Should I give up on gas?
May 6, 2008 2:28 PM   Subscribe

My new gas range is breaking my heart. WTF is wrong with it? And if it is a goner, should I bother trying to replace it with another gas range, or give up and switch to electric?

After 15 years of longing for a gas range, I finally got this GE Profile dual fuel slide-in range 3 years ago. It has been a disaster. It fills the kitchen with mercaptan smell, puts out a tremendous amount of carbon monoxide (I forget the exact reading, but it was WAY over the safe limit), and the burners "roar" to a ridiculous degree. It makes me sick to cook with it.

We have had appliance repair guys and gas company guys out repeatedly to look at it, and they can't figure it out. We replaced two parts (and I'm sorry, I can't remember the exact names and my husband's out of cell range right now)--the little round dial thing on the underside of the range that regulates the amount of gas flow, and the thing on the individual burners that regulates the amount of gas they get. No difference. The pressure of the gas coming to the house is normal. The repair guys agree there is a problem but don't know how to fix it.

So here are my questions:

1) Any idea what the problem could be?
2) Do you think it would be crazy to buy another gas range? I'm worried that the problem is with the gas feed to our house and the problem would just repeat with a new range. They say the feed is fine, but of course they obviously don't know everything or they would have fixed it by now.
3) If I do get another gas range, what is a RELIABLE brand?
4) One of the main things I wanted from a gas range was super high heat for stir-frying and such. Is it possible to get this from an electric range? What should I look for?
posted by Enroute to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
So I am not a gas range repairman but that definitely sounds wrong. I would blame the range and not your house. I have cooked with a gas range for 7+ years and it has never had any issues like the ones you describe.

Our range is a KitchenAid but I think the model has been discontinued - I do not see it on their web site. Anyway, it has been fine. The new KitchenAid models look great - they have really improved the grate design.

As for super-high heat from an electric range for stir frying, I doubt you'll have any luck. There are radiant ranges that get hot but you'll still need a flat-bottomed wok which isn't quite the same.

I would take it back to the dealer and/or call GE as a warranty issue. My guess is that you have a lemon.
posted by GuyZero at 2:37 PM on May 6, 2008

Also--I did have the repair guy out on this (for this same issue) while the range was still under warranty, but it's out of warranty now. Am I out of luck? Is it even worth my time to pursue it?
posted by Enroute at 2:41 PM on May 6, 2008

Call GE and get them to replace the range, it's clearly defective. Cooking on an electric range is pretty horrible compared to gas.
posted by foodgeek at 2:47 PM on May 6, 2008

GE is responsible for fixing any problems that are reported while the range is under warranty. Did they sent out a repair tech who wasn't able to fix the problem?
posted by foodgeek at 2:52 PM on May 6, 2008

So, at the risk of being unhelpful, you should have returned it the second you turned it on 3 years ago if it has always been doing this. I missed the age the first time around.

Do you have other gas appliances like a furnace or water heater? Because if those work then there's no way it can be the gas line.

We got a GE fridge, it also need repairs and the freezer has never worked quite right. It's always defrosting itself and much of its contents. My wife has sworn off GE appliances FOREVAR.
posted by GuyZero at 3:02 PM on May 6, 2008

Yeah, I know I should have returned it right away, but I had my father-in-law and husband both telling me I was crazy. I'm not hearing that so much now that the gas company has confirmed that it is putting out like 100x the safe amount of CO. Funny how that works.
posted by Enroute at 3:15 PM on May 6, 2008

Def not normal behavior. For what it's worth I wouldn't go back to electric for anything. Takes forever to heat up and then once it is hot you (make that I) burn everything because it doesn't cool down once it's boiling hot. Try getting GE to replace it. If you could get a statement from the gas company about the carbon monoxide issue GE would have to respond to that.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:20 PM on May 6, 2008

You are sure, are you not, that you have natural gas? You might be able to get that tremendous roaring if you try to use propane in a natural gas device. The little round dial thing should have been the regulator. Roaring burners with inefficient combustion argue that the pressure is too high or the air mixing shutters are wildly mis-adjusted.

What is the character of the flame? You want a blue flame with maybe a little touch of yellow at the very ends, but not yellow throughout. The blue flame should look as though it is attached to the burner itself. Yellow flames indicate a wrong fuel mix, but it could be either too rich or too lean. If the flame is 'floating" then the gas pressure is probably too high.

You can get a very high fire with a gas burner - electric elements won't ever match what a really big burner can do. Most residential burners are not quite that big. The advantages of gas are quick heat and instant reduction or shut-off. I wouldn't change back to electric.

