INDUCTION COOKTOPS—WHICH USE A magnetic field to generate heat—were introduced to the American market nearly 20 years ago. Popular in Europe, where natural gas is generally expensive, induction technology has been unsuccessful in this country because of its low power and unreliability.

But that was old induction. The technology has matured, manufacturers say, which is why several well-known companies have introduced a handful of new appliances to the market.

The renewed interest in induction can be linked to the current focus on energy efficiency—the technology may now be a viable alternative to gas and radiant electric. Today's induction products are energy efficient, safe, powerful, and versatile, manufacturers say. When each cooking type's energy use is compared, induction is about 90 percent energy efficient, while gas is about 50 percent efficient, and radiant electric about 60 percent efficient, says Sue Bailey, lead product manager at Greenwood, Miss.–based Viking Range.

BD060501254L1.jpgClick here to view image gallery.
BD060501254L1.jpgClick here to view image gallery.
ELITE CLASS: Offering 15 temperature settings, the Elite 30-inch induction cooktop features four cooking zones that automatically sense the presence or absence of cookware. A warm-and-serve feature allows each pan to hold a precise low temperature after food is cooked, and a power-boost mode takes the cooking zone up to 125 percent power for up to 10 minutes. Kenmore. 800-349-4358. www.sears.com.
ELITE CLASS: Offering 15 temperature settings, the Elite 30-inch induction cooktop features four cooking zones that automatically sense the presence or absence of cookware. A warm-and-serve feature allows each pan to hold a precise low temperature after food is cooked, and a power-boost mode takes the cooking zone up to 125 percent power for up to 10 minutes. Kenmore. 800-349-4358. www.sears.com.
BD060501254L1.jpgClick here to view image gallery.
BD060501254L1.jpgClick here to view image gallery.
POWER UP: This cooktop features 12 power settings and three preset temperatures for medium, high, and maximum outputs. The 36-inch, five-zone cooktop's central burner utilizes an 11-inch expandable coil that automatically adapts to accommodate pans ranging in size from 4 inches to 14 inches. Diva de Provence. 888-852-8604. www.divainduction.com.
POWER UP: This cooktop features 12 power settings and three preset temperatures for medium, high, and maximum outputs. The 36-inch, five-zone cooktop's central burner utilizes an 11-inch expandable coil that automatically adapts to accommodate pans ranging in size from 4 inches to 14 inches. Diva de Provence. 888-852-8604. www.divainduction.com.
AUTO ZONE: Available in 30-inch and 36-inch sizes, this unit operates at full power on all cooking zones to provide more-even temperatures. Eleven temperature settings give precise control, and the AutoPanSizing feature senses the presence of a pan and adapts power output to the pan's size. The Auto-Off function turns off cooking zones within 30 seconds of a pan's removal. Wind Crest. 877-387-6721. www.windcrestcnp.com.
AUTO ZONE: Available in 30-inch and 36-inch sizes, this unit operates at full power on all cooking zones to provide more-even temperatures. Eleven temperature settings give precise control, and the AutoPanSizing feature senses the presence of a pan and adapts power output to the pan's size. The Auto-Off function turns off cooking zones within 30 seconds of a pan's removal. Wind Crest. 877-387-6721. www.windcrestcnp.com.

Elements in an induction appliance produce a magnetic field that reacts with iron molecules in many kinds of cookware, exciting the molecules and producing heat directly in the pot or pan. The cookware becomes hot, and the element stays relatively cool to the touch. “The time to boil water on an induction top is 13 percent faster than on gas and 20 percent faster than on radiant electric,” says Lori Wood, Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s buyer for cooking appliances.

Most manufacturers are using more-powerful induction coils than those used two decades ago, resulting in better performance, more cooking zones, and smaller burner boxes. Because burner boxes require ventilation clearance to allow the coils to stay cool, many induction cooktops still cannot be installed over built-in ovens. However, manufacturers indicate that future induction developments will likely include freestanding and slide-in ranges.

Industry experts say that the residential market is more open to induction technology than it was the last time around, but cost is still an issue: Product prices range from $1,400 to $3,339. But manufacturers point out that the price of the technology has stayed the same, while the prices of electricity and gas fuel have increased. Induction may be a smart choice after all.

For more product information, visit ebuild, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog, at www.builderonline.com or www.ebuild.com.