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Senior Safety: Risks of Leaving Oven On

leaving a stove on overnight

Let’s look into the potential risks and safety measures when an oven is left on, with a special focus on senior safety.

We turn the oven on to cook dinner or bake cookies and we forget to turn it off!

So, what happens if you accidentally left the oven on overnight?

The results of leaving an oven overnight or for hours can possibly be disastrous and deadly. If you leave an electric oven on, it could lead to a fire. If you leave a gas oven on, it could lead to a fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The most common reasons people leave their kitchen stove or oven on all day and/or overnight is either for cooking or heating the home.

Ovens were not designed or meant to be used for space heating, especially for a large space. It’s an inefficient way to heat your home.

Cooking something overnight (like a roast for pulled pork) on low heat should not present a problem – after all – ovens can be on all day during the holidays baking everything from cookies to lasagna!

The difference in leaving a stove on (especially overnight or when you’re not home) is that IF a fire were to occur – there’s little to no chance to put it out immediately.

A small fire can, in a short period of time, quickly turn into a large one resulting in serious burns and/or a house fire.

There’s a reason that it is recommended that you stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking.

But leaving an oven door open for heat is truly dangerous and I’ll tell you why below.

Read more about our Kitchen Safety Tips For Seniors.

Is It Dangerous To Leave The Oven On Overnight?

Yes, it can be. The dangers are very real whether it’s an electric or a gas oven.

According to the fire department of New York, unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires—accounts for 33 percent of the total fire incidences. Leaving food unattended in the oven can lead to burning as people often forget about the food.

Dangers In Leaving Your Electric Oven On

If you accidentally leave your oven on for hours or let’s say overnight (because you forgot), as long as the door to the oven is closed and there is nothing inside the oven, the chances of a fire or anything else happening are lower.

A reader recently emailed us and asked…”How long can an oven stay on?

I wrote back telling him that truthfully, an oven can stay on for hours, as long as there’s nothing in the oven, as long as there’s nothing near the oven that could catch fire and as long as there’s no malfunctioning wires or worn out materials in the oven.

But there’s no 100% guarantee that nothing will happen – it just means that it’s a lower chance. So, I do not recommend leaving it on.

It is strongly recommended to NOT leave the oven on unattended! Electrical malfunctions could still occur.

Leaving Oven Door Open For Heat

The danger with electric ovens is when homeowners use it to heat the home.

So, they purposely leave the oven on, sometimes at a high temperature, for hours or overnight and crack the door open to heat the room.

This can cause the oven knobs and temperature dials to melt and catch fire.

And if the homeowner has anything else nearby, oven mitts, kitchen towels, etc. – those could also catch fire and before you know it – the kitchen or worse is engulfed in flames.

It also won’t matter if the oven is left on at a low temperature so don’t think that just because you lower the temperature it’s safe.

Dangers In Leaving Your Gas Oven On

Gas ovens are an even greater danger if they are left on simply because of the carbon monoxide (CO) that they emit.

Worse, if it’s an older gas oven that has to have a gas flame ignited.

And as we all know, you won’t notice that you are breathing in carbon monoxide until it’s too late.

co poisoning signs

But there are signs that can alert you to carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • General weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blurred Vision

Basically, it can resemble a really bad case of the flu.

In addition to the CO poisoning, an unattended gas oven that is left on could overheat and ignite a fire.

Again, I want to repeat – DO NOT use the oven (whether it’s a gas or an electric oven) to heat the home. It is dangerous to leave the oven door open for extended periods of time.

It’s both a fire risk and if you leave the oven door of a gas stove on, you are risking Carbon Monoxide poisoning as well.

Of course, there could be problems with your oven’s heating element which could cause a problem where the oven itself just won’t turn off.

Or, there could be a problem with the internal fan which is supposed to spread the heat evenly in the oven.

These issues are not due to any fault of the owner but we do encourage you to get your electric and gas appliances inspected every year.

You can contact your plumber to find out if they do that work or search for appliance repair technicians in your area.

Can An Oven Catch On Fire If Left On?

The oven itself won’t necessarily catch on fire as long as there’s nothing in the oven TO be ignited and as long as the door to the oven is properly closed.

It is not safe to leave your oven unattended. The dangers are very real especially in electric and gas ovens because their heat sources are quite extreme and they pose a greater threat if unsupervised.

There are several different reasons as to how an oven or kitchen stove can catch on fire.

If a pan of food or even just some food scraps, or grease are left in the oven then yes – a fire could be the end result.

So, if you cook with a lot of fat you’ll want to be very careful to avoid leaving your oven on unattended.

As I said above, if the oven door does not close properly or is left open, the heat from the oven can melt the oven knobs or anything else in it’s vicinity and could possibly cause a fire.

How Long Can You Leave An Electric Stove On?

Electric stoves can be (although honestly I don’t recommend it) left on for 12 hours. Stoves made in 1995 or later automatically turn off after 12 hours.

That’s a very long time in my opinion. 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.

Do Ovens Automatically Shut Off?

Many modern ovens do have an automatic shut-off feature, typically after 12 hours, as a safety measure. This feature is designed to prevent potential fires and save energy if the oven has been left on accidentally.

However, not all ovens have this feature, especially older models. It’s always best to check the specific features of your oven in the user manual or with the manufacturer.

Can You Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning From Leaving The Oven On?

The danger of carbon monoxide poisoning comes only from gas powered appliances.

So, if you have an electric oven, there is no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

But if you have a gas oven, it is definitely one of the sources of mild concentrations of carbon monoxide in your home and as I mentioned above, the dangers of CO poisoning are very real.

