UPDATED – Please see bottom of post for update…
What would you think if I told you that your modern gas or electric range was more inefficient than an improved wood burning cookstove? What would you think if I told you that your own home kitchen can have pollution levels that would be considered illegal if they were outdoors? You’d think I was crazy.
You’d also be wrong.
Here are a few facts to chew on before I direct your attention to two of the best articles I’ve ever read about basically everything Pasqual is working on.
When we talk about efficiency, we are talking about the ratio of the amount of energy that is generated versus the energy that is absorbed by the cooking pot and food. We’ll start with the old Three Rocks. If Three Rocks is poorly constructed and operated by a slacker cook, it transfers as little as 5% of the energy contained in the cooking wood into the food being prepared. If it is well designed and operated by a competent cook, the number can go as high as 30%. Our improved cookstove (rocket stove) can reach efficiencies as high as 54%.
A modern gas range? 23%.
A microwave? 19%
An electric range? 13%
There are a lot of technical reasons as to how these efficiencies were derived, such as power generation plants and gas flow on a stovetop, but the numbers are what they are.
And the pollution?
Unfortunately, gas stoves — which have the highest thermal efficiency of all modern cooking stoves — produce the most air pollution in modern kitchens.  The average indoor PM emissions for gas stoves can amount to 25% of those of biomass cooking stoves.  A 2014 study estimates that 60 percent of homes in California that cook at least once a week with a gas stove can reach pollutant levels of CO, NO2 and formaldehyde that would be illegal if found outdoors. – Low Tech Magazine
So, without further ado, it is my great pleasure and honor to present to you two of the best written, most concise articles I’ve ever seen about many of the topics we’ve been discussing all month.
Yes, there is a lot of reading to do there. It’s the perfect excuse to get yourself a venti quadruple espresso mocha latte frappathingy and buckle down for some serious education.
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UPDATE – I was remiss when I published this, as I forgot to mention why efficiency matters. If you double the efficiency, you halve the amount of fuel required, therefor also halving either the amount of money spent on fuel or the amount of time spent gathering fuel. I know this doesn’t strictly relate to the issue of modern stoves, but the radical difference in efficiencies caught me by complete surprise. -Kyle