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COP27, Aga range cookers & carbon emissions

It's COP27 and with people busy glueing themselves to various bits of national infrastructure I thought I'd have a bit of a dig into how environmentally friendly Aga range cookers are. 

There are two parts to the environmental impact of any appliance. Manufacturing that appliance and then subsequently powering it.

In manufacturing terms it is certainly energy intensive to make an Aga range cooker. They are made predominantly in cast iron rather than in thin pressed steel like their competitors. Making cast iron, or even recycling it, is a hugely energy intensive process. Aga range cookers offset this in two ways.

Firstly they are simple. How many conventional ovens are discarded when a door catch breaks? Aga doors will operate flawlessly for 80 years, I've seen it, and are almost impossible to break! 

Secondly cast iron will last forever! Unless you drop an Aga in the sea the castings inside will last for centuries. There is a lot more energy embodied in a single Aga range cooker from its production vs a single conventional cooker. But thats not the end of the story! A single Aga range cooker is properly compared not to one conventional cooker but to many. 

The average age of a conventional oven when it is replaced in the UK? 13 years. The oldest Aga range cooker still running, installed in 1932, has done ANOTHER 13 years since it was awarded its 'oldest' title in 2009!

Now we come to running costs. I don't mean the monetary value here but the environmental cost. We'll assume a 4 oven Aga range cooker, no water boiler, used all year. I don't have any figures for solid fuel sorry, only 2% of Aga range cookers are still running on it though so the impact in total is small!

  1. Top (bottom?) Of The Pops are oil Aga range cookers. Annually each one will release 7,716kg of carbon dioxide. Yes, thats 7.7 tons!
  2. LPG cookers are at no 2 in our hit parade. LPG is less energy dense than natural gas so you need more of it to create a given amount of heat. It's also harder to transport so worse for the environment. Annually LPG cookers 'cost' 6537kg of carbon, 6.5 tons. 
  3. Next are natural gas cookers. Annually releasing 5,014kg of carbon. 5 tons is getting better I agree but still... gulp. 
  4. Now we are onto electric cookers and old fashioned single element electric cookers look a bit better! 2709kg or 2.7 tonnes is a full 5 tonnes of carbon a year LESS than oil.
  5. Finally we come to multi element electric systems. These would include new models from Aga like ER cookers and our own Electrikit and eControl systems. We install these from scratch and convert existing cookers. How these are used vary widely but I'm a 'relaxed' user at home. I leave the ovens on from early morning to late evening and heat hotplates from room temp when needed except at weekends. I use an average of 111kw/h per week making my carbon cost 1121kg or 1.1 tons per year. I could do better I think!

Multi element electric systems are by far the most environmentally friendly. I will emit just 14.5% of the carbon that I would if my cooker were running on oil. It still cooks in exactly the same way and is ready whenever I need it. A good deal!

A mature tree absorbs about 0.5kg of carbon per year so 15,432 trees are needed to offset a single oil Aga range cooker!

The more complex task though is to compare these figures to a conventional cooker! There is no truly accurate way to do so but the better insulated your house the better the comparison will be. Why?

Simply put the warmth from your cooker, whatever it runs on, will offset your heating bills. I use no heating at all on the ground floor of my house. My Aga range cooker, pictured below!, heats the kitchen, pantry, boot room, hall and dining room. Only the living room needs extra heat and here I have an open fire. Luckily I also have a brother in law who is a tree surgeon! 

What do I save in this way? In truth I don't know but it is substantial! Additionally of course I'm using electricity, as a side benefit of cooking, to heat most of the ground floor at home - this is MUCH lower carbon than the gas or oil that heats most homes. 

My conclusion? I'm content that the life cycle environmental costs are NOT significantly worse than a conventional cooker. In a letter to the Economist this week Prof Lee Griffin of Warwick University wrote "Extending the useful life of any manufactured item significantly reduces its lifetime environmental impact". Are there many manufactured items that will last as long, 90 years and counting, as an Aga range cooker?!

 

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!

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