Don’t cut the red one
It was cold yesterday.
Normally I don’t notice the temperature much as I can tolerate quite a range, much to Herself’s annoyance as she really feels the chill. Also we have a very efficient heating system and a reasonably well insulated house. Yesterday however it was distinctly chilly around the Manor and even I was feeling it.
I checked the boiler. The little red light on the control panel was on, so it was switched on. The boiler was silent, but then it often is if the water is hot enough. I went back inside and felt a radiator. Stone cold! Fuck.
I checked the fuel level. We have one of those little radio ones where the tank sends a signal to a little yoke plugged in in the kitchen. It had a red flashing light and the nozzle symbol was flashing. Bugger! But then I realised – I had changed the tank and hadn’t recalibrated the little detector on the tank. So we were out of oil. Luckily I had ordered a delivery during the week [at twice the price I paid fro the previous fill] and they had promised a Friday delivery.
So we piled on the sweaters and electric blankets and waited.
Sure enough a while later I checked the yoke in the kitchen and it indicated a full tank. Great. The oil had been delivered but the delivery bloke has a habit of sneaking in, pumping in the oil and then running away without letting us know he’s been.
I checked the heating control panel. The red light was on, the boiler was still silent and the radiators were still freezing. Shit bugger fuck.
Being somewhat of a computer nerd I did what I always do – I switched off the whole lot and switched it on again. The boiler made a humming noise and then switched itself off. That didn’t work.
Being somewhat of a mechanical nerd I reckoned on a possible air-lock in the oil feed. I checked the fuel line to see where it entered the boiler but there was no sign of any kind of bleeding valve. I kicked the boiler. That didn’t work. I found a reset button I had never noticed before. I pressed it. The boiler whirred for a minute and then went silent again. Time to phone Rob.
Rob is a fucking genius when it comes to central heating. He had installed it way back and had made some later modifications but he is a very tricky bloke to get hold of, especially late on a Friday afternoon. Sure enough he wasn’t answering his phone. I tried quite a few times and left several messages. No Rob.
Herself offered to try phoning him, thereby implying that I don’t know how to dial out a fucking number. Of course she got straight through to him and handed me the phone with a smirk on her face. I’m not going to hear the end of that for a while.
So I described the symptoms to Rob – the humming followed by a click and a whirring noise followed by silence. I told him I reckoned on an air lock. He told me to remove the casing [it was already off]. He told me to look behind the burner where I would find an Allen-screw which is the bleeding valve. “That’ll fix it” he declared confidently and disconnected. I went looking for my Allen-keys.
I leant over the boiler which is in an awkward spot and sure enough I found an Allen-screw. In fact I found about five of them and they were all the same size. Fuck! Which one? Get the wrong one and I could fuck up the boiler. It was like the films where the hero is disarming a bomb while the digital display ticks down to zero [did you know that every bomb these days has a large digital display counting down the seconds?] and his mates are shouting at him to cut the wire but he doesn’t know whether to cut the red or the black.
I chose one of the screws, closed my eyes and gave it a twist. It squirted kerosene all over the place. I hastily tightened it again. My nerves were shot at this stage. I pressed the reset button again, to give me a moment to think while I decided which would be the next screw. The boiler roared into life! Apparently I had hit the right one first go.
The house is lovely and warm today.
And I’m one step closer to being a boiler expert.
Remember that an ‘expert’ in anything is just someone who’s one page ahead of you in the manual. You’re now an ‘expert’ compared to those who are still reading the Contents page.
Well, I now know how to bleed an airlock and how to fix it if it fails to ignite. Not bad going for an old fart?
The next time it happens you might remember the fix but you’ll have forgotten which Allen screw. Mark it now, you can thank me in 5 or 10 years time.
I was going to suggest the very same. Tippex works well and lasts an awful long time.