"Don’t you just love being in control?"

I don’t know who designed the heating system in our house, but they could do with attending a usability course or two.

We have a gas combi boiler, which has three controls. One is a master on/off switch, with two settings– “off” and “radiators” (according to the icons). The second is a thermostat, with no numerical legend, just another “radiator” icon. The third is a 24-hour timer with those annoying tiny pins you have to pop in and out, which also has its own three-setting on/off switch (on, off and timed).

On top of that, there’s a thermostat in the hall with temperature markings on it, and a lever beside the hot tank to switch between “radiators and water” and “water only”. Add to that the variable controls on the radiators themselves, and it certainly becomes quite a challenge to decide what to adjust when you’re feeling a bit chilly.

Anyway, right now we have it set to “water only”, and all the radiators are off, as it’s 25C+ outside most days at the moment. This morning, I went for a shower (which takes the water from the hot tank), and there was no hot water…. the combi boiler hadn’t come on in the early hours like it was supposed to. Went downstairs, checked the gas supply on the cooker… fine. Switched the timer switch from ‘timed’ to ‘on’, which should light the gas immediately… nothing. Tried switching the boiler off and back on again… nothing. Pressed the Reset button… nothing. The boiler doesn’t have a pilot light, so I knew that wasn’t the problem. And the front is screwed on, which suggested I shouldn’t really try poking around in it.

Was on the verge of calling a heating engineer when I decided that the only control I hadn’t played with was the thermostat in the hall, which was set to a reasonable enough 24C (if you disregard the fact that the radiators are turned off anyway). Turned it down… nothing. Turned it up, and… click, the boiler lit up. That’s right, in our house you can’t have hot water unless the radiator-controlling thermostat is set to something above room temperature, even when the radiators have been turned off for months. Marvellous.

6 thoughts on “"Don’t you just love being in control?"”

  1. It seems like the industrial designers that created your boilah never considered the fact that someone would like to shower with hot water under average climate. Damn those cold shower Nazis!

    (I honestly had a much, much better joke to crack, but then I got myself tied up drooling over the latest Evo/Cairo shots, and I forgot!!!!)

    Have a great day, Calum.

  2. I’m confused. I thought the whole point of a combi boiler was that you don’t need a hot tank, and it generates the heat on demand? That’s what mine does anyway (well it does for my bathroom/kitchen taps, my shower’s electric).

  3. Hmm, good point about the tank actually… I guess it’s not technically a combi then; certainly looks like one, but I’m no plumber or gas installation engineer. All I know is that I need to put it on for half an hour before I can have a bath 🙂

  4. Whats more concerning is that you’ve only noticed it now Calum. So it begs the question, “When did you LAST have a shower” 🙂

  5. I last had a shower a lot more recently than the last time it was warm enough in Ireland for the thermostat to think it was too warm indoors to bother turning the boiler on 🙂

  6. The technician who installed the heater probably wired your thermostat wrongly. Some heaters have an on/off circuit which which would have much the same effect as you described. That circuit meant for heaters that don’t need to heat the building most of the week but still need to pump the water around.

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