Choosing a Range

In a period-sympathetic kitchen, a range in black will be the heart of the room. Original ranges can be found from specialist companies and architectural salvage yards. Modern ranges, like those from AGA, Rayburn, ESSE and Redfyre, are solid fuel-powered or use oil, gas or electricity. Some can serve as a central heating boiler too.

For these functions, the period house owner can choose between:

  • Dry range - for cooking only
  • Semi-wet range - cooking plus boiler for central heating
  • Wet range - cooking plus boiler for domestic hot water and central heating

In the UK a law came into force in 2005 requiring all gas boilers fitted in both new and existing homes to be high efficiency condensing boilers with either an 'A' or 'B' efficiency rating. From April 2007, these rules also apply to oil-fired boilers. In a few houses it would be too difficult or too expensive to fit one of these boilers. This would be classed as an 'exceptional circumstance'; the installer can fit a non-condensing boiler instead but must provide an 'exception certificate'.

Semi-wet and wet ranges typically manage 75-80% seasonal efficiency values whereas many dedicated condensing boilers achieve over 90%. However, the experience of many boiler owners suggests that the life of these appliances is short; lower running costs can be outweighed by higher replacement costs over the long term. Regular servicing is required by both ranges and boilers but a wet range removes the need for separate boiler servicing.

To calculate the BTU requirement for a wet range, multiply the number of radiators you need by 5,000. So for 12 radiators you would need a 60,000 BTU boiler. With a range in the kitchen, you will not need a radiator there.

Another issue to consider with a range is whether it is best left on or is a 'quick start' design. All ranges can be left on all year but may overheat the kitchen during summer; many range owners have a traditional cooker and an immersion heater or boiler for domestic hot water for the summer. However, some ranges are designed to heat rapidly from cold; they can reach roasting temperature in 20-30 minutes.

The table below summarises the current options from range manufacturers.

Note that some gas ranges can use both natural gas and LPG. Solid fuel ranges vary too; some need good quality coal, whereas others can operate with wood, peat and even waste material.

Company
Functions
Fuel

 

DrySemi-WetWetSolidOilGasElectric

ABA

Y

 

Y

 

Y

 

 

AGA

Y

Y

 

y

Y

y

Y

Dunsley

Y

Y

 

 

y

 

 

ESSE

Y

Y

Y

y

Y

y

y

Everhot

Y

 

 

 

 

 

Y

Heritage

Y

Y

Y

 

Y

Y

 

Rayburn

Y

Y

Y

y

Y

y

 

Redfyre

Y

 

Y

 

y

y

 

Sandyford

Y

Y

Y

 

Y

Y

 

Stanley

Y

Y

Y

Y

y

Y

 

Vintage

Y

Y

Y

 

Y

Y

 

In recent years there has been a 'shake-out' in this market. Thus the AGA Foodservice Group owns AGA, Rayburn and Stanley. The other companies here are independent.

When comparing ranges, you also need to consider:

  • physical size
  • size and number of ovens
  • size and number of hot plates
  • flue requirements
  • fuel supply
  • foundations

Most ranges have two to four ovens; a two-oven range has one hot and one cool oven. Ovens typically match the largest conventional cooker ovens for size. Hot plates are usually large and two are sufficient for most cooks; ranges are used differently from an ordinary cooker. For example vegetables are brought to the boil on the hot plates and then transferred to the oven to complete their cooking.

An existing chimney may be needed; this usually has to be lined. Some ranges can use a balanced flue, passing through an adjacent outside wall. A few now use a catalytic technology and need no flue; these are very efficient and have another benefit of cleaning the air in the home.

Fuel choice will also be affected by the availability of natural gas and electricity, or storage requirements for LPG, oil or solid fuel. A few ranges can burn peat or wood. Most ranges require an electricity supply for the controller but a standard 13 amp supply is adequate. Where a range is heated using electricity, a 13 amp supply is often sufficient; a special cooker circuit is not required.

Finally, ranges are heavy and need adequate foundations; a suspended floor is rarely suitable.

It is essential to consult suppliers and installers before making your decision; a range is an important and long-term investment.