Over the Christmas break, Cheap Geek spent a lot of time crunching numbers. He downloaded a year’s worth of electricity usage data from the power company, poured over utilities bills, and trawled through solar panel specs in an attempt to determine the whens and hows of breaking even with solar panel technology. At the end of it, he figured that
- it would take us 9.5 to 10 years to recoup the initial estimated outlay*;
- based on our consumption patterns, we could only achieve this if we also installed battery technology; and
- getting rid of gas would effectively pay for 80% of the solar panels within ten years.
This project was of immense interest to him, so much so that he spent much of the next few months telling everyone and anyone about the financial merits of switching over to solar power. He even convinced my dad, a big Liberal, no-Greens-hogwash supporter, that solar power plus batteries was the way to go.
As of this Thursday, we are officially gas appliance free. These last couple of months have been a frenetic mess of tradesmen replacing gas hot water, gas ducted heating, and gas stove with reverse-cycle heating and cooling, induction stove, and hot water heat pump. Apart from reverse-cycle cooling, most of these technologies are still as fresh as the fresh air fanned out of a heat pump (brrrrr), and the average John Smith/Jane Doe might feel uncomfortable adopting them. Ripping out the gas stove sounded particularly traumatic to some of our acquaintances (especially the wok-loving ones)**.
So the rest of this post will be about my thoughts on changing over from various gas to electric appliances, starting with the
Before: Bosch gas cooktop
After: AEG induction cooktop
Tradie costs: $165 (plumber) and $370 (electrician)
As per above, switching over from gas cooking to induction is the greatest mental hurdle. Cooking is so very personal and seeing flames lick the sides of a pot must fulfil some Neanderthal need within us. I’ve even had greenies ask me whether I miss my stovetop or not.
FYI: I don’t use a wok much as it is not conducive to batch cooking. I usually cook casserole-style dishes, soups, and roasts. I’ve just newly discovered pressure cooking, which really suits my one-pot mindset (less pots to clean) and doesn’t even require a stove. When I do use the induction stove, I use it to make sauces, soups, stews. I fry eggs sunny side up, make an omelet, boil water/stock, cook meat.
What I love about the induction stove is the evenness and control. It is superior to gas when needing to cook food at low temperatures: heating milk, cooking eggs and fish. Sausages also cook more evenly.
The AEG stove that we bought also has some fancy eco functions. For instance, it will tell you if you can use the residual heat on the stove as a ‘keep warm’ function, and it can turn off power to an element just before the end of a timed cook, using the residual heat to continue cooking the food.
What I find hard to adjust to is the speed in which a pan will heat up. You can’t leave an empty pan heating on the stove (I manage to burn butter for the first time by heating up an empty saucepan and then dropping the butter into it). This could be overcome by using a heavy cast iron pot; these take much longer to heat up than my Baccarat Bio+***.
There also is a lot more steam produced; you can’t cook without turning on the exhaust fan. And you need to hold onto your lightweight pans when stirring the pot, so that the pans don’t move around, scratching the cooktop surface. Regular cleaning is also important: the bases of pots and pans need to be properly cleaned of grime/residue and the cooktop needs to be wiped down with a soft, damp cloth after each use.
*This estimated outlay included new energy-efficient electric appliances, solar panels, batteries, electrical work to get solar power ready, plumber work needed for the removal of all gas appliances, and various installation costs.
**It didn’t take too long for me to find a new home for the gas stove, whereas the gas hot water and gas ducted heating seem destined for the scrap heap.
***You may need to upgrade your pots/pans if you don’t already own induction-compatible ones.