AGA Stoves Buyer’s Guide
There are plenty of reasons to consider investing in an AGA Stove, whether it’s creating a wonderful focal point to your living room, reducing your winter fuel bill, or simply providing some cosy warmth on a cold, damp evening.
However, before you pop down to your local AGA shop, there are few aspects of stove ownership you might want to consider first. That’s why we’ve prepared this handy buyer’s guide to help you narrow down the options and decide on the best model for your home.
Cast Iron or Steel?
The AGA range includes a wide variety of styles to suit all needs, from the traditional to very contemporary. Matching the heat output of a stove with the room it will heat is very important and it is best to take advice from a professional installer prior to installation.
One of the first considerations for stove ownership is deciding on which type of fuel you will use – solid fuel (such as coal or smokeless briquettes) or wood.
These two fuels burn in different ways, so the designs of our stoves differ to optimise their performance depending on the fuel type.
To assist combustion, coal and other solid fuels need air to reach them from below through a grate, so our multi-fuel stoves are designed with this mind. They have a riddling plate, which allows any build-up of ash during the burning process to be removed and allow more air in from underneath.
Wood, on the other hand, burns differently and is best when sitting on a bed of ash. But the most important point to remember with wood burning models is to use well-seasoned wood. Ideally, this means it has been dried for at least six months to remove the majority of any moisture. Another aspect to bear in mind is the space required to store wood, which needs to be approximately 3-4 cubic metres.
Finally, it’s important to consider the local availability of your chosen fuel. It’s always best to buy in bulk to ensure it is cost effective throughout the winter, using a local, reputable supplier.
Cast Iron or Steel?
Cast Iron or Steel?
There are two types of material used for the construction of stoves: cast iron and steel. Both materials provide the warmth and cosiness associated with a stove, but they operate in very different ways.
For years AGA have constructed stoves from cast iron, making them extremely robust and built to last. The durability comes from the manufacturing process which involves pouring molten metal into moulds to create the desired shape. However, as cast iron is so dense, it can take some time to reach working temperature although, conversely, it retains the heat further into the evening and continues to radiate warmth after the fire starts to die down.
Steel stoves have improved greatly in recent years, and they now offer an alternative option for homeowners. Unlike cast iron, steel stoves are less dense, and subsequently far quicker to heat up.
How you will use the stove needs to be taken into account when choosing between cast iron and steel. If you are likely to use the appliance regularly throughout the winter for extended periods – i.e. 4-5 times a week – then cast iron is a better option, as it will be more durable over the years. If you only envisage lighting a stove on the odd evening or weekend, a steel stove might be the better choice.
A key part of choosing a stove is selecting the correct size and output for your home, using the same principles as you would for your central heating system. Stoves can range from 3kW up to a maximum of 15kW, but the most popular outputs are between 4kW and 8kW, reflected in the AGA Stoves range.
Selecting the right output for your room is key to a successful installation. Too high an output might result in having to open a window as it’s too hot. Or you might find yourself trying to run the stove at a lower temperature, which can cause ongoing problems with a stove’s operation. So it’s worth using an online ‘Heat loss calculator’ to help gauge what size is best for your home, then discuss specific requirements with a HETAS approved installer. They will also be able to help guide you concerning adequate ventilation for the stove installation.
The calculation below can also be used as a rough guide for calculating the required output:
- Room Width x Room Depth x Height = Y
- Divide the answer (Y) of the above calculation by one of the following numbers:
- 12 (for a poorly insulated room)
- 15 (for an averaged insulated room)
- 18 (for a well-insulated room)
As stoves are heating appliances, there are Building Regulations that govern their installation. For that reason, we advise all customers to use a HETAS approved installer to ensure all aspects comply with the relevant standards.
There are a wide range of elements required to meet these Regulations, including hearth sizes, flue outlet heights, flue sizes and ventilation requirements to name but a few.
Much of the information will need to be obtained from a competent person (such as a HETAS engineer) during a site visit. However, there are a few elements you can consider beforehand to gauge how much work is required for your installation, click below to view.
I. Do you have an existing hearth? A stove needs to sit on a slab of non-combustible material that protects against any combustible materials underneath, or around the stove, from igniting.
II. Do you need a chimney liner? This depends largely on the age and construction of your house but, as a general rule, properties built after 1964 will have a concrete or clay liner which won’t require any additional flue lining.
III. Of course, if your chimney doesn’t have a liner, or you don’t have a chimney at all, a specially designed flue kit can be installed to comply with the relevant Building Regulations.
IV. Are you in a smoke control zone? Many towns or cities in the UK are smoke control areas, where you are banned from emitting smoke from a chimney unless your stove is smoke exempt.
V. Finally, it’s important to remember the fitting of a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm is also a requirement of Building Regulations.
A stove requires regular checks and maintenance to ensure it operates at its optimum level. However, for most stove owners, this is a fairly easy task.
Here are a few of the general maintenance steps you’ll have to carry out as a stove owner:
- Check the grate is in good condition and the riddling plate is working correctly (multi-fuel stoves only)
- Inspect the firebricks for any damage to prevent any cracking or warping of the stove
- After continued use, the fire rope seals might become frayed or damaged and will therefore need replacing
- Examine the glass for any cracks, as well as remove a build-up of deposits
- Annual sweeping of your chimney will also minimise the risk of soot fires that can cause damage to the chimney
You can view the Approved Document J of the Building Regulations to find out specific information on the installation of combustible appliances: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/buildingregulations/approveddocuments/partj/approved
The British Flue & Chimney Manufacturers Association provides some excellent general guidance on the selection and installation of flues and chimneys for stoves in this document: http://www.hetas.co.uk/wp-content/mediauploads/BFCMA-General-Guidance-10-12-12.pdf