Aging in Place: New Tech for Cooking Safely

We’re getting older. That’s particularly true in northern Georgia, especially in the metro Atlanta area where the senior population climbed 20 percent in recent years.

Regardless of the zip code, about 87 percent of seniors are choosing to age in place at home rather than move to assisted living or a long-term care facility. This fact has resulted in significant expansion in assistive technology to help and protect seniors who are choosing to live independently.

Many assistive devices are centered on safety in the kitchen — and the stove in particular — because cooking fires account for nearly half of all in-home fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Walton Gas has found some exciting solutions for improving fire- and natural gas-related safety in the kitchen. From connected technology such as stove alarms and alerts to shut-off devices for a neglected gas stove, there are a growing number of products available to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Natural gas stove safety devices are available in these general categories:

  • Explosive gas detectors that monitor for unusually high levels of natural gas in the home, such as when a gas stove burner is on without the flame.
  • Stove alarm/reminder that draw attention to a stove that has been left “on” with an audible and/or visual alert.
  • Stove shut-off devices that will automatically turn off a stove that has been left unattended.

Explosive gas detectors

Detecting the presence of too much natural gas is simple for most of us — we smell the scent of rotten eggs and know it’s time to investigate. For seniors whose sense of smell may have deteriorated, it’s sometimes not that easy to detect a high level of natural gas, such as when a gas stove burner is on without the flame.

The Postgraduate Medical Journal reports more than 75 percent of people over the age of 80 years have decreased smell function. This is a contributory factor in age-related increases in accidental gas poisonings and explosions.

To help those with a decreased sense of smell, Walton Gas found several natural gas detectors on the market, available at a wide array of prices. Among the highest-rated alarms found in local stores and online:

  • Kidde Nighthawk Carbon Monoxide and Explosive Gas Alarm is a multi-hazard alarm that plugs into a standard wall outlet and emits a loud alarm if gas levels become dangerous. It has a battery backup to provide continuous safety during an electricity outage. Price: $55 in local stores.
  • Zorvo Digital Gas Detector is a plug-in alarm for explosive gas detection only. If a high gas concentration or flammable gas leak is detected, the alarm provides an audible signal loud enough to be heard throughout the home. Price: $26.

Stove alarms/reminders

Any cook, regardless of age, can become distracted and forget that a stove burner is on. Or, a burner can be accidentally turned on during cleaning or while socializing in the kitchen. Manufacturers now make a variety of products to alert when a burner is on. Some products available locally:

  • BurnerAlert is a battery-powered device that attaches to a gas stove’s burner knob. It beeps and blinks at pre-programmed intervals when a burner is on (with or without a flame). It continues to alert until the burner is turned off. Price: $70 for a pack of four.
  • 2Gig Stove and Grill Guard is a sensor that can be tied into some home security or automation systems. The sensor can send notifications to a smartphone or smart home panel when the knob is turned 20 degrees or more from the default “off” position. Price: $50 each (check website for local dealers).

Stove shutoff devices

Unattended cooking is the chief cause of kitchen fires. Now there are smart-home products that will shut off the stove in an alarm event, or shunt the service altogether, to prevent a potentially costly or deadly fire associated with a neglected stove. These devices are available direct from the manufacturers via online orders:

  • iGuard Stovedeveloped especially for those struggling with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, uses a motion sensor and power box to determine if cooking is left unattended. A model made specifically for electric ignition gas stoves closes the gas valve and shuts off the stove after 5 minutes of inactivity is detected. Pushing a “resume” button reopens the valve to allow relighting the stove. Price: $695-$725.
  • FireAvert is a plug-in device that responds to the sound of a smoke alarm by automatically shutting off gas to a stove cooking forgotten-about food. Pitched on TV’s “Shark Tank,” the unit has an intelligent 30-second delay that allows for clearing out smoke before gas is automatically turned off. It’s maintenance free with no batteries. Price: $170.
  • Inirv React uses a combination of sensors and electronics to not only detect high levels of smoke, natural gas and lack of motion (if the cook leaves the kitchen), but also react and turn the stove off. The device sends real-time alerts if something is burning on the stove, but it can also be used to remotely monitor cooking food and modulate the burner temperature. The product was scheduled for delivery in March 2020, but has been delayed due to coronavirus closings. Preorders are available, according to the company’s website. Price: $279 for 4 burner controls and an overhead sensor unit.