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Energy is eternal delight

Can I work William Blake (not a relative!) into a journal post about electric Aga range cookers? No idea but I'm going to try!

In his 1793 book 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' Blake wrote that

Energy is eternal delight.

He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

Exuberance is beauty

This was the very early industrial revolution and Blake saw the potential of the dawning new, coal powered, world. He is at least 10 years from writing of the darker side of this revolution and it's 'dark Satanic Mills'. 

In 1786 Philip James de Loutherbourg toured England and later painted 'Coalbrookdale by Night'. This was not only the site of the oldest iron foundry in Europe, it was also the home of Aga range cookers until closed in 2017

Coalbrookdale by Night

Aga range cookers then are synonymous with the industrial revolution. They originally all ran on coke (coal) and are manufactured of the earliest product of the industrial era, cast iron. 

Since the early 1960's though Aga range cookers have moved progressively away from coal, the dirtiest fuel of the industrial era. First DON burner conversions came along, soon adopted by AGA and 'factory' made. Read this fascinating pocket memoir from Simon on their early history. Next came gas burners. These initially ran on 'town gas' (made from coal!) and then converted to run on natural gas and LPG. 

The death knell for solid fuel Aga range cookers is imminent, from May it will no longer be legal to buy fuel for them. 33% Aga range cookers now run on natural gas and 5% on solid fuel and LPG. Oil and electric comprise roughly equal proportions of the remainder (see our 2022 survey of Aga range cooker owners). 

Aga range cookers, whatever their fuel, DO consume more energy than conventional cookers or an induction hob. In their longevity though they offset this. Energy is their delight. They have always moved with the times, the move to electric continues that. 

The future of all of us has to be full of energy. We can't go back to cold, dark homes. The trick then is to transition again. Not to a world devoid of Aga range cookers and their joy, but to a world where Aga range cookers are powered by cheap, abundant and clean energy. That is electricity.

It's green and getting greener. It's doing so ever faster.

It's not cheap right now but its still the cheapest way of running an Aga range cooker. As we build more solar (maybe in Morocco?), more onshore wind, more offshore wind and more rooftop solar the cost will fall. It will be backed up by gas and nuclear of course, and coal for the time being, but every year the backups will be needed less. Maybe one day we'll eat tomatoes grown in the UK in greenhouses heated by super efficient heat pumps using carbon free electricity. On Sunday UK electricity was just 68g/kWH. A windy day = a sustainable day for electric Aga range cooker owners! 

Sometimes electric Aga range cookers are blazing and identical to oil and gas cookers. All on, all the time. At Christmas maybe? But they don't always need to be like this.

As the seasons change so does your use. Perhaps in the summer you may plan ahead and turn an oven on only before you need it. In spring and autumn maybe a single oven, not 2 or 3 or 4 or 5, is enough for you? In the depths of winter more ovens, maybe even a hotplate ready for the kettle at a moments notice. Everyone is different, everyones use will vary, the energy bills are up to you. 

If we are talking bills then where things get really interesting is combining electric Aga range cookers with rooftop solar PV. Recent research shows that the running costs of electric heat pumps with rooftop solar PV can be up to 84% lower than without. The key factor is how much the energy demand of the heat pump coincides with energy generated on your roof. Even in Germany solar panels reduced heat pump running costs by 34%, in Spain it was 62%! 

I suspect the timing of energy consumption by a heat pump would be quite similar to that of a multi element electric Aga range cooker like those we install and convert. They use most power when in use, a smaller amount maintaining their temperature and nothing overnight (if you use your cooker like me anyway!). 

Even better to combine rooftop solar PV at home with a battery to store that daytime energy for darker evenings. This is not a small investment but your home, and electric Aga range cooker, would enjoy abundant sustainable energy at little or no cost. Heat your home with an electric heat pump, heat your food with an electric Aga range cooker! 

There are those who maintain an electric Aga range cooker is not a 'proper' Aga range cooker. But what qualifies? The 2% of cookers running on coke (for another month or so!)? Oil Aga range cookers were newfangled once, then gas and now electric. It's energy heating metal that in turn heats your food and kitchen. Where that energy comes from is up to you but our multi element electric Aga range cookers...

  • Are the cheapest to run.
  • Require no servicing.
  • Require no flue, oil/gas lines or tanks.
  • Create no flames and use no flammable fuels in your kitchen.
  • Create no carbon monoxide.
  • Have no fuel leak risk.
  • Maintain their temperature during big meals.
  • Still cook with cast iron.
  • Create as much, or as little, heat as you'd like for your kitchen.
  • Have a 5 year parts and labour warranty. 

We'll always need energy, we can act to make Aga range cookers sustainable, they can provide delight. Will it be eternal? It's been 100 years, I can't imagine a world where Aga range cookers don't delight all who come across them. 

Find out about converting your Aga range cooker to electricity

Find out about buying a Blake & Bull reimagined 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!