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stoves: gas vs. electric

paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

Sheriff Marilyn and I were talking about this today.

We came up with a scenario that neither of us know the answer to, but think it is important.

Suppose you have an air tight kitchen. Average size. And you have one gas burner burning full blast. And you are in the kitchen. How long until you die?


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Ben Souther
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 11, 2004
Posts: 13410

Another question would be, "What would kill you?"
Would it be carbon monoxide poisoning or would you suffocate due to the burner using up all the oxygen in the room.

I guess the answer would depend on how efficient the burner is.


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John Smith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 08, 2001
Posts: 2937
Suppose you have an air tight kitchen. Average size. And you have one gas burner burning full blast. And you are in the kitchen. How long until you die?

I think it will take about a millennia. The air has a peculiar manner to get easily into (and out of) very tight places, and so does carbon monoxide. An equivalent question would be: suppose you have 10 guests in your air tight kitchen (I am guessing that many people emit the same amount of carbon monoxide as one gas burner). How long until you die (presumably because of oxygen depravation)?

If you are that much concerned, put a CO detector somewhere near by.

All that aside, a flat top electric is the best in terms of utility and visual appeal.
[ December 21, 2006: Message edited by: John Smith ]
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

Originally posted by John Smith:

All that aside, a flat top electric is the best in terms of utility and visual appeal.


Ummmmm..... yeah. If all you do is warm tiny pots of soup, once in a while.


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Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
John, I think the point of saying "air tight" is that it really is sealed tight enough that air doesn't enter or leave. That's the premise of the problem. Sure, that would be rather unusual in real life - but we do manage to create spacecraft and even pressurized cabins on aircraft. And people have certainly asphyxiated in mines after an accidental cave-in created a seal that was sufficiently air-tight for our purposes here. So the premise isn't completely unreasonable.

It occurs to me that as the oxygen level drops in the kitchen, the stove will burn less and less efficiently. Eventually the flame will simply go out, and the room will gradually fill with natural gas, primarily methane - while still having some oxygen in the mix. So, which happens first: do you die from the lack of oxygen, or does the stove go out? I don't know; I think both scenarios are plausible. Is methane also toxic like carbon monoxide? Or does the risk shift to the danger of a spark igniting the methane all at once? The oxygen level is still low, so maybe an explosion is not much of a threat. But if the methane concentration increases enough, that might change.


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marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

You seem to be more concerned about asphyxiation than making a fabulous white sauce. :roll:

Nevertheless, the approach is straight forward. Get quotes on 2 different single-pay non-term life policies from Lloyd's of London, making sure one of the quotes is underwritten specifically for the Airtight Kitchen Gas Burner Scenario (AKGBS). Then using standard actuarial tables to determine life expectancy under non-AKGBS conditions, work backwards on the difference for Lloyd's best guess.


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Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
[marc weber]: You seem to be more concerned about asphyxiation than making a fabulous white sauce.

Ah yes, that's a specialty of yours, right?
marc weber
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
...Ah yes, that's a specialty of yours, right?

I thought you were going to cite my 10-year history of avoiding pans.

(Grill biography courtesy of Jess.)
[ December 21, 2006: Message edited by: marc weber ]
Jeroen T Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Posts: 1847
Originally posted by John Smith:

All that aside, a flat top electric is the best in terms of utility and visual appeal.


I have to disagree. Electric might look better, but gas makes for more versatility.


42
Dave Lenton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Jeroen T Wenting:
I have to disagree. Electric might look better, but gas makes for more versatility.
Agreed, gas is much better to cook with. I really struggle to cook on an electric hob as it seems to take forever to change temperature.

While the electric hobs which are a completely smooth surface look quite nice when clean, whenever I've used one they've ended up looking awful because everything I've tried to cook has boiled over.

Besides, I quite like the look of gas hobs.


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Jeroen T Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Posts: 1847
yes, those ceramic/glass plates get damaged real easily, especially the older generations.
My parents had a new kitchen installed just when they started appearing and decided they wanted the system.
It looked great for the first few weeks, until the first pot of milk boiled over and baked deep into the ceramic glass, leaving a permanent brownish black stain.

My gas stove is 50 years old (an heirloom from my grandmother) and still looks nearly as new when I get serious with a mild abbrasive.
Iris Hoekstra
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 10, 2005
Posts: 29
Don't get me started on those ceramic things! When I moved in with my husband, he had one of those. Impossible to cook on, as has been pointed out above. The fact that it's easy to clean is indeed an advantage, but you have to wait an hour for it to cool down first, unless you want to fry your sponge.
Jeroen T Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Posts: 1847
you also have to wait for steel to cool Iris. I've done research into gas cooking devices (how to make them easier to use for disabled people and things like that) which included (there was strangely no data about that) researching the temperatures the metal of the things can reach.
I found hotspots reaching nearly 1000 degrees, when everyone in the research institute had told me to expect highs in the area of 300 at most.
Quite a few people were left wondering where they'd gotten their assumptions from
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

See, Marilyn and I were having this very discussion. Each has it's plusses and minuses.