I strongly recommend to install a carbon monoxide detector (like the one I recommend below) or a combination unit of a CO detector and a smoke alarm.

Stove Alarms And Shut Off Devices For Elderly Homeowners

There are several stove alarms and timers available for electric ovens and stove tops that you can use to help you to deal with an older adult living at home who has or may leave an oven or stove on accidentally.

  • The Simple Touch C30004 – is a very low priced timer and shut off device that can be used for small appliances and electrical devices.
  • Fire Avert Electric Auto Stove Shut Off Safety Device – It doesn’t use a timer – instead it connects to your smoke detector and automatically shuts off the stove when the smoke detectors are activated.
  • Wallflower Smart Monitor For Electric Stoves – A wi-fi enabled plug that allows you to monitor your electric stove (or your parents stove) directly from your smart phone. It can also be connected to an Alexa unit so that you can use your voice to set it’s timer or even to alert your contacts that dinner is ready!

For gas ovens and stove tops we can recommend looking at the following items.

These items should help to make your home safer for you and your loved ones.

Is It Dangerous To Leave The Toaster Oven On?

Both my mother and my mom-in-law stopped using their ovens years ago.

I mean, they occasionally uses it when company comes over but the majority of the time, they use either the microwave or the toaster oven for cooking their meals.

It makes perfect sense – when there’s just one person in the house to cook for – you don’t need an entire oven to cook a meal.

But, like most any electrical appliance, toaster ovens can catch on fire so caution is recommended.

Here are some tips on toaster oven safety for seniors.

  • If your senior loved one is using an older model toaster oven that does not have an auto shut off feature, I would strongly recommend that you replace theirs with one that does.
  • The general recommendation is always to unplug an appliance if you are not using it.
  • Always wait for the toaster oven to cool down before attempting to clean it. But do clean it. It’s very easy to leave crumbs and other food particles in the bottom of the pan which can easily catch on fire the next time you use the toaster oven.
  • Never place a toaster oven too close to the wall.
  • Never place a toaster oven near flammable objects like curtains, oven mitts, etc.
  • If, for whatever reasons the electrical cords get frayed or damaged in any way – do not use the toaster oven. Have an electrician or handyman (if they can) replace those wires.

Even though most of the newer models of toaster ovens come equipped with an auto shut off device – it doesn’t mean you should leave it on without supervision.

It’s always recommended and a good idea to stay in the kitchen while you are cooking.

How To Put Out An Oven Fire

Every homeowner should know how to put out kitchen fires, whether they are on the kitchen stove or in the oven.

Here are the simple steps to putting out an oven fire if the oven door is closed

  • Since the oven door is closed – keep it closed.
  • Turn off the oven and let the fire burnout by itself – open the windows in your home.
  • Wait until the fire is completely gone and the oven has had time to cool a bit.
  • Open the oven door (but be aware that it may be very smokey – hence the reason to have the windows open).
  • Clean out the oven before attempting to use it again – BUT – if the fire was due to an electrical problem please do not use the oven again until you have had it inspected by a professional appliance repair technician.
  • If you see that the fire is not getting smaller but instead staying steady or getting larger – do not open the oven door!
  • Leave the house and call 911 immediately!

Putting out an oven fire if the oven door is open

  • Usually if a fire starts due to an open oven door it’s because an item was left too close to the oven like a kitchen towel or apron, or there were food scraps in the oven, etc. It’s these items that are actually on fire.
  • A Class A fire extinguisher is the one to use. TIP: fire extinguishers are good for 5 to 15 years, so check it to be sure yours isn’t out of date!

Grease Fires

A grease fire is categorized as a Class B fire.

Many sources can start a grease fire, including alcohols, lacquers, solvents, oil-based paints, oils, tars, petroleum greases, and flammable gases or liquids.

For most people, Class B fires begin in the kitchen. According to the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA, “cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries.

Read more about Fire Safety Tips and Fire Extinguishers here.

Prevention Tips For Oven Safety

  1. Set Timers: Always set a timer when you’re using the oven, even if you think you’ll remember when to turn it off. Most ovens have built-in timers, but you can also use a separate kitchen timer or the timer on your phone. This is especially important if you’re cooking something for a long period of time or at a low temperature.
  2. Use Smart Home Devices: If you have a smart home device like an Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can use it to set reminders for when your food should be done. Some newer ovens can even be connected to these devices, allowing you to control them with your voice or through an app.
  3. Keep Your Oven Clean: Regularly cleaning your oven can help prevent grease fires. Built-up food particles or grease can ignite if they get hot enough. Make sure to clean your oven according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and consider using an oven liner to make the process easier.
  4. Don’t Leave Cooking Unattended: Try to stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking, especially if you’re baking or roasting at high temperatures. If you have to leave the room, take a timer with you so you don’t forget about your food.
  5. Check Your Oven Before Turning It On: Before you preheat your oven, check inside to make sure there’s nothing inside that could catch fire, like an oven mitt or a piece of food.
  6. Regular Maintenance: Regularly check your oven for any signs of damage or malfunction. If the door doesn’t close properly or if the temperature seems off, it’s time to call a professional.
  7. Use the Right Cookware: Always use cookware that’s safe for oven use. Some materials can catch fire or release harmful fumes when heated.
  8. Know What to Do in Case of a Fire: If a fire does start in your oven, keep the door closed and turn off the heat. If the fire doesn’t go out on its own, call the fire department.

By following these tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of a fire starting in your oven.

Remember, the most important thing is to stay vigilant and never leave your oven unattended for long periods of time.

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