a friend of mine Marie called me earlier to get advice on a replacement worktop and she mentioned at the time that she needed a new hob as well (all brought on by a domestic disaster that her mother in law got to witness!).

and of course I slipped into showroom speak and advised her to make sure she chose an induction hob instead of a normal ceramic electric hob. Marie had already looked at the options and said “yes I’d love to but they are alot more expensive and I’d have to get a whole new set of pots as well!” – all of which is true and such pragmatism is very much the norm nowadays.

so this exchange got me thinking – is choosing induction over an ceramic electric hob really a better option? sometimes when you work in a showroom you become detached from the practical day to day considerations and are consumed with sales jargon from appliance brochures. so I decided to have another look at this question, is induction REALLY a better option than ceramic?

to tease out the answer to this, we need to look at both options a little more closely. a ceramic electric hob is the normal electric hob we are all familiar with, probably having a glass like ceramic top – we have all used them so no need for any more description.

an induction hob is also electric powered and looks identical to a normal ceramic hob, however there the similarity ends. in a ceramic hob, the element heats the hob top and this in turn heats the base of the pot whereas in induction an electric current directly heats the base of the pot.

so what are the practical differences

  • induction pots heat up much much quicker, almost instantaneously, a customer of ours described it as being “quicker than a microwave” and they were not exagerating
  • with induction, the only the part of the ring that heats up is the part that touchs the base of the pot so if you have a spillover (milk being the favourite) it does not burn on the hob and leave a nasty ring behind
  • one the biggest problems with ceramic hobs is that it can take a long time for the hob to cool down to a safe level of heat after being switched off. if there are children in the house then this becomes a big problem. however with induction hobs the ring cools down very quickly – as soon as a minute after switching off, the ring could have cooled to a safe level
  • back to Marie – her domestic disaster started when a glass bowl was sitting on the hob and accidentally heated up when a wrong ring was selected. this would not happen with an induction hob, because the ring will only work if a suitable induction pot is on it.
  • Maries biggest concern was cost but one important thing to take into account is that induction hobs are much more energy efficient than normal electric hobs and indeed gas hobs. figures vary but I think its fair to say that you can save up to 30% on the cost of running your hob by choosing induction
  • induction hobs require special pots with electromagnetic bases so if you are changing to induction then you probably will need to change all your pots too

getting back to Maries point that induction hobs cost more (approx 15-20%) than normal electric hobs and you would need new pots. The first point is easy to handle because the first 3 years of use of the hob will easily pay the difference in cost for the induction in energy savings. the second point – well that depends on the individual and how many pots you like to keep in your kitchen. if you replace a lot of pots then the cost could be quite high however i would suggest buying an induction hob that comes with a free starter set of pots. siemens and neff both offer a set of 3 pots and a pan with every induction hob purchased which is a great offer (valid as of 26/04/2012).

all of this brings me to believe that choosing an induction really is a better way to go for the majority of people. its quicker, cleaner, safer and more cost effective. yes, it is more expensive to purchase initially but over the long term it will work out much more cost effective. replacing pots is also a nuisance but for most people, buying a hob with a free set of pots will probably mean they will only need to add one or two more pots to their collection so its not such a problem.

oh – and most importantly – using an induction hob day in day out is so much easier than a ceramic hob and you cannot put a price on that!