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Are Gas Stoves Harmful to You and Your Family?

Steve Sheinkopf  |  December 01, 2022  |  4 Min. Read

Gas Cooking  |  Ventilation

My parents had an old Caloric stove when I was a kid. We had that stove for at least ten years, like many households in my old neighborhood.

Do a quick Google search about gas ranges, and it's an Armageddon of consequences of using a gas stove.

In this article, you will learn what most of these articles and videos are not telling you about your new gas range.

Then I will show you some unconventional yet effective alternatives. In the end, you will learn one sure-fire solution you need to know before buying any range.

Let's get started.

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Are Gas Stoves Harmful to You and Your Family?

Gas emits a mixture of undesirable fumes. While it can be argued that any form of cooking has emissions, gas produces the most.

Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, and Formaldehyde are produced at higher rates from gas ranges than induction or electric ranges.

Over the years, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has linked Nitrogen Dioxide to many health problems, such as asthma, in children and seniors.

Why has this been such a recent issue? I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s with a gas range, as did most of my friends.

The problem has escalated over the last 20+ years for two reasons:

The Cause: Higher Burner Outputs and Airtight Homes

Higher Burner Outputs

I read a bunch of articles before writing this. Look at this picture below published on NPR.

Freestanding-Gas-Range-Photo-Courtesy-of-NPR

It looks like a basic range, doesn't it?

We will get to the ventilation in another section, but that basic range has two burners rated at 15,000 BTU (British Thermal Unit) in the front of the range.

When I started at Yale in 1986, Whirlpool had just started manufacturing a gas range with three 9,000 BTU burners and a simmer burner at 5,000 BTU.

GE introduced their new range with a 12,000 BTU burner max a year later.

In the late 1980s, Viking started the professional range craze with the unheard-of output of 15,000 BTU on all the burners.

Today, Hestan has a 30,000 BTU burner, Wolf has a 35,000 BTU burner, and most professional ranges have multiple burners over 20,000 BTU.

Wolf-pro-range-burnerProfessional Range Burner

 

 

You have a range with two times more output than stovetops made 30 years ago and up to five times that much in larger ranges.

More output will emit more gases. You don't want these gases in your home. However, that's only part of the problem.

LEED Certification and Passive House Criteria

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Passive House certifications focus on safe building materials and clean air for buildings.

Take my old home in Needham. It would not pass today's building criteria standards.

Today, you have much better windows and safe building materials designed to keep the air inside your home while not allowing outdoor air in.

That's great for efficiency and your fuel bills seeing as older homes were often drafty, and air would naturally filter out.

However, there comes a time when your home may be too airtight. Thus, those harmful gases produced from cooking will stay in your home longer.

Here's how you can solve that problem in your kitchen:

The Solution: Proper Ventilation

Wolf-Kitchen-and-Oven-at-Yale-Appliance-in-Framingham

Professional Range with a High CFM Range Hood

 

If you are planning a new kitchen and want a gas range of any size, then invest in a proper ventilation system and range hood.

Many vents, like downdrafts and over-the-range microwaves, will not functionally remove the gases from your house.

Here is how to vent your kitchen range the right way:

How to Properly Vent Your Kitchen Range

First, you need the right exhaust.

CFM

It's measured by CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) or cubes of air exhausted per minute. If you cook a lot on a 30-inch stove, 600 CFM is a good exhaust.

You want a high CFM range hood for the larger 36, 48, and 60-inch ranges. The cost difference between 600 CFM and 1200 CFM is not that much more.

Capture

Capture or depth of the hood is particularly important. It is also one aspect of venting people purchase incorrectly because your high-output burners are in the front of the range.

If the hood doesn't cover the burners at 23 inches deep, those gases will bypass the hood at any CFM.

The solution? Buy a deeper hood.

Duct Run

This one is simple. Vent either straight up or straight back. Straight up is the best because smoke rises.

You don't want too many elbows or transitions in your duct because the exhaust flow will be diminished.

Read More: How to Vent Your Kitchen Range

What You Can Do If You Can't Vent Your Kitchen Range

It's easy for me to tell you to vent properly and buy a new range hood. However, in some instances, good ventilation may require a kitchen renovation.

Many people can't renovate for various reasons, so here are a few tips:

  • Remember to turn your vent on, even if it's a ceiling blower.
  • Open windows. If you can't vent, then bring in the outdoor air.
  • Cook on the back burners, if you can. They have less burner output, but a shallower hood will vent the back burners better than the front burners.
  • Covert to induction or electric stovetop. It's easier said than done because you need up to 50 amps of power, whereas gas uses less than 12 amps.

In addition, here are a couple of things I did when I moved into a new apartment with an old over-the-range microwave:

  • I bought an air cleaner with the ability to handle VOCs.
  • I bought the Sharp Plasmacluster air purifier with ion charging.
  • Then I bought a portable induction hob to place under the over-the-range microwave for better venting.

A portable 120 induction hob is good for light cooking only. I learned boiling a whole pot of water for my daughter's spaghetti on an induction hob takes forever.

Key Takeaways

Cooking emits many gases. However, gas cooking will emit far more. You should be concerned unless you can vent properly and remember to use it.

If you can't open the windows and let the outside air in, converting to electricity or renovating is a better long-term answer, but it will cost money.

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Steve Sheinkopf

Steve is the third-generation CEO of Yale and a lifelong Bostonian. He currently resides in Boston, one mile from where he was born. Despite being one of the worst goalies of all time, he is a huge hockey fan of college hockey and the Boston Bruins. The love of his life is his daughter Sophie.

Steve has also been featured in numerous publications such as the New York Times, Consumer Reports, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg Radio, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur, for his knowledge of how to buy appliances and appliance repair.

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