Wednesday, 25 July 2012

We need a new hot water

service. Ouch!
When my parents built this house they put in a "solar" hot water service, that is one which was connected to solar panels on the roof.  The panels have been replaced once and the element in the storage tank has been replaced once. It has served us well. We cannot complain.
Now the storage tank would need to be replaced and that is a major undertaking. It may sound simple but it requires major roof work at great cost. A plumber has been consulted. My brother-in-law has been consulted. My brother-in-law is making further inquiries about other options this morning.
It left me thinking about the way we heated hot water in other houses. My mother used to heat "the copper" in order to do the washing in most places. As soon as he was old enough it was my brother's task to split the kindling timber and set the fire beneath vat of water. He also had to clear out the ashes when it had cooled down. My mother would set a match to it a considerable time before she did the washing.  She washed by hand and we were thought fortunate because my father bought her a "wringer". It was usually my job to use the wringer. I would feed the clothes through and turn the handle. At the end of the task, summer and winter, my mother and I would be drenched in perspiration.
Hot water in the kitchen was supplied by kettles of water heated on a wood burning stove. We did the washing up and other kitchen tasks with minimal amounts of water.
In the bathroom we had a "chip heater". This was a tube like device filled with water. Beneath it there was a small cavity in which a fire could be set to heat the water. You set the fire going and hoped for the best. If you were lucky you managed to get a few inches of hot water for a bath. (The water came from a small gravity feed tank that my father, brother, or I had to pump by hand to fill each morning. It was also the water ration for the day.)
Much later in another house my father designed a hot water device that fed through the back of the wood burning stove so that there was hot water in the kitchen. We still had the chip heater in the bathroom. The one advantage was that it did make the room a bit warmer in winter!
I wonder now how we kept clean. We certainly did not shower or bath every day. The water was not available and the hot water was a luxury.
Now we are used to turning the tap on and having hot water. We no longer think of it as a luxury. Really, it is.


Miriam said...

What you call a "wringer" we called a "mangle".

We always had hot water. More so than now. I didn't know it was a luxury.

Jan said...

I remember the old chip heater with affection. My grandparents had friends in Lithgow, NSW, who built a tiny weatherboard cottage at Lawson in the Blue Mountains. Some time around one hundred years ago. As a child we went there to recuperate after a nasty illness and Mum and Dad bought the place very many years later. They owned the land next door and built their retirement home there.

I digress. This little place originally had no bathroom and we bathed in a tin bath in front of the kitchen stove.

Then luxury came in the shape of a laundry bathroom accessed by outside stairs. Toilet was further away. The bathroom had a huge bath we called the horse trough, a chip heater and a set of tubs. Last task before dark was to make sure of enough fuel for the chip heater.

It was similar to yours but seems a better design to me. There was an inner liner for water and the fire was in a central well. The water came from the tap and with a bit of experimenting with fire and flow, the huge trough could be filled and kept full of hot water. The water ran in at the top, stayed in the cylinder and then into bath. The room was unlined and had no ceiling, so we used to get the fire roaring through to warm up the room. I was skilled in getting the whole thing chugging along noisily. It made the best baths I've ever had.

catdownunder said...

You say no ceiling - but presumably a roof Jan? It must have been freezing in winter!

Yes Miriam - hot water is a luxury!