Sunday, 19 October 2014

Hot n' cold

You truly underestimate the importance of hot water until you don't have any.
Since we bought our apartment 8 years ago, we had problems with the boiler. OK, maybe not the first couple of years, but soon enough we realised there was an issue. 

First, we couldn't get very hot water in the shower. I mean, it was hot but even if we raised the temperature on the tap it stayed the same and eventually became cooler. It was fine for a while as I don't take 20 minutes showers, but as time went by, I had to  really restrict my time under the shower.
It gradually got worse over the years. The water was hot for about 20 seconds and became stone cold for another 30, then was slowly getting warm again. I had to devise a complicated technique to take a shower: 

Step 1: Turn the tap on while standing outside the cabin. Wait for the water to be warm
Step 2: Step in and rinse myself as fast as possible.
Step 3: As the water gets cold, place the shower head strategically facing the wall so I don't get completely frozen. Wash my body and hair
Step 4: As the water gets warmer rinse my hair as quick as I can before the water turn stone cold again.
Step 5: Move the shower head again because I didn't rinse fast enough
Step 6: Finish rinsing and get out before I end up like an ice cube.

For me who has always been told to conserve water from a young age this was clearly a waste (Water charges are a rip-off in France and the price depends on where you live. In some towns you can pay as much as 6 or 7 Euros for a thousand litres!)

At least 5 plumbers came and try to fix the boiler. None of them knew what was wrong. Some of them tried to fix it without success (but took our money anyway). We were getting desperate. At some point, we barely had hot water and the pressure was so low it took 45 minutes to fill half a bath for the kids in the evening. For many weeks, while every plumber in the country was trying to figure out the fault, I had to boil water in the  kettle to give them their bath.

One guy thought it was the heat exchanger and replaced it, which fixed the problem temporarily, but somehow after a few months, it was back to the hot n' cold routine again. No one could figure out the fault, but all the plumbers agree this was the worst boiler that could have been installed in the apartment. It wasn't suited for that kind of building. 

But you see, it was already there when we moved in. We bought the apartment half-finished. Yes, another typical Irish oddity. The kitchen was fully furnished with appliances, there were built-in wardrobes in the master bedroom but we had to do all the flooring  by ourselves.

A couple of years ago, around Christmas time, the boiler started acting up again. We couldn't get hot water without having the heat on. Then the radiator in the living room broke. Then, the radiator in our bedroom broke. All that in the space of a month. Thankfully we found a good plumber this time, who discovered the root of all our problems: LIMESCALE. 

He advised we would have to change the boiler eventually after giving me a very detailed explanation of why the whole thing wasn't working, but I'm not going to bore you with that, mainly because, well, I didn't understand a thing. I just wanted HOT WATER. 

He cleaned the pipes, replaced the radiators, and yippee! The hot water and the pressure were back. But he warned us it would last no more than year, that we would be better off installing a water softener and change the boiler in the long term.

We saved a bit to install the water softener the following Christmas, and last week, we became the proud owners of a super-efficient new boiler. I have never been so happy in my entire life (OK, maybe except the day I got married and I had my children).

But trust me, I never took so much pleasure in doing the dishes that day. The temperature stayed the same all the time, I didn't have to frantically turn the tap in the hope of having warm water. Not boiling, not cold, not hot and cold at the same time. No. It was just the perfect temperature. 

And then I took a shower. Pure HEAVEN.