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What Would Happen If You Just Left Your Stove Burner On?

My mother used to worry about leaving the iron on when she went somewhere. That doesn't happen much anymore, as fewer people even have electric irons. But the common trope is worrying about having left the stove on when you go out of the house. What's the worst that could happen? John Drengenberg of Underwriters Laboratories explains why you shouldn't worry about the stove itself.

"A stove is designed to run indefinitely," says Drengenberg. "Do we recommend that? Absolutely not." While it's not the best idea to leave an open flame unattended, If you leave your stove burner on, your house will, in all likelihood, not burn down.

UL tests just about every stove that hits the market. Part of that testing involves ensuring they hit thermal stability. In other words, they turn the stove on, and check the temperature of the burner, and keep checking the temperature until it stops increasing — just to make sure the burner doesn't ultimately set the entire stove on fire.

So the burner is not going to cause a problem itself. The problem is when you leave something on top of that burner, which I have learned from the experience of several ruined cooking pans. Read more about the danger of leaving the stove on at Digg.

(Image credit: Christian Smith)

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This is much more dangerous than they admit. A burning gas stove without ventilation will release substantial carbon monoxide into your home. An unattended stove-top burner risks any stray bit of airborne hair or lint igniting and spreading to other flammable material in your home. Most pots and pans have plastic handles, which will release huge amounts of toxic smoke if they are left on a high temperature stove top without anything in them. Anything immediately adjacent to your very hot oven/stove risks igniting as well.
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I don't think I'd want a stove like that. Mine has flames. My grandmother had a wood stove, the whole thing got hot, and each of her kids got burnt at least once.
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"Few people even have electric irons" — really?? Is there another kind of iron that's popular? Or are you actually saying that most people don't own *any* kind of iron anymore? If so, I would find that extremely hard to believe.
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