If you have your 'druthers, find an old Chambers or O'Keefe and Merritt range and get it tuned up. If you -must- buy new, this is a nice one. Russell, Wolf and Viking make very high-quality ranges if you have the money.
posted by jet_silver at 3:53 PM on May 6, 2008

i was going to say the same thing as jet_silver make sure you have gas, nor propane, but i can't imagine no one would have caught this

i would call GE and talk to them. maybe they put a propane orifce in this unit, instead of a natural gas orifice. tell them about the CO readings, remind them that this is an ongoing problem. i'd be shocked if they didn't do something to make this right
posted by Mr_Chips at 4:05 PM on May 6, 2008

Nthing talk to GE. This is totally not normal, and I've lived in a lot of places with gas ranges, from cheapo to expensive.
posted by desuetude at 4:44 PM on May 6, 2008

If you reported the problem to the right people while the range was still under warranty, then they should keep trying until they get you a working stove. If they can't fix this one then they replace it. Figuring out exactly what is wrong is not your problem, it's theirs.
posted by winston at 5:14 PM on May 6, 2008

jet_silver: Yes, I am sure it's natural gas--we are the ones who paid to have the gas company connect the line from the main to our house. The flame is way too yellow, and too large--on a gas stove the flame should be a tight blue flame, but these are leaping, waving, blue-and-yellow flames.

GuyZero: We also have a gas "wood" stove that seems to work just fine.

CwgrlUp: Great idea, I called the gas company and their records say something like "Excessive CO, referred to dealer for regulator replacement." The woman on the phone was surprised that he didn't "red flag" it, which is the first I've heard of that possibility. As stated above, we did put a new regulator in, but I think here we have a problem, because my husband did that work himself. It was out of warranty anyway, so we thought it would be cheaper, but thinking about it now they will probably say that voided the warranty (meaning even though it wasn't technically under warranty, this issue would have been sort of grandfathered in, so we should have had the dealer do it). Right? Or not? I have no idea how this works.

Complicating this whole mess is the fact that I'm in a small town and we have *one* repair guy, who is not on speaking terms with the dealer. They literally will not speak to one another. I've only ever yelled at one service person in my life, and it was at the repair guy's wife/business partner, when she refused to make a necessary call to the dealer. It's incredibly frustrating.
posted by Enroute at 5:26 PM on May 6, 2008

So, while it will not be very satisfying, you may want to cut the losses on your time, health and sanity in favour of losing some money by buying a new stove. If the only repair guy isn't talking to the deal I don't see this ending well - at least not quickly.

Alternatively, buy a budgie and keep him near your stove. When he dies, call GE. Though I am not actually serious about this and do not advocate killing birds to expedite stove repairs.
posted by GuyZero at 5:49 PM on May 6, 2008

It sounds like a lemon. There's nothing inherently weird about gas stoves and no reason to give up on them; you should get a new one. (I have no specific brand recommendations at this time; I read the reviews when I'm in the market for appliances.) They're way better than electric. Good luck!
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:19 PM on May 6, 2008

Maybe the regulator you have is running wide open (that is, not regulating). There are a couple of possibilities here: first, the regulator might be in backward. It is possible to put the regulator in backward on the range I linked to, but it might not be on your range. Second, some regulators require a configuration step where you select whether it is handling LP (propane) or natural gas. If you have the instructions for the replacement regulator, see if it has a step where you turn a screw or flip a spacer to select between the two kinds of gas, and verify that you've selected the right one.

If you can run a burner while the regulator is exposed, stick a screwdriver onto the body of the regulator, put the other end of the screwdriver right up to your ear, and see if it's making a chattery, farty or buzzy noise. That's diagnostic of the regulator's being in backward.
posted by jet_silver at 8:58 PM on May 6, 2008

I bought a sears gas stove. Baaad gas smells from burners. Gas Co. visited, said they could "red tag" it - declare it disabled enough to be unsafe to use, and lock out the gas pipe. Sears replaced burners twice. Still not great, but okay, and safe. I like it, like having burners if the electricity goes out, and am not a serious chef.

Several people have told me that standard consumer gas stoves are only okay, and my experience is typical. Can you afford a high end gas stove? I've seen things turn up occasionally on craigslist. Wolf and Viking are 2 well-known names.

GE has a requirement to provide you w/a working stove. Call them and tell them to make it right, or replace it. The local repair guys' feud should not be your problem. Read up on The Consumerist and maybe even post your story there.

I like cooking w/ gas, but just moved to a place w/ electric stove, glass-topped range, and it's fine.
posted by theora55 at 8:59 PM on May 6, 2008

Did you try to adjust the mixture once you got the new regulator in? Somewhere near the burner would be a pipe with a sleeve thing on it. Twisting the sleeve opens or shuts a hole in the pipe adjusting the gas to air mixture.
posted by gjc at 4:57 PM on May 7, 2008

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