Ask the Architect

The safe use of a gas stove

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Q. I was wondering about our new gas stove. We’re just finishing the design of our new kitchen renovation, and some of the kitchen designers we talked to said we needed a hood, while others said it was only if we wanted to draft smoke, depending on how we cook (a lot of frying, etc.). Do we need a hood with a fan for the stove? Does it cause any harm, like carbon monoxide poisoning? We will have two windows in the kitchen.

A. Gas stoves are more common than ever, as more people convert after they discover that their electric stoves don’t work after a storm, while their neighbors go right on cooking with gas. Only the most severe storms, like Hurricane Sandy, stopped all utilities from operating.

Gas appliances are governed by several different codes, stipulating that air is required for combustion, ventilation and dilution of flue gases that could be harmful or deadly when inhaled. A while back, I was in a home where the gas grill was rolled in from the deck while the deck boards were being replaced. We had a conversation about the fact that using the grill indoors was unsafe, to which the owner responded that they used it extensively during Hurricane Sandy, even for heat, with “no problems.” They asked the same question, saying that they use their gas stove under normal circumstances and there “seem” to be no problems. They even demonstrated how they open the window, about an inch, to get some fresh air.

Gas stoves, like all fuel-burning equipment, such as fireplaces, furnaces and hot-water tanks, produce gases such as carbon monoxide as a byproduct of heating gas and oxygen, many producing higher than the standard safe level of 9 parts per million, established by the Environmental Protection Agency. Even though it’s always recommended that the vent fan be running when the stove is on, producing a flame, many people either do nothing or simply open a window.

As always, you should never use a stove or oven for heating your living space. I’ve often wondered, as well, whether the amount of monoxide being produced is causing harm, since the detectors required in every home rarely sound from such a practice, even when there’s no open window and the exhaust isn’t on. Hopefully, this answer is a wake-up call for those who don’t use venting when using their stove, since carbon monoxide is a “silent killer” that takes lives every year, and that’s usually preventable with just a little common sense.

Some people complain of headaches or low energy and, again, I wonder if the quality of the air in our homes is being altered when such equipment is used. A couple in Minnesota discovered, after complaining of being tired all the time, especially in winter, that their boiler exhaust was blocked by a bird’s nest. It’s a good idea to check your vents periodically as well. Good luck!

© 2018 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to yourhousedr@aol.com, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.