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Good books and Aga sagas

March 9, 2010

Have you ever noticed that when, on a cold winter’s day, you sit down in your favourite chair with a good book, and a strong reading light by your side, you soon start to warm up?  If so, it’s not the book providing the welcome comfort but the incandescent lightbulb you have neglected to swap for an energy-saving alternative.

The old-style lightbulbs, due to be phased out in Europe by 2012, are the villains of the energy efficiency world, but the heat they give off can often be enough to dissuade you from switching on an electric fire.

Like the lightbulb, the Aga has been hit with more than a few environmental brickbats of late, with critics insisting that it consumes high amounts of energy as it sits merrily burning away, night and day, summer and winter.  Indeed, it hasn’t been the happiest of winters for the company behind the iconic stoves, as owners of oil-fired versions have experienced problems of soot build-up, sometimes leading to total malfunction.  These operating problems are down to the oil now being used having lower sulphur levels (a result of an EU requirement) and what’s referred to as an ‘increased char value’.

Wasted heat, given off when the household doesn’t need it, could in some cases cancel out the advantage of being able to use the stove as a heat source during the colder portion of the year.  The precise type of stove and also the type of fuel used will, of course, have a significant bearing on any energy assessment.  However, as with the incandescent lightbulb, using an Aga could mean less reliance on another gadget: for rather than use an energy-guzzling tumbledryer, owners commonly drape their soggy laundry over their stoves.

Wherever practical, all homeowners should be encouraged to invest in low carbon technologies (particularly the proven and increasingly affordable solar hot water option).  But alongside this, the sensible approach when thinking about doing away with  energy inefficient appliances and/or installing energy efficient technology is to make sure that the steps we take are complemented by simple but effective measures such as insulation, draught-proofing, and putting on an extra jersey whenever the temperature dips.

And when we need to wash and dry that jersey, it can be done without a washing machine, tumble-dryer or Aga: we should just soak it in the bath, hang it up somewhere unobtrusive and be patient.

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