Digital Heat


Digital, as in digital electronics, to ultra simplify, is a series of zeros and ones, “1” for ON and “0” for OFF… for example, 01001101 has 8 numerical digits or 8 “bits” which may represent 8 switches or, say 8 wires… the switches with 1 are ON so the wire’s got juice, and the wires without electrical juice are 0 or OFF. That is the bare bones basic jest of “digital” things and of course, it gets a lot more complicated depending on what type of switch and all that fun stuff and if you have to do math with all those zeros and ones, sometimes you can switch from binary to hexidecimal, which is a bit easier on the eyes considering that 128 bits is a LONG string of zeros and ones.

Anyway, “digital” in the most simplest form boils down to “got juice?” yes or no… on or off.

The heat in this old apartment building is a hot water system. A boiler in the basement heats the water, which is then circulated via pipes through old-fashioned “radiators” that are scattered inside apartments. My apartment has four radiators. Each radiator has a knob thing on it that, when turned, opens or closes a valve to that particular radiator. Supposedly, a tenant can turn the knob and close the valve to reduce the amount of flow, or totally closed to prevent water from flowing into that particular radiator and thus have some control over the ambient room temperature. Supposedly. Maybe if the knobs could TURN, but most of the knobs are broke off or locked in some rust frozen stage of immobility. But, the knobs are not the real problem with the heat system here. The problem is the boiler.

This old-fashioned boiler has a digital mind. It is either ON or OFF. It does NOT maintain a comfy temperature somewhere in-between. When it is ON, it is on… keeps heating that water up hotter and hotter until the radiators are too hot to touch. (I removed a painted wood shelf that sits on top of a radiator in my dining room for the winter because it is a fire hazard – the underside that sits on the radiator has burnt in grooves and the whole bottom is charred black.) It is nice for warming towels while you are in the shower, but don’t dare accidentally touch a radiator with wet skin as it will burn. It gets so hot in here that some nights, I’m sleeping with the window cracked and fans on, with just a cotton sheet for covers. After hours or days of cranking heat, sometime after the radiators are so hot that they are hissing, I suspect that some kind of max. temp safety switch gets tripped as the damn thing shuts OFF.

Last night, it was 14 F degrees outside in the midst of a winter storm when the boiler flipped from 1 to 0 in its digital mind and shut down, completely OFF. No more water flowing in the pipes so the radiators completely cool down. By midnight, the radiators were cold to the touch and it was getting a bit nippy in here. Going to the bathroom was like heading to an outhouse, somewhere you would expect a cold seat. I can go turn my one knob that turns and it won’t do a damn bit of good because there is NO water flowing in the pipes. Even if it was, it would be circulating cold water because the boiler was OFF.

Remind me to buy an indoor thermometer so I can document this nonsense… you see, the inside temperature has to drop way down low, I’m guessing maybe 45 degrees, not quite cold enough to snow inside, but it gets really, really cold in here before I hear that monster of a boiler fire up. It is the same way on mild days… if the outside temps are over a certain degree, say 40, the boiler is OFF and stays OFF until the inside temp drops to a certain degree.

My only recourse, as portrayed in today’s art, is snuggle down in a nest of blankets as if I am camping out in Alaska. During the night, the boiler may or may not do its digital flip to ON. If it doesn’t, I sleep fine… I like sleeping a little on the chill side, totally comfy burrowed down in my nest of fleece, wool, and cotton. If the boiler flips ON while I’m buried under blankets and has enough time to crank the heat up, I am cooked. I wake up feeling drained and dehydrated.

My obsolete engineering training, which had nothing to do with plumbing, makes me want to find a solution to this problem. The boiler is “new” as installed brand new last year and yes, it has been inspected as the inspectors were out one day. The boiler room is chained and locked to prevent tenants from tampering with it as someone messed with the controls on the last one. I’d like to mess with the controls… or suggest hiring a professional if what is needed is beyond the skill set of the maintenance staff. Someone needs to sit down and read the manual, figure out how to set the boiler controls just right so it will maintain temps within a comfy heat zone. OR, it needs some other type of controller installed. This alternating between roasting hot and freezing cold is messed up.

Oh well. That’s my soapbox rant for today.

Oh… speaking of controls, I have edited my email notification settings so I can find the blogs I like to read more easily. (I was using the “read blogs” feature and missing new posts on some of my favorite blogs.) Thanks for reading my rant… and thank you for viewing my art!


9 Responses

  1. I love this picture. The colors are great and so is the eclectic feel of tropics versus cold. Hey, be sure to add your voice to my writing challenge. Just posted it! Game on!

    • Oh what fun! Yes, I clicked… my mind is already churning ideas, wondering what should follow #3. (Note to sis or anyone else reading this… click on Monica’s link.) Thanks!

  2. Nancy, I feel your pain. I don’t have boiler problems but I do have central heater problems. As in, the central heating is not working. I’m currently trying to stay warm with a tiny space heater. Fortunately, it’s doing a fine job of keeping our living room heated. I like the contrast of the snowman and the palm tree in your picture! 🙂

    • Thank you Bella. Oh gosh… try to stay warm and let’s hope Spring comes quick!

  3. Love the snowman and the palm tree. And the group story is fun! Poor Charlie — er, Ryan.

    • Thank you! Yes, Monica’s story has been fun to follow… so many twists and possibilities! A Ryan? Hummm… I need to head back over to catch up!

  4. Love the picture, very expressive of the conflict! I clicked on the group story last night or the night before, but couldn’t think of anything to add. I will try again. Sounds like fun.

  5. Oh yeah, sorry to hear of the comfort problems you and Bella are suffering, nothing worse than living with heating issues! Me I heat with a space heater, and extra layers of clothes often. Our house is sooo not energy efficient, it needs some serious weatherproofing!

    • Oh, then I hope Spring comes early for you, too! Maybe you can research easy ways to weatherproof that don’t cost a fortune that can be done as summer projects?

      I had a talk with the maintenance man today… it is a simple system with one temp sensor, located in the hallway up on the top floor, to turn the boiler on and off and the tenants here are actually compounding the problem by opening hallway windows and/or propping doors open… when the hallway is chilly, the boiler overheats the apts. And conversely, as long as the hallway on the top floor is nice and warm even if it is cold down here, the boiler won’t kick on… so the next time I’m freezing, opening a hall window might help it kick on faster. We’re supposed to get new knobs, etc. too.


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