It’s winter, so you’ve got no hot water or heating again!

You can almost guarantee it, can’t you? As soon as the outside temperature drops below freezing, your central heating or hot water or both pack up. It’s just like cars used to be in the 1970’s – every winter you used to be bump-starting your car down the road or spraying WD40 inside your distributor cap. Now cars just work, but central heating system are still as bad as they were 40 years ago!

To add to our misery, if your boiler is over 10 or 15 years old you’ll find it hard to get a service contract. So then you’re left to the mercy of the independent plumber. These can vary from RNLI Lifesavers to absolute idiots. And because there seems to be a shortage of plumbers you’ll find that the only people available will be the really expensive guys or the absolute idiots.

I’ve had 3 plumbers round to my house recently, (supposedly recommended by my wife’s friends). All of them came up with different diagnosis (one guy wanted to rip out my whole central heating system and replace it). All of them were absolute idiots.

At this point, we’d been without heating and hot water for some time and my wife now looks to me to sort it out. What the hell do I know about heating and plumbing! I work in an office! In desperation I turn to the internet where I find umpteen number of similar individuals (mainly weary down-trodden husbands) seeking help and clutching at straws on various forums. They all seem to start the same way “PLEASE HELP……”. After hours of surfing I conclude that there are infinite numbers of systems on the market. They all have their common faults and there are a thousand and one solutions which may or may not work.

I decide to get smart about this. I download a pdf of the pipework schemas for my system, along with the wiring diagram (there is no guarantee that this will be right, because as I found out later, there are variations with every system). However it is a start. I study these and try to logically conclude what is going wrong with my system. Based on a process of elimination, a few Hail Marys, several glasses of red wine and a lucky rabbit’s foot, I conclude that the problem lies in a 3 port valve. Unfortunately it involves draining the system (since I don’t want to just replace the motor) and then wiring it up correctly (every YouTube video I watch warns me not to touch the wiring – but what choice do I have? They aren’t married to my wife!).

OK £70.00 later (the cost of the part from Wickes), a lot of swearing and sweating, praying to Allah and whoever else will listen to me. I now have hot water and heating. But I’m still miffed that I was left to sort this one out by myself. Where are all the good honest plumbers? We’re planning on replacing our windows and doors next year. I imagine my wife will expect me to be an expert in that too!

About the author: Robin Buxton