with 6 Comments

Cloudy skies

This week: Up on the roof; I don’t remember that!; Just ten seconds more; Looking forward;

Winter sunshine
Winter sunshine

Well, we’ve made it to here, the fifty second blog of 2020. So much and nothing seems to have happened this year. But yet the weeks have all slid by Dol in a bit of a blur.

I hope you were able to have some enjoyment this Christmas, however limited that might have been. There are COVID-19 restrictions to varying degrees, in place around the world.

Here in Dol it was quiet, much as it always is. But there were no visitors this year, not that there are many in a “normal” year.

I went round to my immediate neighbours on Christmas morning for coffee and cakes, and that was about it.

Christmas Day was windy with rain showers and very mild, so not a day for going out very far in any case.

I spent almost all of the afternoon in my comfy chair, by the log fire, with one or more felines asleep on my lap while I read a good book.

Then today, Boxing Day there is a very nippy wind blowing and some heavy showers. Once again I lit the log fire early. The felines have “bagged” their seats and I’m catching up with some writing…

Gizmo in front of the log fire

Up on the roof

Late weekend when I turned the immersion heater on in the solar water tank, there was a bang and the electrics went off. This roof tank supplies all the domestic hot water,

I’ve made everything super safe with a completely separate power feed to the heater. It’s own 40 amp MCB on the DIN rail in the main consumer unit.

The electrical feed goes to a double pole switch and timer and then via its own conduit up to the roof where the solar water tank is located.

It was the MCB which had tripped out.

The middle of winter is the time of year when we have our cloudy days. Because of a low sun and thick cloud, solar energy is much reduced, so little hot water is generated in the tubes.

It’s the opposite of what happens from April to September. This is when I have to keep ⅔ of the high efficiency tubes covered to prevent the water constantly boiling.

With just luke warm water in the tank this week, I wanted to quickly boost the temperature. Doesn’t something always seem to break just before the Christmas / New Year holidays?

On Monday I was up on the roof as soon as the overnight dew on the tiles had dried.

The first check was to disconnect the power leads at the heater. Then with them made safe, to try the switch again.

Immersion heater as installed
Immersion heater as installed

It worked, so it was not a cable problem.

This was the point that I replaced the covers on the electrics and came in to consult the documents and manuals which I have.

The first thing I read was that there is a Magnesium Anode that I am supposed to check ever year. Well that one has escaped me!

Having taken a photo of the tank heater unit, the flange bears no relationship to the drawings in the manual.

I do like to have a reasonable understanding of what I am doing before I attempt anything. But I couldn’t find any documents which referred to the blue Cotherm thermostat either in my file or on-line.

I did find some useful material about how to remove the probe from the tank. But I realised I would have to read up a lot more, before going back up onto the roof to investigate the problem further.

I do need to extract the Anode too, as it is an essential part of the rust prevention system!

I don’t remember that!

My reading began with the manual for the solar tank. There are copious illustrations of the various parts of the tank. The only problem was that none of them looked like the installation that I have.

Solar manual drawing
Solar manual drawing

When I am working on anything, I always take some digital photographs so that I can make sure things go back in the correct. Taking digital photographs also help to record details of the component’s part and serial numbers.

Being able to accurately identify the various part numbers of components helps when replacements are needed.

In my case it is a French made Cotherm combistat temperature regulator.

The combistat was installed by the tank’s supplier. But he device had been wired up by the plumber.

The final wiring up only took place when when the complete solar unit was installed on the roof. I should add that this was the plumber whom I fired for incompetence after 14 burst pipes!

Way, way towards the back of the manual is a chapter headed “Maintenance”. I don’t remember that chapter, and it is in English too. There is an admonishment to check the Magnesium Anode annually. This is the device which prevents corrosion inside the tank.

The problem was, on my photograph, I don’t see where the anode is and I certainly didn’t see the ¾” flange nut which is described in the manual.

Bare flange
The bare flange

It took a number of searches to find a manual for the combistat, and then it didn’t look like the one that I had. More troubling was the wiring diagram.

The ones I found on line referred to terminals A and B for the electrical connection. My units shows R and S.

Then after multiple searches over a couple of evenings, I chanced on a Cotherm drawing of my unit, showing the R and S together with clearer symbols. I thought that it looked as though the installation had been wired the wrong way round.

Cotherm drawing
Cotherm drawing

A quick check in my old French dictionary and the French word for “live” is “Résider”. That confirmed that the wiring by the plumber had been reversed.

The blue neutral wire had been connected to the “live” terminal, ‘R’ and the brown live wire had been connected to the “neutral” terminal on the combistat.

Although with most electrical systems using 220V AC, generally it doesn’t matter where live and neutral are wired. But in this case, the wiring symbols suggested that it probably did.

So on Christmas Eve, I was back up on the roof, taking the wiring cover off again.

When I disconnected and removed the combistat, there was definitely no flange nut for a magnesium anode. I photographed then reassembled everything, but this time wiring it correctly.

With power back on at the MCB, I gingerly turned the heater control on. Immediately the green light came on to indicate the immersion heater was working. So that seems to be the electrical problem solved.

What I do need to do is ask the makers about the missing magnesium anode. But that can wait until after the New Year holidays.

Just ten seconds more

Monday was the 21st December, so the day of the solstice. It was cloudy too.

