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A Guide to Understanding Ranges

Ranges, also known as stovetops, are a fairly recent phenomenon. For a long time, ranges were all gas operated, running in correlation with the ovens of which they were a part. Today, however, ranges have seceded from the union, some offering separate fueling systems and others standing alone altogether.

Ranges typically accompany your kitchen's oven. This is convenient for many, because the excess heat on an oven top makes it unusable as counter space. However, for homeowners who prefer an additional range, there are installation packages available -- mostly electric -- that can stand alone the counter space nearby the stove or even on a kitchen island.

Types of Ranges

  • Gas ranges: The older of contemporary ranges, gas ranges run on flame heat rather than electric pads. Also, gas ranges tend to adjust to manual heat settings quicker than electric ranges do.
  • Electric ranges (coil-top, smoothtop and induction ranges): Electric ranges come in three variations: coil-top ranges, smoothtop ranges and induction ranges. Coil tops generally het fastest and cost the least. Smoothops are easier to clean and most convenient. For a higher price, induction ranges offer the quickest heating and highest energy efficiency, but they require magnetic cookware to operate correctly.
  • Dual-fuel ranges: Duel-fuel appliances operate the oven and range on separate systems -- one gas and one electric -- allowing the quick heat response of a gas stovetop with the even heating of an electric oven.
  • Freestanding ranges: Freestanding ranges are all-in-one oven-range appliances. They typically cost less than other models and are easiest to install. However, should the range break, the entire machine would need to be replaced.

Important Range Features

  • Digital displays are convenient for perfectionists. With clear, simple displays for temperature, timer and settings, they avoid the uncertainty of knob controls.
  • Electronic touchpads are easy to use, with settings for baking, broiling, etc. Many also come with control lockout options, which disable all oven controls -- which are easy to bump and reset on touchpads -- for safety.
  • Range hoods are sold typically sold separately, but they have become key in modern-day space-saving kitchens. They help monitor and contain excess heat coming off a range, and many come with shape and design options to help match as closely to your range and oven set as possible. Also, over-the-range microwaves are becoming more common, where microwaves are installed with fans built in to the base, saving kitchen space and protecting your overhead cabinetry at the same time.
  • Place setting numbers vary by model. The most common units have four, while more advanced at six. However, special and custom options often have a wide range of options, from three to eight. Depending on your cooking needs, the number of place settings makes a difference.

Range Designs

Depending on your level of interest in custom design, range selection may or may not be important, or even necessary. Most ovens come with ranges built in, so shopping separately may not be necessary. However, for people with built-in ovens, separate ranges will be necessary for stovetop cooking.

Modern luxury companies have come up with many unique design ideas for the contemporary cooker, from sleek and modern to antique throwbacks. For a modern look, smoothtop electric ranges are the best option, as they lie flat on the counter with simple soft button controls. For a more cottage look, classic gas ranges are best, as they provide a homey ambience and are available in soft palette colors like gray.

Range To-Do List

  1. Know your range budget. Kitchen remodels are expensive, and ranges can end up costing more than a heavy-duty refrigerator unit. Particularly if you are looking into high-tech induction units, you can end up spending thousands of dollars for a range. Before looking at your options, though, you should know how much you are willing to spend. Most companies have price guides, so know your limit and stick to it. Shopping will be easier and less remorseful that way.
  2. Decide on your oven preferences first. Choose a range second. In order to know what range you'll need for your kitchen, you have to know what kind of oven you have. The two go hand in hand, and where your oven goes -- built-in cabinetry, kitchen island installation, etc. -- will determine where you have room for a range. If you are simply on market for a range to stand separately from your oven, this is not necessary.
  3. Research range features. Range features update regularly, so determine which are available to you and which you would like to have in your unit. Digital displays, self-cleaning features and the number of place settings are just a few of several options. Review them all and choose a device that best fits your needs.
  4. Shop around for ranges. Many ranges are extremely similar, so finding a good deal could be a matter of shopping catalogs and sales. Before going to a store -- where salespeople will lure you in with small discounts -- call ahead and ask to speak to a manager. Ask what kind of deals they are offering for range units. Do this for every store you are considering. In the end, you'll know more about what kind of discounts are standard and what offers you can get away with making. Because ranges can get so expensive, this is a valuable tool.
Last Updated: January 19, 2012
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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