Buying and using a second hand solid fuel Aga

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With rising fuel prices the idea of a solid fuel Aga sitting in your kitchen providing year round warmth and enormous amounts of hot water can seem very appealing and it can be but there are a number of pitfalls that an enthusiastic buyer should be aware of.
Unlike a Rayburn, an Aga should always be dismantled if it is to be transported any distance. Within that shiny vitreous enamellled box there are several huge and heavy pieces of cast iron balanced one on top of another packed around with vermiculite. If their alignment is altered by a sudden movement then the Aga will not function as it should. Beware of buying an Aga which has sat unused for any length of time. Condensation will build up in the insides and much of that cast iron can just rust away particularly the smoke box into which the flue pipe sits. Second hand spares are available but as you will find out, everything associated with an Aga is expensive to replace.
An Aga is a solid piece of kit, designed to heat up slowly and radiate heat for a long period even hours after the fire has gone out. The only exception to the solid design is a very flimsy and cheap looking piece of aluminium tubing which normally runs from the air intake, below the fire barrel and into the smoke box mentioned earlier. This pipe should be completely airtight and sealed at each end. If it's punctured, crushed, damaged or missing then your Aga will be uncontrollable, overheating, with glowing red hot plates, unuseable ovens and you'll burn fuel at an alarming rate.
With regards to fuel, an Aga functions by hot exhaust gases passing over and through a network of channels. These channels need to be cleaned, preferably once a month, to ensure the stove operates at full efficiency. Wood, house coal or indeed any other fuel which produces lots of smoke and tar will simply clog your Aga up. It won't be able to breathe and will become unuseable very quickly. From my experience, anthracite is the preferred fuel to use but be aware that there is anthracite and then there is anthracite. An Aga thrives on the best quality fuel you can give it. It will be more efficient, cost less to run and  cook at peak efficiency. With my own 1950's model, I have 2 bags of top quality anthracite delivered every fortnight. At the end  of that period there's about a quarter of a bag left over and so I'm able to slowly build up a reserve. The bags at early 2014 prices are £18 each.
I fuel the  Aga once every 24 hours. It can be left longer but you're taking a chance that the fire will go out and anthracite is not the easiest of fuels to ignite. First the ashes which have accumulated in the ash pan are disposed of. Be careful these are red hot - make sure you have the proper Aga ashpan tool - it makes a huge difference!  The ashpan is  replaced and the Aga riddled GENTLY - the grate sits gingerly on cast iron bits and can become dislodged if you go at it too energetically. The hot ashes are left in the  ashpan to provide more heat and the fuel goes into the small top loading hole and filled to around 3 inches  from the top. Once it's going the temptation is to open both top lids and let the heat flood out which it will but at the expense of the ovens cooling down which will take several hours to regain temperature again.
My Aga cost £250.00 off Ebay which seems to be around the going price for a working model. A plinth, which you'll need  to raise it to a working height, various small replaced parts, fire cement, fire proof sealer, fire ropes, a wrap around boiler and a bag and half of vermiculite cost another £600 and then there is the cost of tiling a hearth and a back splash. It looks great, will probably last another 50 years and is brilliant for cooking and baking bread. I'm about to provide my Aga with a dedicated  air supply (which you should to conform with building regs anyway). With its own air supply the Aga will no longer draw in cold air from the  rest of the cottage and the place will be cosier. I've still to fit the wrap around boiler to supply hot water which will cost me about another £500 to do it  properly  and  safely.
The Aga is brilliant and looks perfect but it's not a cheap option even secondhand.

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