Blog : Posts tagged with 'heating'

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Heat

In which we’re cast back to the olden days


You probably thought, like me, that the days of people bathing in a tin bath by the fire, jugs of water heated on the kitchen range, were a thing of the past. To be honest, they probably are. It doesn’t feel like that sometimes, though.

About a month or so ago, I went to do the washing up. Ran the hot tap, waited a few minutes, then felt to see if it had warmed up. Nope. Stone cold.

I waited a bit longer. Still stone cold. Ah. The gas boiler had a flashing light on the front, where no light had flashed before, and its burners were unlit. A swift internet search led me to the boiler manual, and the meaning of said flashing light. “General fault – call our service line”. Oh dear.

Now, the boiler belongs to our landlord, who has it insured, so we don’t, at least, have to pay emergency plumbing rates, call-out fees and so on. This, as you’ll see, is a Good Thing. However, it’s the only source of heating in the house. With no electric shower, it’s the only source of showers, baths, and hot water generally aside from the kitchen kettle. Back to the days of the old tin bath, then.

The landlord called British Gas, and British Gas came to visit. And the boiler was fixed – or, at least, it was working again. But the engineer freely admitted that he had no real idea how exactly he’d cured it. He’d serviced it, given it a bit of a clean-out inside, and it had sprung back into life again. And everything was fine and warm and cosy. For two weeks.

A couple of weeks later, I suddenly realised the heating wasn’t on when it should have been. We checked the boiler, and yes, the fault lamp was there merrily flashing away again. Oops. Come back please, boiler repairman. A different engineer comes back, and proclaims that, for sure, there is nothing at all he can find that’s wrong with the boiler. It might be low pressure in the heating circuit, maybe. We check around, but can’t find any leaks anywhere. There might, he says, be a slow leak somewhere in the dark under the floorboards. If we find where it is, then British Gas will fix it for us; but they won’t go hunting for it. The boiler is working again, though, although again we’re not entirely sure why.

Roll forward to the other day, and I go to do the washing up again. Guess what? No hot water. Broken boiler. Call Landlord. Wait for British Gas. We’re getting rather used to this now.

This time, the first engineer comes back. He does the same thing as before, and gets it going again, without really knowing why it has any effect. This time it keeps working for a few hours, and then, again, stops. So now we’re left with a weekend without hot water. Boiling water from the kettle for a shower* or a shave is really getting annoying, now.

He’s coming back today, with a bevy of spare parts. Just about every spare part available, in fact, in the hope that it’s something replaceable that’s causing the problem. I’m really glad we’re not paying by the visit, given the number of unsuccessful visits we’ve had so far. But, never mind the fact that we don’t have to pay for it, we’re definitely fed up of this now.

* although it would be better described as “a pour”

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Brokenness

In which things go wrong in hard-to-diagnose ways


We go away for the weekend. We come back. And the house is cold. Turn on the hot water tap: freezing. The boiler has given up the ghost.

I turn on the PC this morning: and that refuses to come on, too. Which, to be honest, is a recurrence of a problem I was already aware of. Sometimes, on start up, it gets partway and loses contact with the disk drive. Or, sometimes, if you ask it to do too much disk-thrashing just after booting, the same thing happens. On the other hand, if it starts up all its services and is fine for 15 minutes, it will probably stay fine until it’s switched off.

All that points to something like a loose contact somewhere, if you ask me. As I say, it’s been happening for months now; but today I was in the mood to sort it. The computer now has a new hard disk cable. It booted up first time, and it’s still running. Let’s see if it still works in the morning.

The boiler might be suffering from something similar. The gas engineer came out, poked around at it, and fixed it. The chap wasn’t sure what the problem was, or how he fixed it, but fix it he did. Maybe. It’s working now, but we still have to see if that, too, will come on again come tomorrow.

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Notes on Riga (part 2)

In which we’re warm on holiday


“Ooh, how are you going to cope with the weather,” everyone said, when I told them I was going to Riga. “You’d better get some warm clothes.”

So I went out, shopping. I bought an all-enveloping thick wooly jumper (in the sale, Burtons in Middlesbrough) and a rather nice brown wool coat (in the sale, Debenhams at the Metro Centre), and, well, that was it. “That’s no good,” said The Mother. “You should have been going to sports shops. You should have got some skiing clothes, lots of layers, something waterproof, make sure you’re properly insulated.”

“Have you packed any sunglasses?” said Dad. “You’ll need sunglasses if you’re going somewhere like that in winter, otherwise you’ll get snow-blindness.”

“That’s a nice coat,” said someone at work. And then she laughed. “You’re going to freeze if you’re wearing that to Riga.”

Take a moment to spot the common theme here. Lots and lots of advice, on what to wear, from people who have never ever been east of Margate.* We do have a Resident Pole in the office, though, who has travelled up that way, and she thought I’d be fine. “I always think it feels colder here,” she said, “than on the Baltic. It’s something about the dampness here.”

And, it turns out, she was almost right. It was certainly damp and grey in Riga, with overcast skies most days, and sometimes a fine misty rain; but it didn’t feel any colder than Britain in winter. No frost, no snow. Chunks of ice floating on the river and the City Canal, but otherwise just like home. If I’d taken skiing clothes, I’d have melted.** As for needing sunglasses – the thought still makes K giggle.

* Well, The Mother went to the Dalmatian coast in 1972, but that doesn’t exactly count.

** One thing we found: every building in Riga, every shop, museum and restaurant, keeps the heating turned up on full blast. On the other hand, when you come inside wrapped up for winter, you’re expected to take your clothes off. All the museums we visited had free cloakrooms at the door, and restaurants and cafes all have communal coat-racks that everyone happily uses.

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Devotion

In which The Parents are keeping track of all the numbers


The Parents have always been fans of gadgetry. Moreover, whenever they get a new gadget, they become strangely devoted to it. I can still remember, when I was small, and The Parents bought a dehumidifier. My mother set it up in the middle of the kitchen with its back off, sat down in front of it on the uncomfortable kitchen stool, and watched it operate: watched the ice slowly and imperceptibly build up on its freezing tubes, before melting off again into the collection bucket.

My dad’s always been worse, if anything, so I knew what would happen as soon as his latest toy was fitted. A solar water heating system, complete with dials and gauges and sensors and settings to tweak. As soon as someone gets in the shower, Dad is in the airing cupboard watching all the sensors slowly change, checking that the solar pump starts up at the right point,* watching the water tank temperature, the solar collector temperature, the glycol flow rate, the system pressure, monitoring all the dials he possibly can. And, as soon as you get out of the shower: “Was it hot enough? The tank temperature was down to fifteen degrees – the pump activity reached 90% because the collector was still up around thirty”.

He loves it; he loves tracking all the various numbers. But, as a wise person once said: just because something is measurable, or tweakable, doesn’t mean it’s worth measuring or tweaking.** Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if, the next time I see him, he’s started drawing graphs.

* Yes, we have an energy-efficient environmentally friendly solar water-heating system now: so why does it need an electric pump, powered by our local gas-fired power station no doubt, to run it?

** I have no idea who first said that, but I’m sure I first read it in Essential System Administration.

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