electricity flows through the copper coils that sit below the glass-ceramic surface. That heat is transferred to the cooking surface and eventually to the food. 


    Induction cooktops use electromagnetism to create electricity between the copper coils and the pan itself, which heats up in response to the alternating current passing through it. Because induction cooking doesn’t rely on heat transfer, it cooks food more efficiently.

View Article Sources
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    S. T. Nguyen and N. A. Ho-Tran, "An Investigation on Energy Efficiency of Infrared and Induction Cooktops," 2020 Applying New Technology in Green Buildings (ATiGB), 2021, pp. 115-119, doi: 10.1109/ATiGB50996.2021.9423196.

  2. Lhaden, Jigme, Ngawang Dorji, Dupjay Pelzang, Roshan Chhetri. "Household Energy Use—Clean and Energy Efficient Cooking Solution - case study of Chhukha Dzongkhag." IJSRED. Vol 2, Issue 6, Nov Dec 2019.

    S. T. Nguyen and N. A. Ho-Tran, "An Investigation on Energy Efficiency of Infrared and Induction Cooktops," 2020 Applying New Technology in Green Buildings (ATiGB), 2021, pp. 115-119, doi: 10.1109/ATiGB50996.2021.9423196.