Buyer's Guide: eco friendly range cookers (Part One)

Buyer's Guide: eco friendly range cookers (Part One)

A range is top of many a kitchen wish list....but these big beasts haven't been the most energy efficient appliances. So is that changing? Kay Hill investigates

Wood burning Firebelly Razen cookstove is made in the UK

Sturdy, substantial, and synonymous with warmth and comfort, range cookers represent the beating heart of a kitchen. Whether you want one purely for cooking, or a heat storage model to heat water and radiators as well, we've been looking into the most eco models - if that's not oxymoronic. Pictured above: Firebelly's woodburning Razen Cookstove.  Just to say we're doing this piece in two parts, to save you scrolling down to Antarctica to reach the end. So some of the cookers Kay's been looking are detailed in Part Two as are all the cooker details.

Looking for an eco-friendly kitchen range might seem like a tall order – they tend, after all, to fall into the same aspirational-but-astronomical bracket as 4x4s and country houses. But times they are a-changing and even purveyors of the traditional fuel-guzzling, pumping-out-heat-in-August kind of range are coming up with ways to cut waste and cost.

You’ll find 20 examples of kitchen ranges with eco features listed below, but here are some pointers if you're yearning after home on the range.

How they work
Traditional cast iron range cookers work on a heat storage system and can be powered by oil, gas, electricity, solid fuel, logs or wood pellets. Older models run more or less all the time as they take a long time to get up to temperature if they are turned off, so this means they end up producing unwanted heat during the summer months. Advances in design mean some heat storage ranges can now be pre-programmed to come on and off, such as Aga’s Total Control or Eco Range Cooker’s pellet and oil models, saving considerably on costs and emissions.
Many so-called range cookers are not traditional ranges at all, they are simply large freestanding cookers with two or three ovens built to look like ranges. If you only want your range only for cooking and not to provide ambient heat, this may be an economical way of getting the style you're looking for as some models are rated in the A category for energy efficiency
A modern range.. the Delphi 100cm by Britainnia in gloss red
The world's your oyster when it comes to colour..Smeg's TR4110 in pink
Stovax Wamsler 1100 Central Heating Range Cooker runs on wood or solid fuel. Heats hot water and radiators
Klover's SMART 120 uses wood pellets and cooks, heats water and radiators. From £6,353.
Everhot's electric 90i range with eco control has an induction hob. Made in Gloucestershire
Traditional Rayburn Heatranger 370SFW range cooker can run on smokeless coal, peat briquettes or seasoned wood. From £5,295
Running costs
Estimated running costs for a large oil-fired appliance left on all the time, can, according to Which? magazine, be as high as £1,700 a year. Electric ranges which can be pre-programmed, such as Aga’s Total Control, are likely to reduce running costs to around £800 a year; however, electricity is a more expensive fuel in the first place - recent figures from the government-funded Biomass Energy Centre suggest that to provide a kW hour of energy would cost 3.1 pence using wood chips, 4.4p using pellets, 4.9p with mains gas, 5.8p with oil, 6.5p with LPG and a whopping 15 pence with electricity.
According to Graham Thornhill of Eco Range Cooker, choosing a programmable range running on wood pellets or oil will cost around £260-480 per annum to run.
Heat storage cookers inevitably cost more to run as they are also providing heat to the room - which may result in lower central heating costs in winter. These products can be installed if you're doing a full kitchen refurbishment, but obvioulsy plumbing will be involved too.
Modern Range-style cookers simply being used to cook will have much lower costs – Which? notes that the cheapest fully gas-fired models cost as little as £14 a year to run, while dual fuel will be nearer to £60
For a touch of turn of Edwardian  splendour, Italian La Nordica Thermo Suprema cooker is green wood burning and 83 per cent efficient
The iconic range cooker is hard not to love...woodburning Esse 990 is super clean burning. From £6,330
Carbon footprint
EU regulations mean most kitchen appliances are given an energy efficiency rating which helps customers compare between more and less efficient models.
In the case of ranges, the figures are required only for conventional electric ovens that look like ranges, not traditional heat storage or gas-powered models, so they are only useful if you are looking for this type of oven. The test consists of the speed in which a brick placed in the oven is heated to a certain temperature, so in general, smaller ovens with a fan will perform better at the test than larger conventional ovens. In multi-cavity ovens the rating may vary for each cavity, so you can use a small, more economical oven when you don’t need the space of the larger cavity.
While cookers that provide ambient heat to the room use more fuel, that will be off-set by savings in central heating; and if a model is selected that will heat domestic hot water and fire radiators then it will probably offer savings in energy usage over running separate systems. 'Heating fuel is the main source of CO2 emissions from homes,' says Graham Thornhill, 'and any reduction in the amount of fossil fuel and electricity used is a step in the right direction.'
As far as emissions are concerned, burning oil and gas is of course using up fossil fuels, while electricity is still fairly dependent on conventional energy sources unless you are micro-generating. Burning locally grown wood is usually carbon neutral, but chopping it is hard work, especially when a stove can eat through 14 tonnes of logs during a typical winter, and it needs to be stored for several seasons to dry out properly, meaning space must be available for a wood pile. Wood pellets may be more practical and still work out to be cheaper than gas.
Ok, dream on..but should you win the lottery you could invest in Officine Gullo's splendid 188 cooking island. Product will last a lifetime, is fully recyclable.
DH85.5 from Haas+Sohn is a multi-fuel range that will run on either solid fuels like coal and briquettes, or logs up to 40cm long
Style and features
Range-style cookers start from under £500, while top brand cast iron heat storage ranges can be easily around £10,000, so you can expect to see big differences in build quality and performance. At the bottom end you might find plastic knobs and lightweight double-glazed doors, move up a bracket and you’ll find a well-insulated triple-glazed door that shuts with a satisfying thud. 
In size they range from standard width 60cm up to 150cm or more, with anywhere from a single cavity to five separate ovens. Unless you often cook for large numbers it can be wasteful of energy to just have a single huge oven.
If you opt for a heat storage range, having several different ovens at different temperatures means more cooking options and no need, for instance, to have a separate slow cooker – although if you are moving from using a conventional gas or electric oven you will have to adapt your recipes.
Installation and maintenance
In some instances the cost of fitting may more than double the price of a range, although electric models are easiest and cheapest to install and can easily be relocated if you move house as they don’t need connecting to a flue. Electric models also need no cleaning and little in the way of maintenance.
Oil and gas models will need regular servicing, while users of most solid fuel ranges have to be prepared to put fuel in and clean out ash every day, clean it fully once a month and get the chimney swept regularly. Mmm, a job for the servants, non...
Click for Part Two to get detailed information on the ranges we think have better eco merits than others.