My AGM is racking up big bills, but I’ll never give up cooking’s ultimate status symbol, says TOBY WALNE

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Why spend a few hundred pounds on a standard oven when for over £12,000 you can invest in a solid half-ton cast iron cooker – with an AGA badge attached.

To the uninitiated, this heat storage cooker seems like an odd choice.

Traditionally, the biggest appeal is that, unlike other cookers, it always stays on. So when you’re not cooking a Sunday roast, it sits there like a giant radiator warming the kitchen and warming the bones of the house.

As a fashion accessory, logic flies out the window with an AGA – as do the energy bills that soar when it arrives.

It’s not just the iconic glorious curves with, typically, three separately heated ovens – ideal for Mary Berry types of baking – but also the chrome hotplate tops.

Toby Walne receives staggering £40 weekly bill to maintain his AGM

Toby Walne receives staggering £40 weekly bill to maintain his AGM

Even estate agents such as Savills are weakening – believing that the curb appeal of this range can be considered an investment by adding more than its purchase cost to the value of a property – being seen as a trophy ambitious middle class “at the heart” of the home.”

Yet, unsurprisingly, AGA has struggled in the face of the cost of living crisis caused by rising fuel prices. Sales fell – and the company reported a drop in turnover of £10m to £144m in 2022.

That’s why the company has recently shifted to a new generation of fully electric cookers, where you can control the oven and hobs individually at the touch of a button to reduce running costs.

This led to AGA getting into hot water earlier this week with the Advertising Standards Authority for boasting of having the “lowest running cost” compared to other cast iron storage electric cookers. heat in the market.

AGA was asked to remove the advert on its website for its ‘eR7’ and criticized for the way it compared its own £12,695 cooker with competitors, such as the £12,200 Everhot 110i, for having been selective with the data used to make comparisons.

The AGA's three separately heated ovens are ideal for Mary Berry pastries.  (In the photo, the TV baker leans on one of the heat storage cookers)

The AGA’s three separately heated ovens are ideal for Mary Berry pastries. (In the photo, the TV baker leans on one of the heat storage cookers)

The Aga eR7 kept in ‘sleep’ mode consumed 0.347 kWh per hour, or just over £16 of electricity per week. This is when the cooker hibernates on a low base setting that required pressing a button to return it to full temperature.

The Everhot 110i, on the other hand, consumed 0.531 kWh per hour, which could cost around £25 per week to keep running.

Yet when both cookers were full, the eR7 hotplate consumed 0.6 kWh (17p per hour) while the Everhot 110 used 0.22 kWh (6p).

If AGA left the oven and hotplates on at full blast for seven days, it could use 252 kWh of electricity. Using energy watchdog Ofgem’s standard unit rate capped of 28.62p per kWh, that works out to more than £70 a week – or £300 a month.

That’s still more than the average household’s total energy cost – at £168 a month, according to data collector NimbleFins. Even the biggest consumers of household energy (25 per cent) only use around £233 per month on average.

The Everhot cooker (pictured) was found to be more efficient than the AGA when both appliances were fully on.

The Everhot cooker (pictured) was found to be more efficient than the AGA when both appliances were fully on.

However, writing as a proud AGA owner myself, I am all too aware of the cachet – and pitfalls – of owning one. This is far from an economical cooker. You’re paying a lot for a luxury brand, the ultimate kitchen status symbol for rural and city dwellers.

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 ranges come with separately controlled ovens and ranges.

My three-oven “Dual Control” uses 142.8 kWh of electricity per week and is designed to stay on, although the hotplates operate separately (these use 0.78 kWh per hour of electricity with both plates on).

Marry Berry published a series of AGA books ¿ transforming a farm workhorse into a middle-class aspiration

Marry Berry has published a series of AGA books – transforming a farm workhorse into a middle-class aspiration

Leave the oven on 24 hours a day and we’ve added over £40 a week to our total energy bill.

Yet the AGA also warms the house by heating the kitchen like a giant radiator and we get by without central heating if we’re willing to huddle around it.

It may bring us together as a family but this beautiful beast offers poor value for money.

This is why for a third of the year the AGA is turned off and our standard 2.5kWh electric oven is used instead, which only uses around 70p per hour when switched on.

An AGA spokesperson said: “The need to reduce consumers’ energy costs prompted AGA more than a decade ago to develop new fully electric models addressing energy concerns.

Today, for most consumers, having a stove on all the time no longer makes sense.

With the AGA eR7, for example, each oven and hob can be controlled independently, meaning they are on when you need them and off when you don’t, for example overnight , when you are at work or when you are on vacation.

Griddles heat up in eight to ten minutes and ovens in 40 to 60 minutes. This ensures that you will never use energy unnecessarily.

PREPARE A SUNDAY ROAST – TWO HOURS IN THE OVEN
To cook Price Energy used* Cost
BUT eR7 £12,695 2.9 kWh 82p
Everhot 110i £12,200 1.8 kWh 52p
Hotpoint Classe 2 £219 1 kWh 29p
*includes the cost of increasing the temperature before starting cooking

The Advertising Standards Authority says: “The Everhot was most efficient in terms of energy consumption for the hottest oven function. For this reason, we did not consider the data to show that the AGA eR7 had the lowest running costs of all cast iron heat storage cookers.

My AGA is built like a tank and isn’t going anywhere – so it should last a lifetime and beyond. I use this to justify the eye-watering £40 weekly bill to keep it, as I lean against the ‘heather’ brute (chic pink colour) with a glass of red wine which has been gently warmed on the side of the stove. .

Working on a purchase price of £12,000, over 50 years this works out to just over £200 per year.

My God. I couldn’t even buy a standard stove for that kind of money.

And if I turn it off in the summer – a trick which means it will then cost nothing to run for much of the year – I convince myself that the AGA is worth every penny.

How we fell in love with the AGM

  • AGA was invented in 1922 by Swedish physicist Gustaf Dalen. Blinded by a workplace accident, he invented the coal stove as a great way to prepare meals with ease.
  • Britain fell in love with cookers in the 1930s, the cost of running which boasted being “the price of six cigarettes a day”. During World War II, the government installed them in munitions factories and hospitals. In 1947, manufacturing began in the United Kingdom.
  • Mary Berry’s book AGA was published in the 1990s, transforming a farm workhorse into a middle-class aspiration. The Mail on Sunday described her at the time as being “to AGA what Pavarotti is to opera”. It’s now sold in dozens of colors – not just classic cream.
  • The company moved to fully electric models in the 21st century – after ditching its old wood, oil and coal ranges. Some of the new high-tech gadgets can be controlled remotely and have separate controls for ovens and hobs to control heating and energy bills.

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