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Do Electric Stoves Turn Off Automatically?

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electric stove safety

As we all grow older, it’s natural to start forgetting little things here and there.  We occasionally forget names, what we need from the grocery store, leaving the stove on, etc.  Most of what we forget won’t actually hurt us but leaving your stove on by accident could potentially harm you, your family and your home.

So, a question you may ask yourself is do electric stoves turn off automatically?  – If your stove was made in 1995 or sooner, the chances that it has an auto shut off switch are very high.  You can usually tell by checking if the stove has a touch pad clock.  If it does then it has an automatic shut off after 12 hours of being on.  Older models made before 1995 normally do not have this safety feature built in.  I do recommend that you check with the manufacturer of your stove model to confirm if your stove does or does not have an auto turn off switch.

The second question then to ask yourself would be, “Is this safety feature enough?”  After all, 12 hours is a long time for an electric stove to be on.

Can Leaving The Stove On Cause A Fire?

So, can leaving an electric stove on for 12 hours cause a fire that could potentially destroy your home and cause fatalities?

The answer is “it depends”.  The truth is that leaving an electric stovetop burner on does not, in and of itself cause damage.  The problem is if there is something on the burner or near the burner that could catch on fire.

I remember years ago I put a pot of water on my electric stovetop in my kitchen and went off to finish a project in my home office on the computer.  I completely forgot about that pot of water and 4 hours later I smelled something burning.

I ran into the kitchen and I saw that the pot had completely run out of water (of course)!  The bottom of the pot was burned, smoke was coming up from the pot and generally, it was a big smelly mess.    The bottom of the pot and the stovetop had actually both begun to melt a little and this incident left a burned indentation on that burner.

Now, I got there just in time but an elderly person may not have smelled the burning pot and may not have been able to move fast enough to get to the stove before any damage could have occurred.

And thankfully, I did not have any kitchen towels or oven mitts near that burner otherwise, a fire would have definitely been started.

I was lucky – but not everyone is.

The leading cause of house fires IS cooking related.

Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries. Smoking is the leading cause of civilian home fire deaths. Heating equipment is the second most common cause of home fire fatalities. – National Fire Protection Association

Read more about fire safety in our article Fire Safety Tips For Seniors

So, What Happens If You Leave The Stove On?

As I mentioned earlier, leaving a burner on for hours on end does not mean that it will necessarily end in a fire.  The truth is, if you left the burner on for 12 hours, nothing would really happen.  The house would not burn down.

BUT – if you left something ON or NEAR the burner – that’s where the problems begin.

If you left a pan of food with grease in the pan – a fire could certainly start.

Steve Rousseau,  a Features Editor at Digg interviewed John Drengenberg (aka Mr. Safety) – Consumer Safety Director at Underwriters Laboratories, who said “A stove is designed to run indefinitely,” says Drengenberg. “Do we recommend that? Absolutely not.”

It’s not the burner being left on that will ignite a fire, it’s the pot of water on that burner, or the kitchen towel left near that burner or even spilled over grease from a frying pan that will catch on fire and cause damage to your house and potentially take your life and anyone else’s life in or near that building.

So, what can be done to help protect your elderly parent(s) if they are living alone and still engaged in cooking activities?

The best solutions I can recommend is to install an automatic shut off device for their electric stove.  These are fairly inexpensive products, easily installed and some come with many great features.  Check out the ones I researched below.

Read About What Happens If You Leave The Oven On?

Automatic Electric Stove Shut Off

The best auto shut off device that I can recommend is the iGuard Stove Lock.  It’s easy to install and comes with so many features such as:

  • Connects to the homes Wi-Fi which gives you the ability to manage it’s settings via an online account.
  • Can be set to automatically shut off after 5 minutes (and can be adjusted up to 15 minutes) when no motion is detected.
  • The auto shut off feature can be overridden.
  • The lock out feature lets you set up scheduled times to prevent any use of the stove during the times that you set up.
  • A local lock out lets you disable the iGuard Stove Lock at any time so it’s not in use.
  • A user history chart is kept for 12 months which can help you identify any changes in cognitive behavior.
  • It’s not just for seniors, a child lock feature is also available.
  • Alerts can be sent via text or email if a user is demonstrating difficulty using the stove or needs help.  It will also alert you if the temperature in the area of the iGuard Stove goes below a certain temperature or above a certain temperature.
  • There is also an emergency button which quickly turns off the stove.

These features make the iGuard Stove so much more than just a product for electric stove safety – it really can be considered a home safety device.

Please know there is a version of this product for Gas Stoves as well.

The iGuardStove is always on so there are no buttons to press. Simply turn your stove on as you normally would to start cooking.  After 5 minutes of not seeing any motion it shuts off the stove…and upon your return to the kitchen, the iGuardStove will automatically turn the stove back on to finish your cooking.   This will prevent burnt food and even worse…a stove fire. – iGuardfire.com

Other Stove Turn Off Devices

Some other devices to consider are…

Product Name Timer Wi Fi Enabled 3-Prong 4-Prong
Simple Touch C30004 Auto Shut-Off Safety Outlet Yes No Yes No
Fire Avert Electric Auto Stove Shut-off Safety Device No No Yes Yes
Wallflower Smart Monitor for Electric Stoves No Yes Yes Yes

Can Electric Stoves Catch On Fire?

Yes.  Electric stoves can overheat and catch on fire, just like any electric appliance or device.

The most common reason any electrical product catches on fire is a short circuit or a large burst of voltage.

The general recommendation is always to unplug an appliance if you are not using it.  Of course, that’s easier to do with a toaster, blender or other counter top product.  But, how many of us are going to pull out an electric oven to unplug it daily?

Related Questions

Can you get carbon monoxide poisoning from an electric stove? – The short answer is no.  Carbon monoxide is created by products that burn fuel, like a gas stove, a fireplace or charcoal grill.  Electric appliances such as electric heaters, hair dryers and electric stoves do not burn fuel therefore, no carbon monoxide is produced.

Can I leave the house while the oven is self cleaning? – You should never leave your oven on and unattended.  But, when an oven is self cleaning, the extreme temperatures (up to 600 degrees fahrenheit) will create fumes and some slight smoke.  It’s strongly recommended to keep your kitchen vent running and nearby windows open during the cleaning process to allow these fumes and smoke to escape.

Can an empty pan catch on fire? – An empty pan on a hot burner will not catch on fire as long as there is no type of coating on the pan that might melt or chip off and fall onto the hot stove top and then possibly catch on fire.  Otherwise, the only damage that would occur to the pan is that it will get burned, possibly to the point that it can no longer be usable.


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