Two Quirks of Our Flat

I am informed one way to become a better writer is to write. Then write some more. And so on. This alarmed me, but not so much as it will alarm you when you discover what I have in store for you today.

Something which has been providing excitement chez Mike is our rather characterful heating system. The system is so old it was probably a little past it by the time I was born; it could charitably be described as temperamental. It provides two (theoretically) discrete services: “Heating” and “Hot Water”, controllable via a so-retro-it-would-hurt-if-it-were-not-actually-from-the-70s control device. In this context, “controllable” should be read as “often not controllable”.

Since moving into the flat two months ago, the system has needed attention no less than three times. I believe we are close to collecting all possible combinations of failure; so far we’ve been treated to “Heating Stuck On with No Hot Water For Anything Else”, “Bountiful Hot Water but No Heating” and “Nothing Whatsoever, I Hate You”. Thankfully, we are currently being treated to “Working Services, but with a Constant Irritating Pouring Water Noise”.

The boiler is actually embedded in a wall behind a gas fire. The gas fire looks dangerous, but I can no longer mock as it saved me from frostbite during the period with no heating. During one central heating debugging session we were called upon to provide a report on the boiler’s status. To do this, one must partly dismantle the fire before peering into the depths of the wall, squinting to detect a set of flames amid the darkness. Or see just darkness, because as it happened we were in the Nothing Whatsoever state during this escapade.

Inside the heating system— that is, the radiators and associated pipework rather than the water we use to clean the dishes —is a metallic slop which sticks to magnets, rather than the clean, sparkling water one might hope to find. This is the cause of at least some of our woes, because small shards contained within tend to destroy Important Valves as the slop merrily carouses around the system. Newer systems have chemicals present in the water to alleviate this risk; we are told if those chemicals were introduced to our system, they would produce a critical mass which would cause our radiators to melt.

Connected to this system is our shower, a second mysterious entity which veers wildly and unpredictably between a state of warm and powerful (roughly once per blue moon) and a more common state bearing more than a passing resemblance to a light dusting of rain. A favoured modus operandi is to teasingly begin with a jet of warming water, then slowly reduce the temperature until one is left shivering.

There are a couple of useful tips I can offer to anyone unfortunate enough to visit:

  • The knob is turned towards Cold for Hot Water, and Hot for Cold Water;
  • Sometimes it only produces cold water no matter which was you turn the control knob;
  • Turning the shower off for a minute or two often leads to brief periods of heat to the water when it is turned back on;
  • Sometimes this brief period of heat may be scalding;
  • Though occasionally turning the shower off for a minute or two leads to a state where it refuses to come back on;
  • We have found setting it all the way to cold more often than not improves the power when turned back up to hot;
  • Generally, the control knob provides mere millimeters between the settings for “freezing cold” and “scaldingly hot”;
  • Availability of hot water in the heating system provides little guide as to whether the shower will utilise such resource;
  • Beginning with low expectations is advisable.

Overall, both the heating and shower tend towards sub-optimal.

.:.