Sunday, April 20, 2008

Piping Hot

Back in the Sixties, I suspect that whoever installed the plumbing in my house, did so on a Friday afternoon about 4:30pm. I say this because it has always looked like something that was botched together in a rush just before he buggered off for the weekend. And then never came back on the Monday.

I'd like to see the guy who brilliantly developed the map of the London Underground have a go at my pipes. That'd keep him busy for a few months.

Admittedly it has all hung together and worked fairly well for the best part of half a century - a bit like my own pipework ! Yes it's a bit furred and clogged up in places and some bits don't look like the original so I think it's been cobbled together at some point in time. Again like my own pipework !

It's a constant source of wonder to me that every winter when I fire up the pilot light on the central heating boiler, itself a unit that was thrown out of the ark as being past it's prime, it bursts into life and sends tepid water around the aging pipes and manages to take the chill off the house.

Of course it doesn't do this without an assortment of gurgles and creaking noises which used to terrify me but now give me the sort of comfort that would be lost if and when I have to get a new boiler. Over the last 26 years, we've learned to live with each others shortcomings.

It's an uneasy relationship at best.

I also have Economy 7 to heat my water. Economy what now ? Economy 7 is a wonderful system which turns on the water heater at about 1am so it can make use of a cheaper rate of electricity. As the name suggests, it does this for 7 hours and then switches off. Marvelous. Of course it has a thermostat so when the water in the tank is bubbling away nicely, it turns off and doesn't use the rest of the allotted 7 hours. Marvelous.

I've often wondered why we all don't make more use of this cheaper rate of electricity....or "off peak" as it's known in the business. We should plug loads of timer switches into our power points around the house and do things while we sleep. What about washing and/or drying a load of clothes ? How about running the dishwasher ? The list goes on.

Hoover the living room carpet and annoy the neighbours at the same time. Record the quality tv that's on between 1am and 8am..........imagine 7 hours of QVC or infomercials. Brilliant.

I think we're all missing out on saving a fortune. I should tell that Martin Lewis fella about it.

But back to my pipes. At 4:50am this morning I woke to a very disturbing sound. Last time I'll have beans on toast before bedtime. But there was an even more disturbing sound coming from the loft - the sound of running water and lots of it.

I leapt out of bed faster than a priest in a convent and stood under the loft panel hoping that I was mistaken about both the sound and its location. I wasn't. With my dressing gown flapping around my legs, I got the stepladder, grabbed my torch and headed up into the darkness above.
I paused on the top step and shone the torch towards the far wall that separates my loft from the one next door. Next to the wall was the large water tank that I'd always thought contained cold water used to refill the hot water tank down below in the back bedroom airing cupboard. This is the hot water tank that gets heated by the Economy 7 and gives me lots of lovely hot water that lasts all day.

The pipe that topped up this large loft tank was vibrating with the force of the water pumping through it and that, along with the noise of the water pouring into the tank, was what had woken me up and was now scaring the living bejesus out of me at 4:50am. It's not supposed to do that.

Even more alarming, it was hot water that was pouring into the loft tank ! Where was THAT coming from ?? Given the low temperature up in the loft at 4am and the heat of the water pouring into the tank, there was a cloud of steam hovering like a post apocalyptic mushroom cloud over the tank and this didn't help reduce my stress levels.

As my knowledge of all things plumbing consists mainly of paying the occasional repair bill that equates to the GNP of a small African country, I only THINK that the loft tank is supposed to be the feeder tank for the hot water tank and is just not supposed to be getting hot water poured into it. What was going on ??? Did this sort of thing happen every morning at 4:50am and I'd just never noticed it before. Not once in 26 years ? I don't think so.

As I stood there on the top step of the ladder thinking what to do, the water flow slowed down and after a few more minutes it stopped completely and with a final plop, the loft returned to an eerie silence and I also realised that, ironically, my mouth was as dry as a camel driver's jock they say around the wadi in Cleethorpes. The immediate panic was over but an uneasy sense of future doom had replaced it.

I came down and checked the hot water tank and it was only hot right at the top - it was as if the contents, which by 4:50am would've been a whole tankful of hot water, had somehow gone into a sort of plumbing stargate and ended up pouring back into the loft tank from where it's journey began many hours or days earlier. All very bizarre and not the sort of thing I wanted to think about in my half asleep and half dressed state.

I went downstairs to gain some comfort from the normal world - I went on t'internet. When I can't sleep or don't feel well in the morning hours, I invariably turn to the web to take my mind off whatever ails me. After a while I decided to watch a couple of episodes of the excellent Eli Stone and by then it was 6:30am and I was ready for bed. I went up and checked the hot water tank and it was hot all the way to the bottom and the thermostat had kicked in. All was quiet in the loft and so I climbed into bed and thankfully fell fast asleep within minutes.

So what had gone on and had it been normal or abnormal ? Will it happen again tomorrow morning or was it a one off freak occurrence ? Well I've no idea. I obviously hope so as I'd much rather be asleep at 4:50am than standing on a stepladder with my head up in the loft.

I'll let you know what happens. Watch this (loft) space.

1 comment:

Jennyta said...

Ghost, Ian, ghosties and ghoulies. Be afraid, be very afraid.....BOOOO!!!!!!

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