Q. Does it make efficiency sense to use countertop appliances, such as a toaster oven, instead of the electric range oven/broiler?
From efficiency and energy-saving standpoints, for 90 percent of baking and broiling tasks, it generally does make sense to use a small toaster oven instead of the oven/broiler in the range. In addition to saving energy, it adds less heat to the house. It also saves time, because a small toaster oven preheats for baking much faster than a large range oven.
The insulation levels in the walls of a range oven are insulated better than a toaster oven. This is particularly true with self-cleaning range ovens. They must have thicker insulation to keep the outside safely cool to prevent accidental burns when they are in the superhot self-cleaning cycle.
If you are planning to bake many items over many hours and the range oven will be full, then it probably is more efficient to use it. When baking items successively, the oven has to be preheated only once and it retains the heat from one item to the next. A smaller toaster oven would cool off quickly between each item.
The upper and lower heating elements in a toaster oven are only about 750 watts each. For broiling, only the top is used. In convection baking, both are on. The elements in an electric oven are typically greater than 3,000 watts to heat the larger oven volume. This is why they require a 240-volt electric line whereas a toaster oven just plugs into any wall outlet.
This high heating wattage from a range oven is particularly troublesome during the summer. Once you are done baking or broiling, your air conditioner has to run longer to remove all this extra heat from the baking.
If you are going out to buy a toaster oven, select one with a convection heating feature. It does not require much additional electricity to run the small fan, but moving hot air bakes foods much faster. Ones with electronic controls are more precise, but manual controls are quicker to set.
For making toast, a simple toaster is most efficient, even more so than a toaster oven. It uses less wattage and toasts both sides at once. The amount you pay on your monthly electric bill depends upon the appliance wattage and how long it is on.
Explore toasters and toaster ovens: www.cuisinart.com, www.oster.com, www.rivalproducts.com, www.sunbeam.com, and www.westbend.com.
Send inquiries to James Dulley, c/o The Charlotte Observer, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244; or visit www.dulley.com.