I don't know if I've ever before lived in a place that had a boiler — at least, not one that I had to fiddle with. A furnace, yes, but not a boiler. In France, it's called une chaudière (that's the word that we turned into "chowder" in English... but that's a different story). It's a big piece of equipment that heats water. The hot water or steam is then pumped through pipes to heat up wall-mounted radiators installed at strategic points around the house. A boiler and radiators produce a nice steady heat and no drafts. It's a quiet system.
In California, we always had what we called "forced air" heating systems. A furnace heated air which was forced through ducts and out through "registers" (wall vents) in each room of the house. The system was drafty and noisy.
|The old Brötje boiler, manufactured and installed in 1992|
Anyway, our old boiler is now history. It was a German device of the Brötje brand, and it seemed pretty fancy. It could be programmed to heat the house to different levels for different hours of the day — warmer during daylight hours, and less warm overnight, for example. That feature broke 6 or 7 years ago because of a loose connection in the control panel.
We've been controlling the boiler manually since then. That has meant running up and down the stairs several times a day to turn the thing up or down or on or off. A new control panel for the boiler would have cost about a thousand dollars, so we did without. We didn't think a boiler then approaching the ripe old age of 20 was worth spending so much money on.
|Pipes, a pump, and a pressure gauge|
In our California house, we had an even better kind of programmable, thermostatically controlled system for our forced air heating. We put the thermostat in ourselves, mounting it on a wall in the place of an older non-programmable thermostat. We had it set for the heat to come on in the morning at around 5 a.m. and warm up the house before we got out of bed.
At night, and in the daytime when we were both out working all day, the temperature was set to go down to just 60ºF or so (about 15ºC). The program turned the heat back up to 68ºF (20ºC) at 6 p.m. so we could enjoy a warm evening back at home. Then it cut the temperature back down to 55 for the nighttime hours.
Below is the programmable control panel for the old Brötje boiler. It was as complicated as it looks.
|We actually figured out how to program this thing, before it broke.|
We are hoping that we will have similar programming features on this new boiler. The man who sold it too us assures us we will, but we won't know for sure until later today when the installation is complete. At any rate, the one thing we will have that we haven't had since we moved into this house 12 years ago is an actual thermostat. Today, we and our heating plant are leaping feet-first into the 20th century. Imagine!
By the way, you in America might be surprised that our boiler work is being completed on Thanksgiving Day. Well, today is not a holiday in France. Today is just another Thursday like any other.