Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Wednesday, April 23

The boiler.

Ah, yes, the beast!

We got to some warmer weather, so I turned the central heating off. The next morning, we had no hot water in the cylinder either. I went down to the basement and found the pilot light on the boiler had gone out, and it wouldn't re-light. It look me two days to organise my life enough to call in a repair man. This boiler is about 15 years old, rusty, obsolete, no spares available. However, he got it going, just as a pilot light, but then hung a red sign on it saying that it was "At Risk" owing to potential leaks of water and gas, and that it would be an offence (i.e. breaking the law) to turn it on.

I committed an offence.

But feeling vaguely guilty, not least because when my son is back from university that basement room is his bedroom, and I didn't really want to gas him, I decided that we do actually need a new boiler.

So it took me more days to organise for people to come and give me quotes for a new boiler, with appointments spread over two weeks. Now ours is a big house, with 25 radiators over four floors, and two bathrooms. Rules have changed and technology has changed since our original one was installed. So of course the estimators all came up with completely different ideas, ranging from:

A: "You need a non-vented cylinder in the basement and a 42KW boiler (£4500)"


B: "You can't have a non-vented cylinder because your main supply is not big enough. You need a 42KW machine in the loft, with a new vented cylinder and a larger cold water tank (£6600)"

And various in between suggestions. In the end I asked B if he could do the same job but with a less branded machine, and he offered me a 35KW one of a cheaper brand, dropping his estimate to £5250.

After more delays checking with competitors, we went with B's revised offer.

Meanwhile, having had a largely empty house for months, we had delayed things so much that our three boys had come home from university and wanted quiet in their bedrooms so that they could sleep till noon and then study all pm. No such luck! We have had major disruption in the house for two weeks, with the men turning up to work at 8:15am each day.

Of course on the first day the guy that did the estimate arrived with his boss, who promptly said the scheme would not work: the push-fit radiator pipes in the basement would not stand the pressure form a boiler in the loft. He agreed to give me a top-brand 42KW machine in the basement for the same price. So they lost a day going to get the new boiler, but I have ended up with a better product.

So the last few days, while they have been testing the machine, the house has been much hotter (25 degrees C)than I feel comfortable (17 degrees C), but I can turn it off again now that they have left.

I am now much poorer. Since I no longer have a credit card I have had to use the money stored in my company for the corporation tax bill, so I have managed to pay for the boiler, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the tax man comes for his money. Hopefully the new boiler will be so magically efficient that it will pay for itself in that time, but I doubt it.

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