Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on November 4, 2014.

WHAT IF A STOVE BURNER automatically sensed excess heat and could shut itself off? New research, summarized in a recently published report titled “Development of Standardized Cooking Fires for Evaluation of Prevention Technologies,” released by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, hopes to pave the way for such innovations.

The research, conducted in partnership between the Foundation and Hughes Associates, Inc., looks at developing the standardized tests and criteria needed to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of new technologies designed to help prevent cooking fires. At the moment, no such standards exist, despite cooking equipment fires being the leading cause of U.S. fire loss.

“This latest report gets us one important step closer to establishing a standard protocol that will help protect consumers in the kitchen,” said Kathleen Almand, NFPA vice president for research and executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation.

According to NFPA’s “Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment” report, from 2007 to 2011 more than 150,000 home structure fires involving cooking equipment were reported annually, causing over 400 deaths, 5,800 injuries, and $853 million in direct property damage each year.

For the lastest project, researchers conducted two live fire tests to study pre-ignition conditions for cooking oils in pans on electric surface cooktop ranges. Tests evaluated the impacts of oil types, oil brands, oil age and usage, oil depth, pan materials, pan sizes and thicknesses, range power, and range type. The tests were used to identify conditions that would present the greatest potential challenges to prevention devices and select them for inclusion in the recommended standard testing.

In October, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers announced it would ask NFPA to develop new safety standards for electric stove cooktop coil elements that would automatically turn the element off when critical pre-fire conditions are reached.

Visit NFPA's reseach division to read the latest research report.

Jesse Roman is staff writer for NFPA Journal