Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Last fling for gas

I've been home for several days, and feel pretty tired. I've had a lot to do, preparing for the installation of a new gas boiler. It's done now; but the job involved extra work not anticipated, and an ongoing electrical issue that may prove costly to sort out. 

I do still have sufficient money in hand to cover any likely extra expense. I can fund this. But I fear that my dream of paying outright, in my own cash, for an all-electric car in 2026 or 2027 is now in tatters. In the last seven months I have spent thousands of pounds on the car, the caravan, my photography, and now the house. 

I'm not actually complaining. Things do wear out, and accidents occasionally happen. I live an agreeable and comfortable life, and I naturally want it to continue: therefore the costs of repair and replacement have to be cheerfully borne. Creeping old age adds real force to this. It's clearly sensible that I spend money on whatever most matters to me, while I remain in a fit state to enjoy it, and not merely hoard money for a rainy day. If I can also save with a definite goal in mind - such as that new car - then so much the better. But I can't neglect the basics, such as my home. 

That's why I'm philosophical about blowing over a year's savings in such a short time. It's all gone on worthwhile things that I hardly need to justify. The exception is my photography, but even that supports and enhances my day-to-day life, and the results form an interesting archive of lasting reference and cultural value.

So what went awry with the new boiler installation? There was one little thing of no real consequence, and two big things which have added (or will add) to the time taken and the cost. 

The little thing was having to put in a pipe with a directional nozzle to raise and deflect the new boiler exhaust gasses away from my neighbour's side window. There was - visually - enough of a gap between the houses. But measurement revealed that I was in fact 10cm too close for merely venting those exhaust gasses sideways through my brick wall, and letting them disperse randomly. Indeed, my neighbour already had a deflector. Now we both have.

The first big thing was discovering that I had a gas leak underneath the house. The original iron pipe, of 1964 vintage, and set in concrete, was the culprit. It must have rusted through. The solution was to run a new gas supply pipe from my garage (where dwelleth the smart meter) upwards, then through, the adjacent side brickwork of my house, then across the floor of my attic (which is only very partially boarded) and out through the opposite brickwork on the other side of the house; then externally down to the boiler and the gas cooker, reaching them both through the brickwork at that level. So a fair bit of precision drilling, and quite a bit of pipe jointing and welding. 

The second big thing, discovered accidentally when putting in a new water pump and thermostatic valve, was that an old unused metal conduit in my airing cupboard was electrically live and dangerous. A wire somewhere within must be touching the inside of the conduit, arguing that the original 1964-vintage wiring in my home must have badly deteriorated in places. The electrician called out to look at it found that one of the ring circuits was defective. He immediately cut off the power on that particular circuit, pending repair. He also said that my consumer unit urgently needed upgrading, as it didn't give RCD protection for all the wiring runs in the house. Yikes! I could have been sizzled! So I'm now looking at least partial rewiring (it must be nearly sixty years old, most of it; the 2005 conservatory being the exception) and a new consumer unit. More expense! But electrical safety is paramount.

I console myself by thinking that no improvement to one's home is money badly spent, especially where dodgy electrical circuits are concerned.

The faulty (and presently disconnected) ring circuit powered my TV, freeview box and DVD player. No using those then for the time being! But that's no loss. I can still stream TV to my phone or laptop via 4G mobile internet, if really compelled to watch.

But I can still use my cooker, fridge,  freezer and shower unit normally, plus of course the new boiler. And if I rig up an extension cable, my washing machine. I can also power the caravan outside. For the rest - a couple of table lights and sockets to recharge various gadgets - a couple of ordinary extension leads are now in place. 

To the end, my old boiler was firing up in a lively manner, but only because work had been done before last winter to fix a pilot light that had a tendency to go out. It was a Potterton boiler from the 1990s, mostly reliable but ageing and potentially troublesome, perhaps terminally so in the coming winter. In fact the last service had revealed signs of water leakage on the casing. Not good.

Meanwhile it worked, but was also pretty inefficient at turning gas into heat. So it was wasting money, and hastening climate change.

It was time to install something much better. So now I have a modern Glowworm, still the same type of boiler, but using up-to-date tech. Not only is it almost silent when firing, it heats water faster and hotter. And yet I anticipate using less gas, which will save me money and help the planet a bit. I agree that it's not the very best device for heating I could have installed, but I had too many financial constraints for fancy heat pumps, solar panels, and so forth.

I've a feeling that at current gas prices my boiler upgrade will pay for itself in half a dozen years. So it's an investment of a sort. The first bit of real TLC my house has had for a long time. 


  1. O crumbs, Lucy, that gas leak sounds serious, and the live conduit no less so. Our houses do need regular renewals and upgrades, otherwise everything's liable to pile in at once.

    That new consumer unit will be money well spent and you'll be a lot safer. Did you opt for a combi-boiler or retain the header tank in your loft?

    When we moved into our present house the wiring was truly diabolical - inadequate too, with only one socket in the kitchen. Thankfully it's all sorted now. Angie xx

  2. I didn't want a combi-boiler. So I still have an insulated tank of hot water for washing. It's in the airing cupboard. So really no change from how things were, except for extra boiler efficiency and hopefully lower gas bills.


  3. The corroded or fractured iron gas supply pipe is now disconnected and bypassed. So that source of danger has gone.



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