As for a minus for gas: it uses oxygen from the same oxygen supply that my family and I use. So then came the question "how much oxygen?"

To get an idea of how much oxygen, think back to fifth grade science: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4951083145410724059&q=candle+water+glass&hl=en

One candle. That went very fast.

Note that our air is about 20% oxygen.

So .... for the grand discussion of gas vs. electric, this is one tiny point. How my oxygen is used up? How long does it take to use up a roomful.

If a kitchen is 10x10x8. That would be 800 cubic feet.

A burner uses a lot more oxygen than a candle.

If we were to say that a burner uses 10 time more than a candle, and that that glass was a .... 12 ounce glass ??? And we could go so far as to guess that the the candle used the air in the glass in one second ....

One fluid ounce is 1.804 cubic inches ... that's 21.684 cubic inches.

1728 cubic inches in a cubic foot.

So the burner would use up all the air in one cubic foot in about 8 seconds.

6400 seconds for the whole room? 106 minutes.

So .... given all the slop and not figuring in how much oxygen the human subject is consuming, the human should be dead in about an hour and a half. (due to some sloppy measurements, maybe 30 minutes, maybe six hours)

Sound about right?
Jeroen T Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Posts: 1847
Paul, that electrical uses even more oxygen, only farther away.
Powerstations (assuming you're drawing from a gas, coal, or oil fired plant like most of the world) are incredibly inefficient.
Their turbines often have relatively low efficiency as is, and the line losses transporting the produced electricity are horrendous.
You can expect an efficiency of 10-30% at most out of the fuel you put in, your gas fired stove can do better than that (though it's inefficient too because it's an open flame, there are however hybrid designs that use an enclosed flame under a ceramic plate which are more efficient).

Your theory holds for gas fires operating in a sealed space, say a nuclear bomb shelter, or a space that's highly deficient in ventilation like a mineshaft.
As I assume you live in a normal (meaning leaky to air) house like most of us, it shouldn't be a problem.

And if you do insist on reducing the risk of asphyxiation due to the gas fire consuming all oxygen before you can open a door or window, you should probably invest in your own personal generator or wind turbines to power that electric stove (which is inefficient, you're effectively turning fuel into heat into electricity and back into heat, and it too looses a lot of that heat to the environment rather than into the stuff you're cooking).

Most effective would be the induction cookers that were popular in the 1990s, which induced EM fields directly into the content of the cooking pots, thus gaining higher efficiency than regular electric cookers but at the cost of requiring special pots and being quite expensive to purchase.
John Smith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 08, 2001
Posts: 2937
Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
If we were to say that a burner uses 10 time more than a candle, and that that glass was a .... 12 ounce glass ??? And we could go so far as to guess that the the candle used the air in the glass in one second ....

One fluid ounce is 1.804 cubic inches ... that's 21.684 cubic inches.

1728 cubic inches in a cubic foot.

So the burner would use up all the air in one cubic foot in about 8 seconds.

6400 seconds for the whole room? 106 minutes.

So .... given all the slop and not figuring in how much oxygen the human subject is consuming, the human should be dead in about an hour and a half. (due to some sloppy measurements, maybe 30 minutes, maybe six hours)

Sound about right?


Ok, let's assume that you calcs are right, and the burner uses one cubic feet of air every 8 seconds, which is about 8 cubic feet per minute.

But you assumed that your kitchen is completely sealed, and I think you are grossly underestimating the air exchange. Let's factor it in. I don't know the size of the house, but let's say it has 2,000 square feet and 9 foot ceilings. That gives us about 18,000 cubic feet of air. Now, according to this, the average newly build home has a air exchange rate of 0.5 ach (air exchange per hour). That means that half the volume of air would move through the house in an hour. In the case of our "model" home, it means about 9,000 cubic feet of fresh air every hour, or 150 cubic feet per minute.

What does it give us? Every minute, 8 cubic feet is used by the burner, and 150 cubic feet is replaced with fresh air.

Now, suppose that your kitchen is so incredibly tight that it has only 1/10 of the air exchange rate of the "model" house. That is, instead of 0.5 ach, it has 0.05 ach rate. This means that only 15 cubic feet of air will be replaced every minute. It's still twice as much as being used by the burner. So, my original prediction stands: it will take eternity before all the oxygen is used up.

There are a lot of assumptions in these calcs, so perhaps an empirical argument is better. Think of all the mobil homes where the familiies of 5 people live. The gas stove is on full blast, all 4 burners, 'cause Bill and kids have to eat. And there is a turkey in the oven, too. Why don't we hear that those folks die by the millions each year from oxygen depravation?
[ December 23, 2006: Message edited by: John Smith ]
 
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