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Aga Cookers - Mythbusting!
AGA Cookers in General
Member Name: ed1178
AGA Cookers in General
Advantages: Stylish, timeless, dependable, the only cooker for a large country residence.
Disadvantages: Appaling environmental credentials despite what Aga tell you.
I have owned a four oven gas aga for several years and would not be without it. However I get tired of reading reports from those who have no experience of these ovens and others who choose to perpertuate numerous common misconceptions about these cookers! Below are a few points to hopefully clarify the situation!
Aga produce 2 basic types of cooker. The traditional heat storage version, available as a 2, 3 or 4 oven and fueled by gas, oil or electricity (30amp, economy 7 type or the newer 13amp which uses normal peak rate electricity) Recently introduced is the Aga total contol which is essentially a heat storage version with additional heating elements in each oven, designed to offer more control and independant use of each oven and hotplate. The second type is the conventional type known as the masterchef or 6:4 or aga companion (a single width conventional type cooker) These are more like a conventional cooker, operaterd only when needed, just styled to look like a traditional aga. A "Module" is also available which is a conventional type cooker designed to bolt to a heat storage version giving the option of turning off the heat storage part of the cooker in warmer months.
When people, including myself, refer to an Aga, they generally mean a traditional heat storage version NOT the conventional type cooker. My comments regarding my own cooker below are such an example.
Aga cookers are no longer available to burn solid fuel (although reconditioned models are available) Solid fuel Agas CAN be used in smoke control areas provided smokeless fuel is used.
Aga cookers have never and should nerver burn wood. Sister company Rayburn makes cookers that can. Solid fuel Aga's run only on quality products like Phurnacite and should not be operated using ordinary house coal.
Only selected gas and oil heat storage cookers can produce hot water. Aga's have never been available to provide central heating, however in some situations a small heat sink radiator is connected to prevent the hot water system from overheating. In years gone by a separate aga branded boiler was available to perform central heating. This was often bolted alongside the Aga cooker and was designed to look like it, this perhaps had given rise to this misconception. Sister company Rayburn produces cooker with full hot water and central heating ability.
Aga hot water is NOT a free by product of the cooker! These cookers use a bigger burner, and will consume more fuel as a consequence. They are not as economical in heating water as a modern condensing boiler. They will struggle to meet high, sustained demand and will take a long time to reheat a tank should it be totally depleted.
Aga heat storage cookers are designed principally to be on all the time. There are variations available which reduce temperatures to a minimum at pre programmed times and therefore slightly improve economy. These are known as "Aims" versions. From cold a heat storage cooker will take 6 - 8 hours to reach full cooking temeprature although the hotplate may be usable sooner. The newer Total Control version reduces this to perhaps an hour, depending on how many ovens and which hotplates are selected to heat at once. This version can be used only when required but is still nowhere near as economical as a conventional style cooker.
The biggest myth of all is that Aga's are somehow Green or economical! Yes it is true that the heat storage cooker will last for decades and are made from regycled cast iron. However at several hundred kilograms this still represents considerable embodied energy.
Also Aga themselves and most owners will tell you that thier Aga dispenses with the need for numerous other appliances such as kettles and tumble dryers. This may be true, however if one investigates the consumption of these appliances you will find that combined they use a fraction of the energy consumed by an aga, and in most cases perform thier designated task much more efficiently. Having said that, if the Aga is on it makes sense to use it as much as possible, just don't expect your energy bills to fall because you stop using the tumble dryer for a couple of hours a week! The Aga will negate this saving in a matter of hours.
Aga heat storage cookers do deliver a steady warmth to the room in which they stand and will heat ajoining rooms too. This does reduce the need for central heating. However as with the hot water, this is a task much more efficiently performed by a modern condensing boiler. In thier defence, and probably thier biggest attraction, an Aga is a great place to perch and warm ones self! Remember though that this heat is year round, and can make a kitchen uncomfortably hot in summer. For this reason many owners install a second conventional type cooker in addition to a heat storage aga.
Agas use considerable amounts of whichever fuel they are designed to run on. In a week of being on all the time an aga will consume as much energy as a typical electric oven and hob will in almost a year. Thier are numerous claims to be found online trying to disprove this, most from ebay sellers of secondhand models. However they normally massively overstate the consumption of a conventional cooker and also use energy prices of 2 or 3 times the actual and will tell you that your conventional oven uses £1.50 to roast a chicken. This is simply not true! Consumption can be reduced by using the Aims function where fitted, but only by around 20%
Agas are therfore not cheap to run! Mine costs at least £25 a week running on mains gas. Oil and 13amp electic versions will cost more. The Aga website does provide estimates of consumption for anyone in denial. The 30 amp electric was generally considered the cheapest to run, but is the most expensive to buy and the heaviest. With rising energy costs it may no longer be the most economical option. On the manual setting which may be required when cooking for large numbers it will consume peak rate electricity at the rate of around £1 an hour until the thermostat kicks in. It will then cycle on and off to maintain this temperature.
Having said all of the above Agas are indeed a way of life, and most owners would not be without them. To use a oft repeated cliche they really are the heart of the home! Yes, cooking methods are slightly different but food does take great and once mastered they are simplicity itself to use. They should last a lifetime with a little TLC. Nothing beats them for providing a warming, cosy prescence in any style of kitchen. If you can afford the fuel and your conscience can be convinced that they are somehow the environmental choice then go for it. They are considered almost essential in a large country property and increasing fashionable elsewhere in spite of thier appaling environmental credentials. If you can afford at least £100 a month to fuel what is basically an old fashioned cooker, and couldn't care less about the planet then go for it! There are thousands of owners out there who will defend you to the end and will rescue thier aga as rising seas sweep thier homes into oblivion. I, I am ashaned to say, am amoung them!
Summary: Ruinous to run but worth every penny. Trade in the childen to get one if you have too.