Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Brrr, cold outside, new boiler and hot water adventure

Well since it's cold and frosty and horrible outside, I thought a bit of warming cheer would be to pass on news of the new central heating boiler in our French Gite!

When we first bought the Gite 6 years ago we were impressed by the strength of the water pressure we had, both hot and cold were great which was partly due to the oil fired flash boiler that heated both the central heating and the hot water. So hot water was instant and on tap whenever we needed it, and it also came out of the shower at mains cold water pressure - i.e. pretty decent pressure!

Unfortunately over the years for reasons I couldn't work out the pressure had been slowly eroding, not down to dribble levels but even with my failing memory I certainly thought that the shower pressure was "not what it used to be".

A few years ago I'd noticed that pressure relief valve down the back of the boiler was weeping and water kept on dripping out and running down the overflow so after much cursing and grunting I'd replaced that. But more recently I'd noticed the valve was weeping again, and I could either turn the the inlet valve tap so the overflow valve didn't weep but there was little hot water pressure, or I could turn it up to the point that we had reasonable hot water pressure but then the valve weeped and dripped away all the time.

So time for a plumber.

At the supermarket in our nearby town like many French supermarkets there is a noticeboard for local adverts, "man with a van", unwanted 1970's furniture, home wanted for cats and dogs, etc, and in amongst the leaflets was some business cards for Geoffrey Dean, a local plumber.

Geoffrey came round, agreed that I had a problem, and said that it was probably caused by all the different sized pipes that were behind the boiler and were probably causing a reduction in pressure. He could replace them with more consistent pipework, but more of concern was the actual boiler installation itself.
The boiler is in an outside room that butts onto the downstairs toilet/shower room, but the flue for the boiler went up through a flexible thin metal corrugated pipe, into the roof, then diverts via gaps in the wall through a boxed corridor section, and ends up coming out near the top of the chimney in the main house. Whilst this may have been an easy way to install the flue it wasn't really either the right material or the correct routing to ensure adequate ventilation. The pipe should have terminated above the roof line so that it drew any fumes out and away, and it had rainwater dripping down inside it causing corrosion at the bottom.

Eventually after discussing of options and Geoffrey looking at alternatives on the internet, we concluded the best thing was to install a whole new boiler. I'd get a whole new modern balanced flue boiler that would vent through to the outside wall, all the pipework at the back of the boiler would be replaced, and in terms of cost wise it wasn't orders of magnitude more different than just sorting out the pipework.

Nice new boiler in our Brittany Gite - lots of hot water and central heating now

Installation took a bit longer than originally hoped or intended for, Brittany had a dose of very wintry weather to contend with, Geoffrey's been off ill with flu for 2 weeks, it took a couple of hours just to drill the flue hole in the outside wall with the diamond cutting drill, but in the end the job was done.

The new boiler is much smaller than the old one even though it's slightly higher heat output, and as Geoffrey's installed it to one side of the boiler room this has given us much more storage space for spare kids wellies and the single and double pushchairs we leave for guests with little children. There's now lashings of hot water all the time, although of course the first time I went over I forgot to switch the boiler on when I arrived so couldn't work out why the hot water was only trickling out; but once I got over that I took a lovely hot bath to celebrate!

Plenty of storage space in the boiler room now

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