How to Choose and Install an Electric Range

by Michael Chotiner

If your electric range has seen better days and you want to replace it, you've got a lot more options than in the days when a freestanding range was the only choice. Modern, stylish options include freestanding, slide-in and drop-in configurations.  If you want to install any of these electric range types yourself, there are a few things you need to know about the differences among them so you can set things up right.

The difference between electric range types:

Freestanding ranges come in various widths (typically 24 in., 30 in. and 36 in.). They are finished on the front and sides so they can be installed either between cabinets or at the end of a cabinet run. Freestanding ranges are normally 36 in. tall from the base to the cooking surface (standard countertop height) and also have a built-in backsplash.

Slide-in ranges come in similar widths to freestanding ranges and are designed to rest on the floor, but they must be installed between cabinets because their sides are not enclosed. The cooktops of slide-in ranges mushroom slightly at the sides and back to overlap the countertop, for a more built-in look. As a practical matter, the overlapping cooktop prevents grease and crumbs from working their way into the spaces between the cabinets and appliance. Slide-ins don't have an integral backsplash.

Drop-in ranges are designed to rest on a platform or frame between cabinets. Like slide-in ranges, drop-ins have mushroom cooktops that overlay the countertop at the sides and back. Chances are, you'll need to acquire or make a filler panel that matches your cabinet finish to fill space below a drop-in range.

Once you've chosen the right basic style that fits your space and your kitchen, your work is not done!  Within each design category, you'll find a wide variety of features, including various burner configurations, single and double ovens, convection and induction technologies, and automated cooking options. 

Prepare the opening for installation

In the sketches below you can see the differences in the openings that must be prepared for each range style. Before installing or altering existing cabinets and countertops to accommodate a new range, it's a good idea to read the manufacturer's unpacking, assembly and installation instructions. Double-check your range's width and depth by measuring the actual appliance.

Freestanding and slide-in ranges always rest on adjustable feet, so it's easy to align and level the cooktop with the countertop, as needed. Slide-in and drop-in ranges usually require fastening with anti-tilt safety brackets that are shipped with the appliance. As you read through the manufacturer's instructions, note where those brackets are to be positioned and make sure that there's a good, solid place within the opening to fasten them to the cabinets, wall and/or floor.

(Illustration above by author)

(Illustration above by author)

(Illustration above by author)

Electrical requirements of your range...

All electric ranges require a dedicated 240-volt circuit rated at 40 or 50 amps, terminating in a junction box or receptacle within 4 ft. of the spot where the range will be positioned. If you're replacing an existing electric range, adequate wiring is probably already in place. If you're unsure or if you're installing a new range in a new location, consult a licensed electrician and have him/her modify the wiring as required by applicable local codes.

Electric ranges can be either wired directly into a dedicated circuit at an approved junction box or plugged into a 240-volt receptacle. If your new range will be direct-wired, have a licensed electrician present during the installation. But if there's a 240-volt receptacle already in place, it's safe and easy to connect a power cord to the range and plug it in.

Hooking up a power cord to your electric range...

240-volt appliance power cords are available in kits in 3-wire and 4-wire configurations. All 240-volt circuits have two hot conductors (usually color-coded red and black) and one neutral conductor (usually color-coded white). 4-wire cables also have a green ground wire.

The functional difference between 3-wire and 4-wire connections is that with a 3-wire cable, the circuit is grounded to the neutral wire via a bit of copper called a ground link; with 4-wire cables, the circuit is grounded by a separate wire. Since 1996, the National Electric Code (NEC) has required a separate ground for appliance hookups to new circuits, but if you're connecting a new range to an existing 3-wire circuit, it's OK to use 3-wire cable and ground to neutral.

If you're planning to hook up the power cord to the range yourself, check the receptacle that's in place and compare it to those shown in the illustrations below so you'll be sure to get the correct one.

(Note: There are more variations in shape and positions of slots in 240-volt receptacles than shown here, so it's a good idea to shoot a picture of the receptacle that's in place and take it along with you when you shop for electrical supplies. That way you'll be better able to match the plug on the power cord to the receptacle. It's also best to find a cord with the pressed terminals already in place at the wire ends opposite the plug, as shown in the drawings.)

Start your power-cord hookup by finding the terminal block-usually at the back, near the bottom of the range. You may have to unscrew a cover plate to gain access to the terminals. Just below the exposed terminals you should find a plate with a large round opening.

Once the electrical hookup is complete and verified, slide the new range into place and check that the cooktop is level. You may have to work with the adjustable legs or do some shimming. When you're satisfied with the position and fit, secure any anti-tip brackets according to the manufacturer's instructions.

When you're sure that all of the packing materials have been removed, you're ready for a new beginning in the kitchen.

About the author: Michael Chotiner is an expert on kitchen appliance installation, and writes tips on DIY for The Home Depot. Michael's advice for ranges is based on his many years of experience as a general contractor. To view Home Depot's selection of electric ranges, click here.