I am shopping for a new gas-fired range for my off-grid home. I know that I need one without an energy-wasting “glow bar” in the oven. Any suggestions?
David S. Martin • via email
Most gas ovens use either a pilot light—a continuously burning flame—or an electric element (aka glow bar) for lighting the gas flame. The downside of a standing pilot light is that, since it is always on, it uses a small amount of a fuel continuously, which can add up.
For an off-grid system, the electrical draw of a glow bar—which is about 500 watts—can eat up far more of your renewable energy than you’d want. Cooking a holiday dinner during the winter, for example, could easily consume 3 to 5 kilowatt-hours. For a 24-volt system, that’s up to 200 amp-hours or more for cooking alone—and that’s a lot of electricity to make up for during winter’s limited number of sun-hours. If your family bakes a lot, such an oven would be a large, year-round draw.
For that reason, many off-gridders end up using ranges with pilot lights. But for folks who also want to minimize gas use, even that is a problem. Most ranges allow users to turn off the pilot light just for the cooktop, which can then be safely lit when needed with a simple, long-handled flint striker. You can turn off the pilot lights using the adjustment for pilot flame height, often deep inside each burner’s knob shaft. (Check your range’s documentation for adjuster location and how to do this.)
But it is more difficult, often impossible, to turn off the oven’s pilot light. Unlike the cooktop burners, the oven burner needs to cycle on and off so it can regulate oven temperature—and needs to relight each on-cycle (either via a pilot light or glow bar). On my last oven, there was no way to turn off the pilot light completely.
The other alternative is to find a range, like a Peerless Premier, that uses an electric spark to light its pilot light when the oven is turned on, and turns the pilot off again when the oven is turned off. Some of these ranges also have an AA-battery-powered spark igniter, for completely cordless operation. For on-gridders, that means the oven can even be lit during utility outages.
If you go with a Premier or other spark-based range, see if you can get one from a local appliance dealer or your propane dealer. They are not as commonly available as many stove brands, but having a local source can be helpful when parts or service are needed.
Finally, be sure you specify the type of gas you have when purchasing your stove. Most off-gridders use propane, which requires different burner orifices than natural gas. If you cannot find a propane range, and the appliance store can’t handle a conversion, you may be able to make the change yourself using instructions in the range documentation. Otherwise, make arrangements to stop at a local propane dealer on your way home from the appliance store—they can change the orifices and adjust all of the burners for you.
Michael Welch • Home Power senior editor