Tech Tuesday: How do your kitchen appliances work?
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and with it comes a slew of food preparation. The holiday has both consumers and producers working to feed many people.
An estimated 243 million turkeys will be raised in 2016, along with an estimated 859 million pounds of cranberries. In 2015, 3.1 billion pounds of sweet potatoes were produced, according to the US Census Bureau.
In addition, 98.6 percent of U.S. households had a gas or electric stove in 2011. Around 99 percent of households had a refrigerator, with another 35.8 percent having a stand-alone freezer, according to the site.
First, it is important to know just what these things are. A stove is often confused with a range, an oven and a stove top. Stoves are any enclosed space that uses heat to provide fuel, and a stovetop uses that heat to warm a griddle, according to reviewed.com.
In comparison, an oven is a stove that specifically heats food. A range is a stovetop, with its own fuel, that is connected to an oven.
Gas stovetops take natural gas and mix it with air inside of the burner. The burner then releases that mixture out of the holes in the burner, combining it with more air. An ignitor lights the gas and creates a visible flame, according to howstuffworks.com.
The flame can be made with either an electronic ignitor or a pilot light. A pilot light is a constantly burning flame, using gas even when the burner is not in use. Electronic lighters create a spark to ignite the gas, starting when the burner starts.
Electric stovetops, on the other hand, run electricity through coils in the cook top. This heats the metal in the coil and subsequently heats the cooktop.
Both of these systems typically use a dial to control the heat. In gas stovetops, a dial controls the gas flow, so increasing gas flow increases heat production. In electric stovetops, the dial controls the electricity flowing to the coils, but is less precise than a gas stovetop.
Ovens work using a similar premise as stovetops, except they use heating elements at the top and bottom of the box instead of just the latter. The top element is used for broiling, while the bottom element is used for general baking, according to doityourself.com.
The bottom element has a copper wire connected to a temperature controller that reads the oven’s internal temperature. An electric current heats the wire which then heats the metal surrounding it. Some ovens use a fan to help blow this hot air around the oven.
When the bottom element is hotter than the set temperature, the power is cut off until it reaches the desired temperature.
For example, an oven set to 375 degrees Fahrenheit cuts off power when the element becomes hotter than 375 degrees, and resumes power supply when it is back to 375 degrees.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are appliances to keep food cold for storage over long periods of time. Refrigerators work by essentially carrying heat energy out of themselves, cooling whatever is inside, according to the California Energy Commission.
First, a chemical compound is compressed by a motor and compressor inside the refrigerator, pressurizing it. As it is pressurized, the compound becomes heated. This is then passed through coils on the outside of the refrigerator to lose the heat to the air in the room.
The chemical changes from a gas to a liquid because of the high pressure and eventually flows through an expansion valve, a small hole that turns some of it back into a gas to lose more heat energy.
The remaining liquid and vaporized gas then goes through coils in the freezer or refrigerator, absorbing heat from the compartments, making the compartments colder. Finally, the compressor takes the heated gas and repeats the whole process again.