Stove options

Most homes today come with a stove pre-installed. Even brand new homes typically have one.

But whether you're moving into a just-built home, remodeling another, or are just tired of the stove you have, there are lots of options available.

Natural gas forms a very large percentage of the models for sale. Countertops come in a wide range, but Corian makes for an excellent choice. It blends well with a burnished stainless steel model and is highly resistant to burns and stains.

But natural gas stoves do have some drawbacks. Contemporary regulations in most cities limit the heat they produce to between 20,000-25,000 BTUs. Commercial stoves of similar design, by contrast, can easily provide 30,000-40,000 BTUs. So, the home versions have some artificial restraints. With the rising price of natural gas, they're also not quite the bargain to run that they used to be.

Propane is a viable alternative, especially for those who live outside a traditional suburban neighborhood. There are more and more of those individuals as demographics change, too. Even track homes are becoming larger and further apart. At a certain point, propane becomes a necessity since the local gas company sometimes won't run pipes out to these areas.

But propane, like anything, also has a downside. Most gas-burning stoves will have to be fitted with different housings to burn propane. That's ultra-easy to do, but there is some cost involved, something as much as a hundred dollars or more. Also, propane prices, like everything else, have really gone up the past few years.

Electric stoves continue to be used in a substantial percentage of homes. Contemporary designs don't have the problem of taking a long time to heat or cool down that older models did. Made of high-tech glass, they heat in a few seconds and most will cool down to the touch just as quick. They offer an integrated look - no coil burners sticking up. Halogen burners provide high heat and a very stylish look.

The price of electricity is likely to rise more slowly than natural gas or propane over the next several years, too. More nuclear power plants are coming online in the next 20 years and that will tend to keep prices capped.

Whichever basic heating method you prefer, there are hundreds of stylish choices. Modern stoves don't just work well. They look terrific. Whether you're looking for a brushed steel design, or prefer a dark glass that matches the rich look you saw in that home design magazine, there's a stove design to suit your taste.