Archive for January, 2014

Broken Electric Shower – Make do and Mend

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Bad luck and bad timing (a few days before Christmas) with our electric shower, gave me an opportunity lately to put my ‘make do and mend’ impulses to work. Anybody who knows me will know I am wont to spending Friday evening fixing the brakes or straightening a wheel on my bike. We are often too quick to replace rather than repair domestic appliances and something in my nature resists that, if there might be a chance to open up and fix instead.

Cold water continued to flow through the shower at a great rate after I switched it off, so it was obvious that a valve of some kind had given up. Luckily I had a cut- off valve on the supply pipe to the shower, so a quick trip to the attic stopped the flow. Still, after taking the cover of the shower and staring at it blankly for a while, I knew it was a job for an expert as any attempted repair by me would likely lead to flooding or electrocution (or both) so I decided it would be best to call The Shower Man.

Tim , had a good look and said that there weren’t any of the usual signs of wear and tear on it, and that there was no need to replace it yet. Good, that was about €200 saved. Tim explained that it was teenagers who kept him in work- electric showers are designed to run for 15 minutes and cool for 45 minutes, but it’s the other way around when it comes to our young ones leading to a shortened lifespan for the shower unit.

Tim showed me that the filter on the solenoid had started to break up, and it was likely that a small piece of that had jammed the valve open. After replacing the part and opening the valve on the supply pipe, the shower was ready for (hopefully) another few years of action, teenagers notwithstanding. The charge for the callout and replacement part was very reasonable considering the amount I could have spent on a new shower, and the whole operation only took around half an hour.

A few helpful hints then based on my own experience:

  •  If you are in the process of building a house or a bathroom extension, have the plumber fit a cut- off valve on the water supply pipe to the shower. To avoid pressure problems, electric showers are usually fed off the mains supply to the house, rather than from your water storage tank. Without a cut- off valve on the supply pipe, you may have to cut off the water mains supply to the house in the event of a problem with the shower unit. That would be a huge nuisance at the best of times but definitely not something you want to face a few days before Christmas.
  •  Don’t assume that an older shower unit is finished if it starts to give trouble- a specialist in shower repairs could save you a fair amount of money by replacing a part rather than the whole unit (legitimate funds for bike parts).
  • Go easy on the shower- nobody needs to be that clean!
Broken Shower ?

Broken Shower ?


Everyday architecture no. 3

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Gate way - everydayarch 3We pass them every day: every field has an entrance, and most have gate posts. Most rural houses have gate pillars of one sort or another, and we take them for granted. But what if they are more than just a necessity? What if they say something to us about ourselves and the people who came before us?

The Austrian modernist architect Adolf Loos said that ‘ornament is crime’, while the American skyscraper pioneer Louis Sullivan believed that ‘form ever follows function’. Perhaps they are right but people have always had the impulse to decorate their possessions to make statements about themselves. Gate pillars from Japanese temples to the Piazza San Marco in Venice have more symbolic importance than practical value. Loos and his fellow modernists in the 1920s and 1930s abhorred any kind of ornamentation, and while they produced many beautiful buildings some of those were not liked by the people they were built for, because they lacked any kind of personal touch. I wonder what the great modernists would have made of these gate pillars in rural Donegal? The pillars are much larger than they need to be to hold up a slim metal gate, and the little finial on top of the capping is, in modernist terms, completely unnecessary from a functional point of view. At the same time I am sure the modernists, many of whom had a great interest in primitive forms, would have had an interesting discussion on ideas of marking place and ownership, of identity and belonging, and the rituals and rhythms of daily life. Perhaps it would be best to move on before they began to discuss pagan fertility symbols, and instead just imagine the pride a small farmer felt in his land, and his desire to articulate that pride and show something of his own character through big, heavyweight pillars marking his field on the side of the road.