The top story on BBC News as I write is that the average household energy bill could hit £4266 next year. It has prompted me to wonder what a world of high energy prices for 2-3, or more?, years means for Aga range cookers.
We all hope things will return to normal but that just doesn't seem very likely anytime soon. Energy prices have spiked since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Through our fundraising I have a small window into how Ukrainians feel. I detect nothing but a grim determination to fight on in Dr Mattingly and her compatriots. Absent a Russian collapse or volte-face from Mr Putin, both seem unlikely, the war will continue.
Gas prices are sky high as Russia is slowing exports deliberately. Much of our electricity comes from gas power plants so electric costs rise too. Oil prices are more volatile, if anyone tells you they know what will happen to the cost of filling your oil tank they are lying. Citibank's best case prediction? $45 a barrel. JP Morgan's worst case? $280 a barrel. That's quite a gap!
What will it cost to run an Aga range cooker next year?
Our, yet to be published, 2022 Aga range cooker owners survey tells us that oil, gas and electric each power roughly a third of Aga range cookers. Only 2% of Aga range cookers run on solid fuel still. For the sake of comparison lets use a 4 oven cooker as an example.
I'm using figures below from Martins Money Saving Expert website. The price cap increase for October is now estimated at 70% with a further 8% in January.
Lets start with oil. Over recent months the cost has ranged from 90p per litre to nearly £1.40. Right now it's roughly £1 so a 4 oven cooker is costing £50 a week to run or £2600 if left on all year. 48.5% of owners turn off for the summer which can reduce this figure but then of course you have no cooker! Oil is NOT subject to the price cap and as we've seen no one knows what will happen to the price but if it increases at the same rate as gas and electric the cost of running a 4 oven cooker on oil would be £4420 a year from October and £4774 from January.
In summary IF oil prices track the gas & electric capped prices...
- £2600 annual oil cost now
- £4420 annual oil cost from October
- £4774 annual oil cost from January
Gas Aga range cookers are cheaper to run than oil. Our current estimate for a 4 oven model is £36.89 per week or £1918 a year. After the 70% predicted increase in October this would rise to £3261 a year. After the further predicted price rise of 8% in January the cost would be £3522 a year
In summary using predicted increase in the energy price cap...
- £1918 annual gas cost now
- £3261 annual gas cost from October
- £3522 annual gas cost from January
Now to electric! Aga range cookers that run on electric fall into two categories.
Lets start with old fashioned single element models, also known as '13amp'. They replace a single flame from a fossil fuel with a single massive electric element. They work exactly the same as a result but are not cheap to run. It varies widely according to whether they are an old fashioned conversion or factory built but our best estimate for annual running costs now is £3952, £76 a week. This could rise to £6718 from October and £7256 from January. Gulp.
In summary using predicted increase in the energy price cap...
- £3952 annual single element electric cost now
- £6718 annual single element electric cost from October
- £7256 annual single element electric cost from January
Finally we come to modern multi element electric Aga range cookers. Into this category we include cookers like AGA's own Total Control and the independent systems Electrikit and eControl. The figures below are based off my own 4 oven Electrikit cooker at home (a Blake & Bull reimagined model) that I monitor carefully. I'm a relaxed real user, I may be less relaxed as fuel prices rise!
In summary using predicted increases in the energy price cap...
- £1645 annual multi element electric cost now
- £2797 annual multi element electric cost from October
- £3021 annual multi element electric cost from January
In descending order then in January the annual running costs for a 4 oven cooker could be...
- £7256 for single element electric
- £4774 for oil
- £3522 for gas
- £3021 for multi element electric
I must be clear here, these are estimates built on assumptions and predictions that could change. I think the broad trends are clear though and they're why we chose to focus on modern electric cookers many years ago.
Will we still run Aga range cookers with higher energy prices?
The old fashioned electric systems I think are simply untenable in this new era and will be swiftly abandoned or converted to a modern electric system. With an averaged conversion cost of £4558 inc VAT the 'payback' would be a little over a year with savings of £4235 a year once the cost of conversion has been recouped. With a new overtime system for our engineers we're trying to get as many of these cookers converted as possible this year.
Oil cookers I'd guess will still be with us in 20 years but they'll be a much smaller percentage of the total. A few will be abandoned (maybe we'll remove them!) but I'd guess most converted or replaced. With possible savings of £1750+ a year from January vs modern electric they are hard to justify. The payback time is under 2.5 years!
With gas again I think most will end up converted but the move will be a bit slower - the case to convert is less compelling with savings of £500 a year meaning the payback is nearly 10 years but thats still a much better rate of return that you'll get on a savings account or even a loan!
Running an Aga range cooker is more expensive than not running one, we know that and, mostly, accept it. They dry our washing (and lots else besides), warm our houses and cheer us and our dogs up on rainy January days. It's a fair trade when the cost is reasonable.
How do we define reasonable though? It's personal. There is probably some equation allowing for strength of attachment (childhood memories?) weighed against disposable income but it will be different for every family. I can't see any family content to spend nearly £8000 running an old fashioned electric cooker though when the payback on converting to a modern system is so quick.
The crucial point to remember about modern electric cookers though is that they are controllable. If energy prices rise still further the way the cooker is used can change. I've used a single hot plate at home this week only when needed on my Blake & Bull reimagined Aga range cooker. Thats mainly because of the heat, and I've had to compromise on meal choices, but it's a choice that is available!
I haven't touched on the environmental aspects of owning an Aga range cooker in this post but I plan to do so soon. For now it's the economics that are most interesting. I hope that changes soon!