Image by Ivydale via Flickr
We've had a few problems with our otherwise reliable 30 Amp AGA Cooker. As it has been off (read the rest of our 30 Amp AGA Saga below) John our new operative and I took the opportunity to give a very special clean and now it really does look like new AGA sitting in our kitchen. Tonight it is heating up a treat and also smelling a bit but as it has had new parts today then I think it's just oil burning off them and it will be fine. So we are looking forward to a nice warm kitchen and house again.
We have been having some problems with our 30 Amp AGA cooker for a few weeks now. Our AGA is a reconditioned one that we bought about two and half years ago now. It worked fine up until a few weeks back when we started having problems:
The first thing that went wrong was the timer clock – it started working at double time which meant that it wasn't switching the AGA on at night during off peak electricity time and so the AGA wasn't getting so hot as it normally is and it was heating up in the day time. This is a timer which the AGA guy put into place which switches the AGA on so that it is charging up during the night on office peak electricity. So it's nothing to do with the AGA itself but is a requirement to get it to switch on at the right time as we don't want it charging up in the day time on normal electricity rates. We got an electrician in who said that he couldn't source a new timer; as we've had the plumber in our house replacing our old central heating boiler on the scrappage scheme we asked him and he said that he wouldn't be able to source it either. Then the electrician rang and said that Screwfix sold the exact same timer so I went and bought a new one and fitted it and the AGA was working again.
After a few days of working fine the AGA then went stone cold. So this time we called in an AGA specialist and as we recommend Spillers to our clients they came and had a look at it. As soon as the engineer walked into the kitchen he said "the fan isn't working and thats your problem as you can't hear it". Apparently the core of the AGA (the big solid bit of cast iron) will heat up but to get the heat to the rest of the AGA it needs to be circulated, on the 30 Amp AGA, by a small fan which is on the top under the top covers. They tend to go after a while as they get hot and dusty. So they replaced this fan – the cost of replacement was £80 for the call out fee, £24 for half an hour labour and £105 for the fan so a total of £209. We paid it, they left and then we switched the AGA back on, and yes you could now hear the fan making a whirring noise.
After a couple of days it was still stone cold. So we called out Spillers again. Today they arrived and this time the engineer did some resistance checks and told us that one of the elements had gone and he then replaced it. By the way the element is easily assessible from the front of the AGA you just take off the outer cover and there just under the insulation are all the tops of the elements lined up – the engineer just un-did the nut and slid the element out – they are long and thin and nearly the same as the depth of the AGA, so close to two feet in length. This time Spillers charged us £24 labour (no call out charge) and £55 for the element replacement so a total of £79.
Apparently our 30 Amp AGA is older than I thought as it has 14 elements in series and if one is broken none of the others will work and hence the AGA doesn't heat up. When he had replaced the engineer said "hear that hum that's the sound the AGA should make when all the elements are working and the AGA is heating up". We never really heard this sound before as the AGA normally heats up at night when we are in bed; but we know now.
In about 1998 AGA changed the configuration of the elements so that they now have 14 elements in 3 'banks' of elements. So instead of 14 single elements in series as in mine there are now three banks in parallel, one bank of 4 on the top, one bank of 6 in the middle and one bank of 4 at the bottom. if one of the elements goes wrong in one of these banks then the other two banks will soldier on and still keep the AGA hot and it will still be able to charge up. So if we had had one of these newer AGAs then it would have meant that instead of changing just the element we would have had to change the whole bank. So this means it could have been expensive! The prices for the banks were: for the 6 bank it would have been £213 and for one of the four banks it would have been about £150. So say you had had a problem with the elements on your newer 30 Amp AGA then the cost for Spillers to come out and fix the broken element would be (at 2010 prices) £80 for the call out, £24 for the half an hour labour and £150 for the new bank of 4 elements giving a grand total of £254. Or if the element had gone in the 6 bank then the total price would have been £317. So you can see this could be even more expensive.
But on the other hand this is the first time we have had anyone to look at the AGA as a 30 Amp AGA doesn't need a service like other AGAs so we have saved on servicing costs. If we had had a gas AGA then we would have had it serviced twice and the cost would have been 2 x £125 so £250 total spend. If it had been an oil AGA we would have had it serviced at least four times (I'm not sure on oil AGA servicing costs but its got to be at least £100) so a total spend of at least £400. We have also saved a huge chunk of money on running costs too as our AGA costs us about £11 a week to run. If we had had say a 3 oven 13 Amp AGA cooker the running costs would have been £45 a week (yes the Spillers engineer confirmed this as the most expensive AGA to run) so a total of £34 more each week to run. If we had had an oil AGA then the cost would have been at least £25 a week to run. And the same for the gas powered AGA. Though I was told by a couple of clients, when cleaning their oil AGAs in their barn conversions in the Cotswolds recently , that they had staggering high oil fuel costs this winter.
So two 30 Amp AGA tips I have learnt over the last week – the fan on the top of the AGA makes a noise when it is working. The 30 Amp AGA hums when it is heating up – if it doesn't hum then the elements aren't working properly.Google+