Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 03

You can't see the wood for the trees

After two weeks of water problems, there is light at the end of the tunnel - and it isn't a train! 

On Tuesday the water supply company finally turned up and replaced the broken meter with a new one.

The technician told me that between 900 and 1,000 water meters have been damaged by the bitter cold across the island. 

My near neighbour told me that they have lived in this part of Dol for 41 years and cannot remember a cold spell like it before. Although the cause of the cold was the shift in the jetstream rather than the more normal Bura, it can and it is quite likely that the same atmospheric conditions will line up again, but this time I will be prepared. I have filled the sump where the meter sits with wood shavings up to the level of the top of the device, then filled the rest of the hole with bubble wrap. That should prevent it freezing and it can stay in place all year. 

With the mains water back on, that did not end the problems with my supply though. Progressively checking the rising main now I had water, I discovered that a further two pipes had fractured, both of them on the roof under the roof top solar water tank.

One being the rising main, the other being the hot water flow, means that although I have cold water, I had no hot water, other than by boiling a kettle. I could isolate the riser to the solar water heater from the rest of the cold water system.

Looking at the pipes, the failures are again in the centre of a length of pipe rather than at elbows or joints. The pipe supplier on the mainland has denied all liability saying they are not designed to withstand cold. That brings it back to the plumber who fitted them.

I purchased replacement insulation, but instead of just replacing the 10mm insulation which was there, I have got the thickest I can, 30mm thick, together with a plastic shield which goes onto the pipes. A different plumber has been engaged to braize the pipes, as it is a task I am not comfortable doing myself and they are an odd European size of 18mm so I have no pre soldered Yorkshire fittings.

On Saturday morning the plumber arrived and started sorting the pipes out on the roof. He didn't finish until 16:50.

He immediately identified the problem, the copper pipes which have been used are designed for internal use only and had walls .65mm thick.
External pipes should have walls 1.5mm thick and should have external lagging, not the 10mm lagging which is also for internal use. 

It seems I have well and truly been had by the original plumber.

When the roof work was finished we pressurised the system and discovered two more pipe fractures, bringing the total to at least 14.

There are also a number of places where the ice has caused the pipes to distort, without actually breaking. It means that every one is only fit for scrap as they could never be used again in any system for fear of them splitting. A sad lesson, i'm afraid.

The new "Blue "Bell" bottle gas fire was delivered this week, a sleek and modern, fuel efficient unit, which certainly keeps the chill off, even if it is not as warm as the wood stove.

With several cold and rainy days during the week, I have spent the time productively inside designing the central heating system which will go into the new buildings. First I needed to calculate the thermal efficiency (or inefficiency) of the various rooms. There is simply no substitute for good planning, but with dozens of different web sites offering a tool to calculate either the kWh or BTU, or both, of the rooms, I set about trying to decide which to use.

I created a spreadsheet which contained all the data about the rooms. The room height, width and length, the construction of the ceiling, walls and floor, window type and area, length of outside walls, number and size of the doorways. Next I chose a couple of rooms as samples and then entered the date into a selection of websites.

A some wanted most of the data I had gathered entered, a few just want very basic data and a third group asked for varying levels of information. But what I found was that there were six whose results were statistically similar, the others giving results that were either extremely high or improbably low. One website I found was asking for pages and pages of information. But when I did one sample room, the results were similar to the websites which required far less information.

So going with the six I had identified which seemed to provide acceptable results I entered data for every room, into each one and then averaged the results.

This gave me the combined total of 89820 BTU and 27kWh. From that I could work out the number of radiators required for each room which led to me being able to draw onto the plans where the pipework will go.

The last task was then to calculate the length of pipe and the fittings I will need. With all the pipework being inside, I will not have the problems that have beset me this last couple of weeks. Also using the latest technology of HEP²O plastic piping, I can do the complete installation myself, working with the builder.

Everything has been ordered from Screwfix Europe, with free delivery. It should be here next week.

I am still counting the cost of the cold in the orchards and gardens. I have a mature Valencia orange tree which stands at the back of the kitchen, tight against the wall.
The cold has shrivelled every leaf
And many of the large, sweet and juicy fruits have dropped early.

But what it has done is allow me to see where I need to prune the tree to open out the centre.

Oranges are pruned in February, just before they flower. The idea is to create an open centre, but as the branches have been allowed to grow together thickly, I could not see the wood for the tree, that is until the leaves dropped off. It will make the pruning process much easier. Not many people have oranges, or any kind of citrus trees in their gardens, so are not aware of the vicious spines which most of the older citrus trees have. This orange is no exception, which alone made it hard to try and do any pruning. I can also see the spines now too.

In preparation for the building work, which will start in a week's time, I have cleared as much of the working area as I can. 

There are some large pieces of timber which can be used as framing for scaffolding. Here, few builders have or use metal scaffolding, instead using timber and boards. So I have kept some especially useful lengths, rather than cutting them up for firewood, to use as sheer legs to move big stones, and some flat boards as planks or formers for concrete.

I also took the drone for a flight to help with planning and it will show the before, and later, the after of the work which has been done.

The wet weather and the cool air at higher elevations has meant there has been a thin covering of snow on the highest point on the island

 and also on the neighbouring island of Brać to the north, which I can see from my seat in front of the computer.

All we have had in Dol though, is rain and a tiny little bit of sleet.

Towards the end of the week, the sun has come out. As there is no water to heat in the solar system, I was up the ladder on Friday and attached some expanded foam boards to block the sunlight. There is still the special antifreeze mix in the tubes and I don't want it heating the inside copper cylinder and causing more damage because there is nothing in there to heat.

As the day length draws out nicely, it is becoming noticeably warmer outside and I am looking forward to when a wooly hat is no longer needed to work comfortably outdoors.

The first Red Admiral butterflies, Vanessa atalanta, have emerged this week and have been flying in the sunshine.
In the greenhouse, the lengthening days has meant the water in the plastic warming bottles has reached +32ºC, which means I should soon be able to replant my spring seeds. 

But with warm sunny days and clear, starry nights, we are getting radiation frosts.

I have also been doing some more administrative tasks on the old Land Rover. 

Many will immediately recognise this bonnet mascot:

It comes of course from a Jaguar car. Sleek, fast and powerful. 

Less recognisable is this mascot

Agile, just like the Land Rover on whose bonnet Callie is perching. 

It does remind me of my time in Abu Dhabi, where a near neighbour had two Lamborghini Gallardo Cabriolet , one white in the picture, the other yellow.  I mean, you can never have too many Lamborghini, can you?

One Friday morning I found my No. 1 cat Risha, also in the picture above, on the roof of the yellow Lamborghini, sharpening his claws on the fabric. The owner never did find out........ Cars and cats do seem to have an affinity for each other!