I had planned on going up on the old road to Grad Hvar for the sunset. I would also be able to see the planetary convergence of Jupiter and Saturn. However as the afternoon wore on, so the clouds started to build.

By three thirty, I had decided that I wasn’t going to be able to see anything. So I put another log on the fire and stayed at home.

There were any number of astronomers websites which were live streaming the conjunction. So I had a much better view from in front of the computer monitor.

Jupiter Saturn Convergence
18th December Jupiter Saturn Convergence Photo: Eric Siegel
Jupiter Saturn Convergence
21st December Jupiter Saturn Convergence Photo: Eric Siegel
21st December Jupiter Saturn Convergence
23rd December 21st December Jupiter Saturn Convergence Photo: Eric Siegel

One thing for sure, I will not be around for the next one, scheduled for 2080.

As we have passed the northern winter Solstice, and we head towards the vernal equinox, the days are already starting to lengthen – but only by ten seconds a day!

It will be a couple of weeks into the New Year before observers on earth start to see changes in actual day length. At the moment all that you need is a thick cloud layer, like today and which we have forecast for the next week or so, for days to seem especially dark and dismal.

All I can say is, “Roll on summer”!

Looking forward

I have just downloaded the weather data for the first three weeks of December. The temperatures are still a little above the average for this week of the year but what we have had is over 90% humidity every day.

Winter temperatures 2020
Winter temperatures 2020

Nothing has been drying outside which means every time I come into the house from outside, I have to wipe my boots or shoes on a floor cloth to stop wet sand being walked everywhere in the house.

Looking ahead to next week, it is going to be another rainy week. There are thunderstorms forecast for Wednesday and there is likely to be rain most days. However with the wind and moisture coming up from the south, it will be mild all week.

The weeks either side of New Year are usually the coldest of the year. Once into January, there is a steady weekly rise in temperatures, so with winds from the south for ten days or more, we may escape any frosts again.

There was more rain on Christmas Night and so everywhere was wet when I got up on Boxing Day morning.

The two main buildings of mine are still not joined together. They remain much as they were when they were first built. Just moving between the study, the kitchen and dining room means paddling through puddles.

Wet surfaces
Wet surfaces

I’ve decided that I need to build a covered walkway, so that will be the first project of the new year. Hopefully the proper building work may happen this spring, so I may (fingers crossed) not need it for long.

I have several inside jobs to do, including some writing as the next on-line magazine that I edit. The next issue will be published on Friday the 1st of January.

I have quite a bit of text to finish editing in the draft. So long as I am able to work comfortably indoors, I am not worried about the weather conditions outside.

So all that is really left of 2020 is to wish you a very Happy New Year.

I sincerely hope that in 2021, COVID is well and truly conquered by vaccines and we can all then begin to construct the “new normal” in which to live our lives. NCG

Sleeping cats
Let sleeping cats lie

6 Responses

  1. Steve

    Happy New Year. Hope itis a good 2021

  2. Marcy Fletchall

    Happy New Year Norman. Thank you for your awesome blog. I have so enjoyed it. I’ve learned so much especially about gardening and plants.

    Yes it was especially tough year for me but I’m healthy and am moving forward in a hopeful and positive mindset.

    Take care of yourself and those adorable kitties. Wishing you a blessed, peaceful and healthy new year. Looking forward to next Saturday’s missive.

    Warmest regards Marcy

  3. John Bailey

    Happy new year Norman. Let’s hope you have got to the bottom of your electronic gremlins. Sounds like you have traced the wiring fault. We in Norfolk have apparently had a months rain in 24 hours.Fortunately we don’t live in a dip so excessive rain tends to run off our property. A lot of disruption and people trapped in cars which have conked out whilst trying to drive through deep water. We are at the moment bracing ourselves for the arrival of storm ‘Bella’. Very strong winds and more rain expected when it arrives. Look forward to your blog each week and enjoying reading it. John.

  4. Terry Hubbard

    Happy New Year Norman. I hope the we don’t have too many trials and tribulations next year. T

  5. Ray LaShier

    Hope 2021 is kind to you my old friend. Actually I am the old in this friendship. Helen & I wish you the best.

  6. Elizabeth Blackledge

    Sorry to hear about your heating tribulations. We have had fun with our central heating system too….Thermostat in the house set at 18.5°C but actual temp more like 24°… After lots of communication with plumber we decided it was probably the return valve stuck on. We had to control the house using the radiator thermostats and turning others off until the plumber could call in. He gave it all a check over, fiddled with the valve and all seemed to be well. Christmas Eve it all started again. Then Bill noticed that the battery symbol in the house thermostat (it is a radio control stat) was showing that the batteries had failed. We changed the batteries and all seems to be back in control. Ironically, it was one thing the plumber had suspected but, when we checked, the batteries were registering as ok! Sorry that your problem doesn’t seem to be as simple to solve. Hope this is the last of your duff plumber’s legacies uncovered and, having resolved, you can move forward safely. We are amazed that the incorrect wiring had lasted this long without causing problems.

    It had been a strange Christmas here – zoom meeting with our girls in the morning to exchange gifts and then three hour walk from the house up to The Wolds Way and back down Drewton Dale.

    Happy New Year…as you say – let’s hope that 2021 will see us all return to some new normal. Best wishes from us both and the remaining cats, Elizabeth