There is plenty below about Aga range cookers but it’s also about how I’ll be responding in my own home and the effect it will have on the little business of which I am so proud. I hope you’ll find it interesting, perhaps even useful!
Bills, business, Blake & Bull
I’ll say this for a global energy crisis, it focuses the mind! Our near 50 strong team operate 11 vehicles and 3 buildings across 2 sites. We have machine tools, welders, air conditioners, floodlights, washing machines and computers - lots of them! 2 of our buildings are at Hartley Farm, Winsley. We are lucky enough to have solar PV in the farm energy supply - a lot of it. When the sun is shining the bills are manageable, I’m investigating what the cost will be come dark days and overcast skies.
Our third building, which houses our metal fabrication workshop, is nearby but on a normal commercial supply with Valda Energy. We signed a 1 year electricity deal in March this year. We currently spend around £1200 a month or £14,400 a year. That’s already twice what it would have been in November. This monthly bill will rise to £5400 and the annual nearly £65,000 when we renew next March (if prices don’t change). That's an additional £50,000, for one of our 3 buildings. Already this year we’ve seen our diesel bill rise by 250%, perhaps an additional £30,000 annually. That's the best part of £100,000 plus whatever the additional cost may be at the farm.
We’ll survive but prices will rise (although they haven’t yet) and efficiency savings will be sought. We are slowing our vans down to save fuel (the vans are tracked) and looking hard at every appliance, computer and tool we use. I may yet physically disconnect some of the big warehouse lights which we have no other way to turn off individually! We’re proud to be a ‘Real Living Wage’ employer, that won’t change.
My home & Aga range cooker
At home I run a 4 oven Blake & Bull reimagined Aga range cooker. It uses the Electrikit system so each part of the cooker can be individually controlled. As recently as April I was reporting myself a ‘relaxed’ user. That’s changing. I’ve started turning the ovens on only on evenings I will definitely use them. Previously I’d click it on with my toe when making morning coffee without really considering the menu later! It now goes on late afternoon to be ready for dinner. I use the base of the oven as a hotplate and leave the hotplates off altogether. The oven goes off just as I start cooking dinner. Why? The ovens hold enough heat to cook almost any supper for two, they don’t need to be at max temperature when the cooking finishes! This will change in the winter; I’ll let the heat from the cooker take some of the strain off the central heating and leave the ovens on.
On evenings I do use the cooker I make sure I have some washing ready for my drying rack. Needless to say I have a full monty system with two layers over the hobs and an extra rail on the front. I even have a rack for the warming cupboard. I could probably operate a small professional laundry! We sell very few drying racks of any type in a normal August for obvious reasons - that has changed radically this year. We’ve even had to place an additional order with the Devon supplier who make them for us.
Tumble dryers use a fair bit of electricity so it’s always been an easy win to use your Aga range cooker and drying racks instead. From October it becomes something of an imperative! This mid range tumble dryer on AO.com uses 5.23 units of electricity. That’s £1.49 now, it will be £2.72 from October 1st. Is 5 loads of washing a week normal? At that rate using the heat from your cooker to dry rather than a tumble dryer saves £707.20 a year from October. Extraordinary. If you have very old appliances it’s tempting to think that keeping it going is best, avoiding the upfront cost of buying a new one. From October though I don’t think that holds - it may absolutely be worth upgrading an old fridge to a new one!
Looking around the home even small appliances that seemed too small to worry about are costing real money over a year. I had a small extra fridge full of beer and wine in our utility room, this one in fact! Necessary, I thought, for when my wife's family drop round! Interestingly while previously an ‘A’ grade for efficiency it has been downgraded to a ‘G’ under the new scale. When I bought it this fridge would have cost just over £21 to run all year. Not bad for the convenience. From October that figure is £75 a year. It’s now in the garage, unplugged!
The biggest gas guzzler in my house, as in most peoples, is the boiler. We’ve previously had hot water at 65°C and kept the cylinder hot 24/7. Now it’s at 55°C and on morning and night only. As my daughter is nearly 3 now we have no nappy disasters requiring midnight bath times anymore! I’ll be reducing the target temp on the thermostat come winter but have also set the radiators to hit a max temp of 50°C rather than 65°C too. This saves even more!
Beyond these changes it’s things like turning off lights that can make a difference over a year. Having long resisted it I now find myself behaving exactly like my father. I wander the house turning everything off. The light over the Aga in the extractor fan, the bathroom shaving light and hallway lamps. The brightest thing in our house after dark is the screen on my Kindle as I read - it’s a touch post-apocalyptic but there is a moral imperative beyond the financial one.
Every unit of energy we can save contributes to demand reduction and falling prices in the world energy markets. We in the UK don’t purchase much gas directly from Russia but every nation is buying gas and oil on the open markets and the more we use the higher the price goes and the more money flows to Russia. What sort of energy we are using is important too.
The environment and your Aga range cooker
Reducing our usage of energy is crucial but so is consuming as much as possible in the form of electricity rather than gas or oil. In 2018, long before this current crisis, we decided as a company to go ‘all electric’ when it comes to Aga range cookers. We’ve converted more Aga range cookers than anyone else as a result.
Going electric saves money but it also means your Aga range cooker is getting greener every year. This is quite simply because the UK electricity grid is rapidly moving to renewables and away from coal, oil and gas. Last year roughly 40% of our electricity in the UK was zero carbon. It’s rising fast and the war in Ukraine means an even faster transition away from gas that leaves us vulnerable to Russian whims.
The future, I’m sure, is efficient electric Aga range cookers running on zero carbon electricity. Nuclear, solar, wind and more. With the cookers used for drying laundry, warming your home and cooking the best food imaginable (there can be no substitute for cast iron ovens and their radiant heat) they will be silently making the lives of their owners better in 2122, 200 years after the first Aga range cooker was installed in 1922.
- Renew - convert or upgrade your Aga range cooker - insulate and prevent loss of energy that you pay for.
- Reduce - switch to a system that allows you to use the parts of the cooker as and when you need.
- Adapt - change small behaviours to make your usage more efficient. Use a drying rack!
Blake & Bull the business will be fine but costs, and prices, will rise. Reduce your energy use now. It will save you money, reduce your carbon footprint and help make us independent of Russian fossil fuels.
From October the annual running costs of Aga range cookers will be approximately
- £7000+ for single element electric (varies widely!)
- £4774 for oil
- £3522 for gas
- £3021 for multi element electric
Let me know if you have other ideas I can share with our community. Our newsletter goes to 25,000 people - your thoughts could make a big difference!
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