The general cost of energy supplies has been rising dramatically in recent times, resulting in steep increases in gas and electricity prices. Most caravans use bottled gas for cooking and to a lesser extent, space heating. The cost of refilling a 6kg propane gas bottle (probably the most common size) can be eye-watering. Luckily, there is a way to minimise this cost, helping you to enjoy some caravanning on a budget. Step forward, the caravan induction hob.
Most caravanners choose to spend their time at a caravan site where there is a mains electric hook-up facility.
In the UK, hook-up points provide 230V AC along with a breaker set at 10A; that is, if more than 10A is taken, the supply is automatically cut.
Another consideration that needs to be taken into account is that unlike some European sites (Germany in particular), the power supply is not usually metered – so no record is made of the amount of electricity used by individual pitches and charged accordingly. You can also bet that site owners would not want to entertain the cost of converting to individual pitch metering any time soon.
This configuration provides, by default, 2.3kW (230V x 10A) of power, included in the pitch fee. There are usually no time constraints, so in theory, you could use a continuous 2.3kW throughout your stay – although in reality, this doesn’t happen (much to the campsite owner’s relief!). But that power is yours to tap and included in the price. So why not use it?
Cooking in your caravan is usually on a gas hob, making this one of the main drains on those expensive bottled gas supplies. But simply by adopting the use of portable induction hobs, any cooking can be carried out using the notionally ‘free’ (included in the pitch fee) electricity from the hook-up point.
Many of you will already have experience of induction hobs, in that you use one at home. To those of you who do, I won’t preach to the converted. To the rest, however – read on to find out more about them.
Why use a caravan induction hob?
Induction hobs are not that new and have been available for household use for a number of years now. These days, they are increasingly being fitted in new-build houses, because they can offer greater efficiency and convenience. In addition, as an aside, gas is rapidly becoming a polluting pariah.
However, at best, caravans usually only boast the inclusion of one electric hotplate in the kitchen. Although useful, they suffer from ‘latency’; that is, they will take a long time to heat up and a long time to cool down, none of which is good if something is boiling over.
The technology in an induction hob
Despite having been around for quite a while, induction hobs are a much misunderstood piece of electronic caravan gadget.
Many people assume that they operate just like a gas hob, with heat being generated in the hob itself, then transferred by conduction to the pan.
However, this is not the case. In fact, no heat is generated in the induction hob. All of the heat is generated in the base of the pan, which leads to a very efficient heat transfer into the food that you are cooking, letting you serve up on your caravan crockery and enjoy your feast.
Induction hobs are a highly sophisticated piece of electronic wizardry, which converts the incoming mains to a frequency of around 30kHz before feeding it into an induction coil, which is situated just beneath the pan holding the food being cooked.
This induces the formation of electrical eddy currents in the base of the pan, where the inherent resistance in the iron/steel generates the heat.
Using the right pans
It’s important to note that only pots and pans with an appropriate base can be used on induction hobs. Suitable utensils have an iron or steel insert in their base, in which the electrical eddy currents flow, producing the heat. So conventional copper and aluminium pots and pans will not work.
Pots and pans that are going to be suitable for use on an induction hob will usually have the coil emblem, or some appropriate wording, on their base.
These days, most pots and pans are suitable for induction hobs, but of course, it always pays to double-check this before buying new cookware.
Putting you in control
Being electronic, induction hobs offer a large degree of control, ranging from cooking duration, temperature control, and prevention of overheating pans because of boiling dry,
to sensing that a suitable pan is present, and so on.
The power in an induction hob can also be rapidly reduced or increased, giving a very high level of control.
An additional benefit is that unlike using a gas hob, with an induction hob, there are no naked flames and combustion fume issues to worry about.
Portable induction hobs are available in a choice of sizes, but single and double models are most suited for use in a caravan. A single hob can be as cheap as £25, while doubles come in at around £60 or more (sourced on eBay).
In my caravan, I position the induction hob on top of the gas hob glass cover, which is handily adjacent to a power socket. But of course, portable hobs are easily moved, so I also use them for outdoor cooking, placed on a table beside the van and with an extension lead (when the weather permits!).
Power budget considerations for your caravan induction hob
Another important point to bear in mind is that induction hobs are quite power hungry. Most single portable units are rated at 2kW, which in essence, means that their maximum consumption (turned up fully) is going to take just over 8A.
Most caravans (and hook-up supplies) are rated at 10A, so consideration needs to be taken for other equipment drawing current at the same time.
Double induction hobs are rated at 2.0-2.8kW, which in the case of the latter, if turned up fully, will definitely take out the 10A breaker.
However, these figures are maximums. I find that in the case of the double hob, running both sides at just over half power (about 1.6kW), things work very well. But it must be remembered that all of the heat is imparted to the food being cooked, and it is this that allows for meaningful usage.
Future Publishing Limited, the publisher of Practical Caravan, provides the information in this article in good faith and makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Individuals carrying out the instructions do so at their own risk and must exercise their independent judgement in determining the appropriateness of the advice to their circumstances. Individuals should take appropriate safety precautions and be aware of the risk of electrocution when dealing with electrical products. To the fullest extent permitted by law, neither Future nor its employees or agents shall have any liability in connection with the use of this information. You should check that any van warranty will not be affected before proceeding with DIY projects.
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