Installing cookers and hobs
By Jane Darling
Use our step-by-step guide to avoid the common pitfalls of installing a gas or electric cooker or hob and minimise the risk of an unsafely installed appliance.
According to a recent survey, 14% of Which? members who'd had a cooking appliance installed in the last five years incurred unexpected installation costs, and 6% had significant installation problems.
Read on for advice on what to consider when planning to install a new hob, oven or cooker.
If you're in need of a new cooker or hob but don't know where to start, use our cooking appliance reviews to find one to bring out the chef in you.
Step one: plan your purchase
Most of the electric ovens and hobs Which? tests these days are intended to be hardwired, so don't come with a plug. This means they'll require installation by an electrician - unfortunately, you can't simply add a plug to the cable of a cooker or hob that's meant to be hardwired.
Likewise, you shouldn't cut a plug off an appliance that comes with a plug and try to hardwire it. Before you purchase any new cooking appliance, check whether or not it comes with a plug.
This information is available on most retailer or manufacturer websites, although you'll generally need to delve into the detail to find it. You will also find this information in each Which? review.
If you're upgrading to a more powerful appliance, or switching from gas to electricity, your current domestic electrical setup may need updating.
For example, if your new oven or hob draws more current than your old one, then you may need a bigger cable. Installing one of these can be expensive and sometimes messy work, involving lifting up carpet and floorboards. It's worth doing your research before you buy.
Typically in the UK, households have a supply of 230V. If the appliance you purchase has a power of 3,000W (3kW) or less, then it can be plugged in with a 13A fuse.
If your appliance’s power exceeds 3,000W then hardwiring will probably be needed.
A gas appliance still needs electricity in order to supply the ignition, and any extras such as a clock, timer or light. The current it draws is much lower, so these are usually plugged in with a 13A fuse.
Step two: check your consumer unit
This is an important step if you're buying an electric cooker or hob. All your electric cables terminate at the consumer unit. Here, there are circuit breakers which will cause the electricity supply to cut out or ‘trip’ if the circuit is overloaded.
These circuit breakers should all have numbers on them, showing the amperage rating. For example 6A for lights, and 32A for sockets is common. Often they are labelled so you can see which each one relates to.
In the UK, electricity cables come in standard sizes: typically 1-1.5mm2 for lights, 2.5-4mm2 for sockets, and 6-10mm2 for cookers and showers. The larger the cable, the more electricity it can deliver.
If you see a circuit breaker with 40A printed on it, and a sticky label with the word ‘oven/cooker/hob,’ then it’s a good indication that you already have the capacity you need for a more powerful cooking appliance.
Step three: look into installation services
Changing the fuel your cooking appliances run on can be costly.
Cooking on gas is cheaper than electric. But if your kitchen is only set up for electric appliances, it's likely to cost several hundred pounds to reroute a gas line. While gas hobs can be effective, and have traditionally been a favourite of chefs, we find induction hobs generally out-perform them. Also, electric ovens spread heat more evenly than gas.
Switching from a gas oven, hob or cooker to electric may also require expensive work. You’ll need to have an electric line installed and the gas line capped. If you are considering switching fuels, get quotes from two or three companies.
If you're replacing like with like, John Lewis offers oven installation services costing £85 for electric ovens or £95 for gas ovens. Currys offers a similar service for £90 or £100, respectively. Most shops will also take away your old oven as part of the service.
The ECA (Electrical Contractors' Association) advises that electricians should be Part P registered in order to undertake certain electrical work in homes. This can include new circuits and new consumer units. If in doubt, consult a suitably skilled and registered electrical contractor.
Meanwhile if you're installing a gas hob or cooker, you will need to use a Gas Safe registered engineer. Many plumbers, who frequently deal with boilers, will be Gas Safe registered, but check the Gas Safe Register to be certain.
If you don't already know a trustworthy electrician or plumber, use Trusted Traders to track down a local tradesperson endorsed by Which?
Common appliance-installation problems
According to our survey, in the past five years around a third of Which? members have bought a new cooking appliance.
Problems experienced include:
- Needing an extra cable put into their consumer unit (where electrical cables within your home terminate).
- Needing a new socket installed.
- Receiving a cooking appliance with a plug when they were expecting it to be hardwired.