Electric Stove Heating Element Hazards

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Electric stovetops have several advantages over their gas-powered counterparts, including that they are faster and easier to clean. According to the National High Magnetic Field Library, the heating elements on these stovetops consist of nichrome, or nickel-chromium wires, which convert electricity into heat energy. However, despite their technological advancements, electric stove heating elements are no safer than those on gas stoves, and, in fact, are possibly more hazardous.

Burns

  • As the U.S. Fire Administration mentions, cooking appliances, specifically stovetops, are the number one cause of burn-related injuries in the home. And while electric stove heating elements do not produce flames like gas stoves, their glowing wires, or coils, can still easily burn through flesh. To prevent burns, be vigilant while you are cooking, always using heating elements on the back of the stove when children are in the kitchen. If you or someone in your family suffers from an electric stove heating element burn, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends putting the burn under cool water for three to five minutes and seeking medical attention if it is larger than fist size.

Fires

  • Fires happen all the time: Someone inadvertently leaves a dish rag, a paper towel, a plastic bag or some other flammable item on an electric stove heating element, and the item starts a kitchen fire. If you are lucky, you can catch these fires and extinguish them before they spread and cause serious damage. However, as the U.S. Fire Administration notes, kitchen appliances, particularly stovetops, are the leading cause of home fires. To prevent these fires, always keep your electric stovetop clear of flammable items, including oven mitts, potholders, food packaging and wooden utensils. Also, avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing, which could potentially come in contact with the heating elements and ignite.

Subtle Operation

  • Perhaps one of the main reasons why people accidentally burn themselves and start fires on electric stove heating elements — aside from clumsiness — is because the heating elements operate so subtly. Unlike gas heating elements, which produce visual and audible flames, electric elements merely glow and have an extremely quiet operation, which makes turning off burners on electric stovetops easy for people to forget. In addition, while gas stoves often require turning and holding a burner’s knob in a particular position to ignite the gas, before putting it on the heat setting of your choosing, electric stovetops require that you simply turn the knobs, which makes it easy to flip on burners and walk out of the room without realizing you have turned on the wrong burner.

Power Outages

  • If the power in your home goes out while electric stovetop elements are turned on, the stove will shut down and the elements will eventually cool. However, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), if you leave your stove’s knobs in the "On" position, the corresponding elements will start up again once the power is restored, which could inadvertently lead to burns or fires. For this reason, always turn the knobs to the "Off" position on your electric stove during a power outage.

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  • Photo Credit Close-up image of an electric range heating element image by Alexey Stiop from Fotolia.com
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