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Blackout Britain? | The effect on Aga range cookers

That the risk of blackouts this winter is the top story on the BBC News website shows how people are worried. I'm going to look quickly at the risk itself and then cover how blackouts affect different models of Aga range cooker and what your options are long term to mitigate the effects.

There are many news stories out there to read on this but it's always best to go to the source! In this case that is our venerable, reliable and competent institution The National Grid. They co-ordinate electricity and gas supplies in the UK and produce a Winter Outlook report each year for gas and electricity supplies. You can read the report on electricity in question here, it's not that technical and only 24 pages long - fabulous! 

While the report notes that

it is highly likely that the wholesale price of energy (both gas and electricity) will remain very high throughout the winter

It is clear that they expect

that there will be adequate margins ... through the winter

The story making the headlines comes from a specific scenario examined by the grid where electricity is unavailable from mainland Europe AND there is not enough gas in the UK. So how likely is that?

Well thankfully we have the Gas Winter Outlook report to read and find out, whoop! It's a bit cagier than the electricity report but clear that any gas being in short supply would be very unlikely. It would take a long cold winter followed by an extended cold snap ('Beast from the east' style!) AND no gas supply available from mainland Europe. Big industrial users of gas would be cut off first, the power stations (causing the power cuts advertised) and then domestic users. 

I think it is safe to say that either gas or electric supplies being cut off would be very unlikely. It has to be admitted though that sometimes very unlikely things do happen so what would happen to your Aga range cooker if the worst happens?

The effect of power cuts on various types of Aga range cooker

  • Oil cookers with 'electric head' oil control valves will default to 'low fire' mode and begin to cool. Using the cooker during the power cut will result in much quicker cooling but you'll probably get a small, simple meal out of one ok! Does your oil cooker have a power cable into a socket? That means it has an electric head. These cookers should be back to normal roughly 5 hours after a 3 hours power cut. 
  • Oil cookers with a manual control valve would be unaffected by power cuts assuming you have plenty of oil. Prudent to top up now I think!
  • Power flue gas Aga range cookers should turn off automatically, they cannot operate safely without the fan units (electrically powered) operating normally. These cookers should fire up automatically when the power comes back. They should be back to normal roughly 3 hours after a 3 hour power cut. In the event of gas supply interruption these cookers will already be off as there would be no electricity! 
  • Conventional flue gas Aga range cookers will operate normally without electricity. They will turn off and have to be manually relit in the event of gas supply interruption. 

Note! In the event of a gas supply interruption, or if your power flue gas Aga range cookers pilot fails to remain lit in a power cut, you MUST let the cooker cool completely before relighting it no matter how short a period gas was unavailable.

  • Single element electric Aga range cookers will turn off in a power cut and begin to cool. You'll likely get a small meal out of one but getting back up to temperature when the power comes back on will take a fair while, 5-7 hours I'd guess. These cookers should turn back on automatically but older conversions can be unreliable at doing this!
  • 30amp 'night storage' electric Aga range cookers store the most heat of any cooker but the heat distribution is electronically controlled so will cease. They will take a long time to get back to normal after a power cut and can be VERY unreliable at doing so in my experience!
  • Multi element electric Aga range cookers like modern new cookers and our Electrikit and eControl conversions or installs will turn off and begin to cool in the even of a power cut. You'll likely still get a meal out of a hot cooker (use the oven base as a hotplate if you leave hotplates off normally) and everything will be back to normal quickly and automatically when the power comes back on. 30-60minutes after a 3 hours power cut depending on the system.

Who's better? Who's best?

I think in the event of serious problems this winter we all want to be the few Aga owners with a gigantic oil tank and manual oil valve control! Conventional flue cookers will work without power but not in event of gas interruption and multi element electric will be back to normal fastest once the power cut, however long, is over. 

Matthew Bates

Matthew Bates

Matthew is from a farming family near Bath and a graduate of King's College London who decided not to follow the 'standard' path into banking or the law. He has been working with these fabulous cookers in some form or another since 2003. Matthew runs Blake and Bull from beautiful Bradford on Avon, near Bath. Alf the golden retriever makes sure the working day finishes at 6pm sharp - dog walk time!