Why spend a few hundred pounds on a standard oven when for more than £12,000 you can invest in a solid lump of half-tonne cast-iron cooker – with an AGA badge attached.
For the uninitiated, this heat-storage-range cooker seems a strange choice.
Traditionally, the biggest attraction has been that, unlike other cookers, it always stays on. So when not cooking a Sunday roast it just sits there like a giant radiator heating the kitchen and warming the bones of the house.
As a fashion accessory, logic flies out of the window with an AGA – along with thoughts of the energy bills that soar on its arrival.
It is not just the glorious iconic curves with, typically, three separately heated ovens – ideal for Mary Berry baking types – but the chrome hot plate tops.
Toby Walne receives an eye-popping weekly £40 bill to keep his AGA on
Even estate agents such as Savills go weak at the knees – believing the kerb appeal of this range can be viewed as an investment by adding more than its cost of purchase to a property value – being viewed as an aspirational middle class trophy ‘at the heart of the home’.
Yet unsurprisingly, AGA has struggled during the cost of living squeeze as fuel prices have risen. Sales have been falling – and it reported a drop in turnover of £10million to £144million in 2022.
This is why it has recently turned to a new generation of all-electric cookers where you can control the oven and hobs individually with just the press of a button to keep the running costs down.
This led to AGA getting in hot water earlier this week with the Advertising Standards Authority for boasting it has the ‘lowest running cost’ when compared to other electric heat-storage cast-iron ranges on the market.
AGA was told to withdraw the ad on its website for its ‘eR7’ and criticised for the way it compared its own £12,695 cooker with competitors, such as the £12,200 Everhot 110i, for being selective with the data used to make comparisons.
Three separately heated ovens in the AGA are ideal for Mary Berry baking types. (Pictured, the TV baker leaning on one of the heat-storage cookers)
The Aga eR7 kept in ‘slumber’ mode used 0.347 kWh per hour – just over £16 of electricity a week. This is when the cooker is hibernating on a basic low setting that required the press of a button to get it back up to full heat.
The Everhot 110i, in contrast, used 0.531 kWh per hour – so might cost about £25 a week to keep it ticking over.
Yet when both cookers were full on, the eR7 hot plate used 0.6 kWh (17p an hour) while the Everhot 110 used 0.22 kWh (6p).
If AGA kept the oven and hotplates turned on full blast for seven days it might drain 252kWh of electricity. Using the standard unit rate capped charge by the energy watchdog Ofgem of 28.62p per kWh this adds up to more than £70 a week – or £300 a month.
This is even more than the total average household energy cost – at £168 a month, according to data collector NimbleFins. Even the highest home energy users (top 25 per cent) only burn through an average of about £233 a month.
The Everhot cooker (pictured) was found to be more efficient compared to the AGA when both appliances were fully on
However, writing as a proud AGA owner myself, I am all too aware of the cache – and pitfalls – of owning one. It’s far from being a cost-saving cooker. You are paying through the nose for a luxury brand, the ultimate kitchen status symbol for country and city folk alike.
The days when AGA ovens were powered by wood, coal or oil are long-gone and its entire range is now made up of electric models, with classic three-oven AGAs typically costing from £12,000. Most of the cookers have separately controlled ovens and stoves.
My three-oven ‘Dual Control’ burns 142.8 kWh of electricity a week and is designed to be kept on – though the hot plates are operated separately (these use 0.78kWh an hour of electricity with both plates on).
Marry Berry published a range of AGA books – turning a farm house work horse into a middle-class aspiration
Leave the oven on 24 hours a day and we’ve added more than £40 a week to our total energy bill.
Yet the AGA also warms the house by heating the kitchen as a giant radiator plus we manage without central heating if prepared to huddle around it.
It may bring us together as a family but this handsome beast offers lousy value for money.
That’s why for a third of the year the AGA is switched off and our standard 2.5 kWh electric oven is used instead, which only uses up about 70p per hour when on.
A spokesman for AGA says: ‘The need to reduce consumers’ energy costs prompted AGA more than ten years ago to develop new all-electric models that addressed energy issues.
Today, for most consumers it makes little sense to have a cooker that is on all the time.
With the AGA eR7, for example, each oven and hotplate can be controlled independently, meaning they are on when you need them and off when you don’t, for example overnight, when you’re out at work or when you’re on holiday.
Hotplates heat up in eight to ten minutes and ovens in 40 to 60 minutes. This ensures you’re never using energy unnecessarily.’
COOKING UP A SUNDAY ROAST – TWO HOURS IN THE OVEN
|Hotpoint Class 2
|* includes cost of raising temperature before starting to cook
The Advertising Standards Authority says: ‘The Everhot was more efficient in energy use for the hottest oven function. Because of that, we did not consider that the data demonstrated the AGA eR7 had the lowest running costs of any cast-iron heat-storage range cooker.’
My AGA is built like a tank and going nowhere – so should last a lifetime and beyond. I use this to help justify the eye-popping weekly £40 bill for keeping it on, as I lean against the ‘heather’ (posh pink colour) brute with a glass of red wine that has been gently warmed on the side of the stove.
Working on a purchase price of £12,000, over 50 years this adds up to just a little more than £200 a year.
Gosh. I couldn’t even buy a standard cooker for that kind of money.
And if I turn it off in the summer – a trick that means it will then not cost a bean to run for a large part of the year – I convince myself the AGA is worth every penny.
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