These great hunks of iron are a beautiful idea - and very tempting it is to jump in assuming that the installation will be easy. Here are some of the pitfalls that I have come across - I hope that these tips might save you time.
First off, you need to buy the very best that you can. If there are any cracks or damage then really you are bidding on scrap, and you could end up with a kitchen full of smoke if you do light it. Unfortunately, you won't know if it is a good'un until you do fire it up. Make sure that you get all the bits - you might find that firebrick on ebay, but you might not and it might be unobtainable. Make sure that you get some fire cement and that you have given everything a good clean before you go too far.
Getting it home is going to be a severe pain in the logistical front. They are (as every fule kno...) seriously heavy. I can recommend Ebay member 8890robert from personal experience - a quick and fair priced delivery right into my kitchen. I am sure that there are other reliable guys out there, so good luck in finding one.
Note that no Aga / Rayburn dealer is likely to want to install it for you, so make sure you organise installation before you buy. They make their money from selling new ones, not from propping up the market for second-hand ones that might just last forever. You best bet will be a local tradesman who has been reccomended to you by people you trust.
Flues and chimneys
You will need a proper flue - don't underestimate this problem, and make sure that you get a quote before you buy. For a typical 5m stainless steel flue, double skinned, you may end up forking out £2000. You can't do it yourself because it now needs to be stamped to show fuel type and installation details otherwise you fall foul of regulations...also, you need to ensure that there are not too many bends and that the radius of any bends is as shallow as possible so as not to restrict flow. You ideally should avoid any bend sharper than 135% and resrtict yourself to just a couple of these at most. You may be able to use an existing chimney, but it will need to be large enough to get a liner down it without damage or you will waste a whole load of cash.
An air supply that is always open (ducting may be required) must be provided, preferably to exit just next to the range.
If you don't put in adequate ventilation, you are putting yourself at great risk. Do check building regs to make sure that you get it right.
Flooring / base
Budget also for a reinforced floor. If you have a suspended floor, you will need to lift the boards, install shuttering and pour in concrete to provide a base. The base needs to extend beyond the base of the Rayburn (see building regs for exact details). Obviously, whatever base you do use must be fireproof!
Once you have got everything installed, you will need to make sure you use the right fuel - which means solid fuel and well-seasoned non-resinous wood. If you put the wrong stuff in, the flue will block in no time. You won't realistically be able to pick up enough on your daily walk with the dog to keep the house warm. Check to see if you can get a supply of fuel locally - and remember that many areas insist on smokeless fuel.
Hot water installation
If you have a model with a back boiler, you will need a gravity-fed system incorporating wide-bore pipes (you must not put in a pump!!) with a radiator without a thermostat to deal with excess heat, a mains-fed expansion tank and an overflow. Simply, excess heat is 'wasted' through the radiator. If the system boils, then the water vents into the expansion tank. Cooler water then flows back into the system thus lowering the temperature. Failure to install a proper water system could cause an explosion. If you want hot water, you will need a cylinder with a heat exchanger. If you put in a nice big one, you can have your domestic boiler, your Rayburn and an immersion heater all in the same unit meaning that you get the best of all worlds.
If you do your sums, you will be able to work out how long all this work will take to pay for itself, but think of the benefits... If you do go ahead, you will end up with the joys of emptying the ash pan, chopping logs to keep you fit and a warm kitchen. Also, if the gas supply is turned off, and if the lights do go out, you might just be the only household in the neighbourhood who has heating. Burning wood is environmentally sustainable into the bargain.
Good luck - and enjoy your Rayburn!
Rayburn (Aga) ranges
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28 September 2006
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