You just replaced your old electric stove with a new gas range. Your old appliance needed a 240-volt outlet, and you were surprised to find out your new oven needs a 120-volt connection. Why would a gas oven require electricity?
Modern gas ovens require electricity to run the gas ignition and power accessories like oven lights, fans, and smart home functions. While they use far less electricity than an electric stove, many gas oven functions will not work without power.
In this article, I’ll explain more about how today’s gas ovens use electricity to make your cooking easier and your home safer. You’ll also learn what your gas range can and cannot do during a power outage. Read on and learn more!
Why Does My Gas Oven Need Electricity?
Your gas oven needs electricity to power many of the functions we have come to expect from our ovens and other kitchen appliances. Modern gas ovens also use an electrical igniter to light the cooking gas.
Here are a few reasons why your gas oven needs electricity:
A gas oven’s dials can look positively dated in a kitchen with glass touchscreen controls and digital timers. Many contemporary gas ranges have adopted this aesthetic as well. And there are practical as well as aesthetic reasons for their design.
Touchscreens let you dial in the temperature more accurately, and digital timers allow you to control your cooking time without watching the clock. The best digital screens have easily understood buttons and useful presets that help take the guesswork out of your cooking.
Appliances generally use resistive touchscreens, as they are less expensive and more water-resistant than the capacitive touchscreens used on your tablet or smartphone.
Resistive touchscreens register the pressure of your touch and transmit that information to a central processor that fulfills your command. They do not require a great deal of electricity, no more than a few watts. But if the power goes out, your touchscreen and appliance may be rendered useless.
You like to see how your baking is coming along, but opening the oven door can leave you with fallen cakes and soggy souffles. An oven light lets you check your culinary progress through the window without endangering your birthday party.
Many gas ovens use incandescent 40-watt screw-in light bulbs like the Soulight Oven Bulb (available on Amazon.com). The Soulight is built to withstand temperatures up to 300°C (575°F) and has a filament specially designed for appliance use.
Others use two-pronged halogen lights, which typically draw 40 to 50 watts of 120-volt current. Halogen lamps work at such high temperatures that their bulbs are made of quartz, not glass. They can handle the heat of a conventional gas oven with ease.
Convection ovens blow a steady stream of heated air to ensure faster and more even cooking. Compared to conventional ovens, convection ovens cook meals 25% more quickly and at a 25° lower temperature, saving both time and energy.
A convection system requires an electric fan and an electric heating element. Convection systems are most commonly found in electric ovens, but many gas ovens also offer convection features. But to do so, those gas ovens require at least a 120-volt electrical connection.
The Empeva 24” Single Gas Wall Oven (available on Amazon.com) gives you convection fans and a rotisserie to ensure crisp and evenly done chickens, turkeys, and roasts. Many cooks claim gas convection provides the best of both worlds when cooking meats, as the moisture gas heat makes the meat less likely to dry out.
The past few years have seen a boom in “Smart Home” technology. Smart ovens let you control your cooking through your smartphone or your home assistant. What could be easier than setting temperatures with an app or saying, “Alexa, stop the oven?”
Smart appliances can report back to you on maintenance issues and let you address a problem before you need costly repairs. You can check to see if your oven is still on or preheat your oven, so it’s hot when you get home with the groceries. But they can’t work without WiFi.
WiFi connections don’t use a lot of electricity: Energy Use Calculator estimates the average router uses 6 watts. But without that wireless connection and that electricity, your oven is no longer smart. And without electricity, your gas oven will become inoperable.
Why Won’t My Gas Oven Start Without Electricity?
Your gas oven will not start without electricity because the glowbar and gas valve are attached to a control module. The module only opens the valve when the glowbar is red-hot. There are no manual gas valves in these ovens, and no way to bypass the control module if the power goes out.
Many gas appliances keep a pilot light burning at all times. When you turn on the heat, you open a valve. The gas ignites as it passes over the pilot light’s tiny blue flame.
Pilot lights are convenient but also pose some safety hazards. If an appliance’s pilot light goes out, gas can leak into your home. And because a pilot light is an open flame, it can spark explosions. Many fires have started when pilot lights ignited insecticide defogger spray.
Instead of a pilot light, most newer gas ovens most commonly use an electrical igniter. The gas valve opens when you turn the oven on, and the current flows through a heating element. The element, also called a glowbar, becomes very hot almost instantly and sets the gas afire.
The control module also regulates the oven’s temperature. When the oven reaches the target temperature, the thermostat shuts off the gas flow and glowbar, then turns it back on once the oven drops below a certain range.
Will My Gas Stove Work if the Power Goes Out?
You can use a gas stove with dials if the power goes out, though you will have to light the burners manually. If an electronic controller operates your stove, you will not be able to open the gas valve, and your stovetop will be inoperable without electricity.
While gas ovens typically use a glowbar, gas stove burners generally use spark ignition. Spark igniters light the burners by passing current between two electrodes until a spark forms. (Spark plugs serve the same purpose in combustion engines).
If the power goes out, the spark igniter will not work. But if your gas stove has dials, you may still be able to light the burner manually with a match. Turn the burner on low and light it carefully, as you don’t want to burn your fingers or set your sleeve afire.
The dials on a gas stove control the valves which operate the gas flow. They do not rely on electricity, and many gas stove burners will still work during a blackout.
A release of natural gas into the open air of a kitchen is much less dangerous than a release into a confined space like your oven. In an oven, gas can quickly build to lethal or explosive levels. There is more margin for error and less need to shut off the gas without an ignition source.
That being said, if your gas stove has an electronic touchscreen or an electronic controller that handles its functions, you may be out of luck in a power outage.