Monday, April 25, 2011

In Hot Water

This week we are getting a new (to us) electric hot water heater that will hang on the wall in our bathroom. It all started during that fateful dinner with the neighbors last week…

Leif had been asking Alfonso if there is something we can do about our hot water heater. (I now know that it is called a caldia) The gas heater in the kitchen cupboard has two thermostats…one for the hot water taps and another for the radiators. I know this because they are labeled with pictures. That college education continues to pay off...As you might know the weather here is warm. So we had turned that thermostat as low as it would go.

We noticed a change in our hot water availability immediately. Like, we couldn’t take a whole shower with hot water or finish a sink of dishes. After some discussion we decided that we should maybe try a few things out, whether they seemed to make sense or not. Turning up the hot water tap thermostat didn’t do anything at all for the water temperature, even though the dial showed the water to be super hot. So, and here comes the nonsensical part of our scientific experiment, we tried turning up the thermostat on the radiators.

And there was hot water. Hmmmph, like I said, makes no sense. But if this means hot showers then so be it. The next day I couldn’t figure out why it was so warm in the apartment. Ooooh yeah, we turned the heat up. So I went around and closed the valves on all the radiators that work. That took care of the radiator problem anyway.

And we thought our problem was mostly solved, till we agreed that the water heater (which makes a dramatic “thwump” sound when the burners ignite) was running way too much. Aah, we thought. The radiators are turned off, but there’s all that piping going to each one through cold floors. The system is still probably trying to send water through to those radiators.

Our next solution, and apparently the one the former tenants used (according to Alfonso) is to turn the heat up about 10 minutes before we need the water, and try to remember to turn it down again when we are finished. Not a perfect solution, I know, but I have lived in a lot of older homes. There are always adjustments to be made. For all  you amateur plumbers and DIY's out there, please...for the love of God, don't tell me I'm wrong. I'm the one living through showers that alternate between cold and scalding. Whether you believe it or not, this is what is happening. Just accept it and read on.

Which brings us to dinner and the new (used) heater. Alfonso and Anna said that we should talk to the landlord (Anna’s sister, by the way) about an electric water heater in the bathroom, like was originally in the apartment. Well, they said we should just tell them to change it, Leif I am sure phrased it as more of a request. Whatever he did worked because Luigi showed up late last week to look at the plumbing and electric in our bathroom. He said that the vacant apartment next to us has one of these heaters and it will be no problem to just bring it over here and hook it up. I laughed hollowly, but in English so he didn’t understand. It is never, ever that easy.

He and Alfonso (Leif is gone working and apparently no matter how hard my dad might work me, here women do NOT do this kind of work) will lift the heater down and carry it from next door to our bathroom. A little plumbers putty, plug it in and we are ready to go. At least that’s what I think he said. I’m pretty sure that no matter what system we end up with, it will require some manual adjustments on our part. Or it will work beautifully but turn the batrhroom into a sauna.

It’s just the way it is here in Italy. Things work, mostly. I am pretty sure that all our outlets work, for instance, but I know for a fact that when you want to unplug something you need hold the plate against the wall with one hand and pull the plug with the other or you pull the wires out of the wall. As you already know, the toilet flushes, but you have to jiggle the button or it will just keep running water into the bowl. The doors to the terrace will only latch if you put your foot against the bottom of the door as you turn the handle. The keys for the front door only work if you slam the door hard or use all your weight to pull it towards you as you turn the key. The doors on the wardrobe have to be closed simultaneously or they don’t actually close together. We have a ceiling fan in the kitchen, but can’t run it at the same time as the lights or the whole apartment electric blows (this is a rumor, never tested. I don’t think I want to try though,) Naturally we have the requisite mystery switch. And a bedroom without a single electrical outlet, but a mighty fine chandelier with most of it’s crystal doodads intact.

See what I mean? Nothing drastic, just a few little things to remember and life rolls along smoothly. Wish us luck, I think we're gonna need it.

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