Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Close Call

We had a brief scare on Saturday morning. The house's heating plant went on the blink. Even though we have a wood stove in the living room that provides plenty of heat in there on winter evenings, the other rooms in the house depend on the chaudière (boiler) to heat up the water that goes to the radiators.

The thing in the cellar.

We're not really sure how old the chaudière is. The woman who sold us the house thought it might have been around ten years old. That was almost six years ago. It's a German model; a machine only an engineer could love. It takes a bit of effort to figure out how it works. There's a small instruction sheet in German, French, English, and a few other European languages, but it's a bit sketchy on the details.

Red pipes = hot water out to radiators.
Blue pipes = cool water in from radiators.
And pumps and valves and pressure gauges.

There are several automated settings and other controls that require an advanced degree in mathematics to figure out. Something about heating curves and climate zones and the ratio of indoor temperature to outdoor temperature. There is no thermostat in the house, but there is a temperature probe outside. Apparently the heater decides how warm to make the radiators inside based on the temperature outside.

The control panel. Warp speed, Mr. Sulu!

All the other controls help you to help the heater make this determination. You'd think that all of this could be avoided with a simple indoor thermostat. But no.

Part of the instruction booklet, in English.

After our first winter, we called a company to come and check the thing out, give it a good cleaning, and sweep the chimney. They sold us an annual maintenance contract that includes a total cleaning and servicing once a year in June, and free emergency service should anything go wrong. We called them on Saturday.

The reset button, lit up (lower left), of our Deltablock Unit (D-U).

The boiler kept shutting itself down. A little reset button would light up, I'd press it, and after a few seconds the boiler would fire up, then proceed to shut itself down again. This was not good.

The Heating Curves cheat sheet.
I need a cheat sheet to decipher the cheat sheet.

The service technician showed up within an hour of our call and took a look inside the chaudière. He figured that some crud (une saleté) had worked itself into the fuel line (did I mention that this is an oil burner?) and was mucking things up. The built-in safety feature (of course) knew something was wrong and shut everything down. The tech guy took the fuel lines apart, cleaned them out, and reassembled them all in about fifteen minutes.

And now everything is working fine again! Mr. Fix-it was incredibly polite and efficient, was all smiles, and was really patient with me and my funny accent. When I thanked him, he replied, "On est là pour ça." That's what we're here for. I'm really liking the service contract right now.


  1. Mr fix-it I am not. That's what Andrew is for ;p

  2. Crudness of the seasons almost got you, eh? (and you thought that crudités diverses were good for you;)

    Glad to know it's up an running, now!


  3. our oil burning furnace did the same thing last month.....we weren't so lucky.....turned out the underground 550 gal. tank had taken on water (not good) so we ended up having to put a whole new (above ground this time) tank in....and get new lines run..(not cheap then....we should have waited for oil prices to come down....but we always end up needing oil when it's at its peak!)

  4. About three weeks after we moved into our first house, our air conditioner went out. It was the middle of May, we had a three year-old, and my wife was a few months along with our daughter. We had the service contract, but the service provider told us it would be a couple of days before anyone came out. With the 100+ degree heat, I found that to be unacceptable. After a slightly heated exchange, the service provider finally agreed to send someone out. The man who came was very polite. He bent down behind the outdoor unit, oushed the reset button, and everything worked perfectly from that point forward.

  5. "...the heater decides how warm to make the radiators inside based on the temperature outside"

    That contraption has a bit of Hal in him, doesn't it? (What's "Hal" in German?)

  6. evol, I'm not much of a Mr. Fix-it either. That's what service contracts are for!

    judith, we've encountered another problem, less cruddy: the timer doesn't seem to be doing its job. But at least we have heat.

    melinda, I live in fear that our underground tank will, er, tank one day.

    dan, reset buttons are like little miracles sometimes. And they're often tucked away or unrecognizable.

    chris, I'm about ready to ask the heater to open the pod bay doors.


Pour your heart out! I'm listening.