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A Guide to Understanding Ovens

Kitchen ovens are a far cry from the coal-operated beasts of times past. Now with digital features and solar-powered capabilities, as well as customizable shelves and self-cleaning functions, ovens have become nearly capable of piloting themselves.

When adding an oven to your home, there are plenty of options. Typical ovens are between 4 and 9 square feet and are available for installation under the counter, in large cabinets and on the wall. Wall installations have the added option of overhanging range hoods or over-the-range microwaves. Wherever you choose to install, it is important to know the dimensions and room compatibility before making a purchase.

Types of Ovens

  • Conventional ovens: A traditional oven relies on radiant heat. In other words, heat that rises from the bottom of the oven to the top of the oven.
  • Convection ovens: Equipped with a fan, a convection oven speeds up the circulation of heat, surrounding whatever's cooking. As a result, the heat is evenly distributed throughout, cooking food more quickly, typically about 25 percent faster than conventional ovens.
  • Gas ovens or electric ovens: Most ovens are powered by one of two things: gas or electricity. Some buildings, districts and even states require one or the other, so check with your local guidelines before making a purchase.
  • Solar ovens ("green" ovens): Solar-powered, these ovens require no fuel for operation, but to continue exposure to sunrays, they should be kept in direct light.
  • Refrigerator ovens: Refrigerator ovens allow for users to program in when they would like their food cooked. Before going to work, for example, you can put your food in the oven, set the features regarding time, temperature and duration and enjoy freshly cooked food when you get home. As an added bonus, a refrigeration feature chills the food for storage if you unexpectedly don't make it home when expected.

Oven Accessibility

For practicality and safety purposes, ovens should be installed near the center of a wall and not in a corner. Heights, however, can vary depending on kitchen layout and oven size. Some sit at floor level, others at shoulder height, and this typically depends on owner preferences. For tall double ovens, a higher location may be ideal.

Like many appliances these days, you can get ovens customized and built into your cabinetry. This saves space and avoids the safety hazard of an oven that sticks out.

Oven Style

After choosing what type of oven you want and where it will go, it is just as important to consider design and aesthetic. Ovens and refrigerators are centerpieces around which the rest of your kitchen revolves, so whether you're completely remodeling or simply replacing your old oven, you'll want consistency. Otherwise, you'll have spent hundreds to thousands of dollars on something that looks amazing in the store but tacky in your kitchen.

If you're going for an antiquated design, then avoid metallic colors that are popular today. The sleek shine is more reminiscent of a retro chic look, and will work better with marble countertops than alongside maple or stone. Consider instead custom design and installation, which offers personalized assistance in creating a look that best suits your style.

For a cottage feel, consider a light colored model that you can match to a light color in your cabinetry. This can softly complement hardwood floors to create a warm, homey feel. For a more aged, quaint look, choose from country style designs, specifically rounded edges and oddly shaped screens.

Store shoppers will do well to focus on simple design features. For example, examine the countertops in your kitchen-which way do the lines flow? By maintaining the basic concepts already alive in your cooking space, you can maintain a clean look without paying custom prices.

Oven To-Do List

  1. Decide on the oven type you want, as well as the features that are important to you. Will the oven be gas or electric? Do you need a self-cleaning option? Knowing the answers to these questions and many more -- temperature limitations, environmental friendliness, etc. -- will make shopping a lot easier, particularly if you're unfamiliar with brand names.
  2. Choose where you'll put your oven. Before you even open a catalog, decide where you'll put your oven. If you choose a solar-powered device, you'll need sunlight accessibility, either by keeping it outdoors or under a remote sunroof in your kitchen. Also, if you are looking for a gas oven, you'll need to examine the accessibility in your household. Consider consulting a professional about the optimal location. Once you know where you want to put the oven, you can decide further on its shape and size.
  3. Shop around. A lot. Many stores will overcharge you for simple features. If you know what you want and you've researched, then you'll know what comes standard and what's "extra." Look at a supplier's warranties and contracts. Will they reimburse you if you find a better deal somewhere else? How long is the warranty? Never settle, particularly when it comes to such an important feature in your kitchen.
Last Updated: July 22, 2011
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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