February is always the least exciting month in our year. If it’s going to be cold, or wet, or both, at some point in the year it is usually in February. As if to prove the point, this week has been too cold for cycling, which means I’ve been stomping around the house looking grumpy, while Mrs B has been gazing miserably at the garden from the window and wishing digging and weeding were possible. Well, each to our own.
The main excitement we have in February – and it’s the same every year – is the lengthy debate we have with our central heating engineers. Mostly this ‘debate’ consists of them telling me I have a super modern efficient heating system, and me getting irate and saying that ‘it’s a shame we can’t control the temperature then, if it’s such a great system’.
But at last I think we have made a breakthrough and I have understood what the problem is that’s been getting us all hot and cold for all these years…but to be honest, I’ve thought that every year since we finished our barn renovation. Read below and feel free to tell me if the heating ‘experts’ are being serious or just trying to stop me hassling them…
Apparently the way our central heating works (and a lot of other peoples, in France at least) is to monitor the temperature outside, and then to provide the right amount of hot water to the radiators to keep us warm enough inside. This implausible approach to heating works because a separate setting called the ‘pente’ (the ‘slope’) is made for the exact type of building being heated, and the level of insulation it has – and because any given building will lose heat at a constant rate.
Sounds unlikely, but not impossible.
There is a temperature control in the house but all it controls is the maximum temperature before the boiler gets shut down. We can’t set different nighttime temperatures – they are controlled by the ‘slope’, which circulates cooler water during the night rather than circulating equally hot water to reach the lower temperature. More economical apparently, and in truth our heating bills aren’t too high.
The reason the problem has taken so long to resolve is that we live in a barn, and the original installer never took the trouble to work out what our “slope” and settings should be, and never bothered to explain how it all worked. To further confuse the matter we use a wood burning stove for a lot of our heating. Hence our temperature has been leaping up and down in what has seemd to be a completely unpredictable fashion.
Meanwhile I have been spending hours and hours every winter prodding at the central heating control in the house trying to warm things up, cool them down, or at least liking to think I was making a difference, while all I was really doing is confusing the whole sytem and frequently tripping the boiler fuse, while being completely unaware of how to actually adjust the system.
Initial signs are promising, and we seem to have had a perfectly controlled temperature for the last couple of days. But just to be sure it’s not a coincidence, if anyone knows anything at all about central heating in France I’d love a second opinion about whether this story is plausible or not…