Family leaves the city for a rural home – and now pay £800 for heating

Chartered surveyor, Charles Saunders and his nutritionist wife, Jo, recently swapped their family home on the outskirts of London for one tucked away in Devon’s countryside. Like many similar properties, their secluded home is heated using oil and wood fires – both of which are surprisingly more expensive than the pair expected. But it’s not just the cost of heating that has racked up unplanned expenses for the family since their move.

Like many other families living in and around London’s suburbs after the pandemic, Charles and Jo Saunders decided to swap their life in Reading for a quieter existence in West England.

Along with their three children, Max (11 years old), Molly (seven years old) and Mary (five years old), the pair moved from Reading to a five-bedroom vicarage in Devon.

The secluded property is surrounded by a few acres of land on the edge of Exmoor, where the family keep a range of farm animals.

But despite the obvious expense of their new menagerie, the couple who are both in their early 40s have revealed that the most shocking expense of rural life can be found inside their home. Specifically, heating the large Victorian property.

Unlike most suburban homes, the detached house runs on oil which in the Saunders’ family’s case is an AGA cooker.

Jo said: “Our oil-fired Aga is on permanently to heat the house and it costs £800 to refuel every couple of months.”

According to the Telegraph, the ex-Reading residents also light the fire to warm them while they work from home, spending £120 on logs “every few weeks”.

While the cost is generally higher than standard gas heating, an expert at T.N.Cook Limited claimed they can be cheaper long term.

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They said: “The AGA’s gentle warmth in the spring and autumn (and some British summers) may mean reduced overall heating costs for the whole house – you’ll use your central heating less by heating the main living area with the ambient warmth from the AGA.”

But skyrocketing domestic heating oil prices in March 2022 quickly saw the relatively low-cost increase to an average 62p per litre.

This has risen to 71.99p per litre, according to data released on March, 6, 2023 by Homes Fuel Direct.

For the Saunders family, heating the old property with tall ceilings and no double glazing has proven to be even more expensive than they imagined as a result.

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The frosty winter weather has made the cost of refilling the AGA unavoidable for Charles and Jo, while also highlighting the age of their Exmoor home.

Jo explained that the windows also need to be repaired after they took a battering in the cold snap.

A damp-proof course in the flooded garage-turned-home office is also on the cards for the homeowners this spring.

However, making the necessary changes to the property isn’t easy, according to property experts.

When it comes to changing the single glazed windows to boost the old vicarage’s energy performance certificate (EPC), Mark Lawson of The Buying Solution warned of the customs in rural areas.

He explained that local conservation officers “don’t take kindly to these sorts of aesthetic changes”.

Despite the increased demand for authentic rural homes following the height of the pandemic, the cost of energy has seen a shift in people looking for more modern homes as a result.

According to Mark, the waning appeal of old, draughty period properties has been replaced with popular barn conversions with underfloor heating, wood burners and “good insulation”.

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