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Sunday, 19 December 2021

Flying Scotsman on the Doorstep

 Saturday 18th December was foggy in Settle and right along the Ribble valley.  From Ribblehead northwards though it was brilliant sunshine.  Flying Scotsman was hauling a train from Liverpool Lime Street over the S&C to Carlisle.

In the fog zone photography was a challenge and there was only one brave photographer among the crowds at Settle station who was up for the challenge - Ian Lane.  I happened to be standing at his side and he was kind enough to show me this picture on his camera screen.   This was the stunning result:

And a little bit further on at Far Moor, Selside this was captured by Liam Barnes.  The same inversion ensures that the exhaust trail lingers as far as the eye can see.  Pen y Ghent is in the background.  Social media today is awash with stunning photographs of the S&C.

Those people on the Settle footbridge will remember being kippered in Settle.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Heating a Huge Water Tower 2 - What We've Done

 In the last posting I described our heating as-was.  In short a hideously expensive but ineffective 30 kw gas fired under-floor heating (UFH) system is in the main tower and two  electric radiators, total power just 2.7 kw, are in the new extension.

So, how ARE we heating the main tower?  It's a tower of two halves - ground floor heavily insulated and first floor with massively thick uninsulated stone walls.


The floor itself is solid - thick reinforced concrete laid directly onto the earth with impermeable water and radon barriers - sheets of plastic.  If we believe the rhetoric, ground source heat is a thing.  Not a lot but some.  The ground is bone dry after 150 years being sheltered by a huge stone water tower.  Whatever heat comes in is likely to stay inside this now insulated box.  On the experience of the insulated new extension might it be worth a try placing an electric radiator somewhere near the centre of the ground floor - and abandoning the ground floor UFH completely? 

That is what we have done.  The near-useless UFH manifolds, pumps, thermostats and so forth will stay where they are but boxed-in for future use if somebody invents an electric or other eco-friendly source of heat.  It all stays where it is - just out of use.  This, sitting in splendid loneliness in the downstairs office, is all that now heats the ground floor remarkably well:

1.  It's a DeLonghi Dragon 2 kw bog standard electric radiator.  I bought it years ago at a charity stall at Bentham Show.

But there are two more incidental sources of ground floor heat:

2.  The heat 'loss' from the gas boiler and hot water storage tank in the utility room mentioned in Part 1.

3. Heat from the ceiling above!  The main UHF loop serving the main lounge on the first floor (see more below) remains heated.  That UHF heating loop zig-zags its way under that very solid concrete and iron floor - from which hangs the CEILING of the ground floor. 

Between those three things the ground floor has maintained a steady 20C during recent sub-zero stormy weather.  


The first floor has a VERY high ceiling (the underside of the tank).  It has two sources of heat:

1.  Underfloor gas heated UFH.  This loop is now the ONLY ONE out of fourteen original UFH loops.  All the others are turned off meaning that ALL of the central heating output of the gas boiler is targeted at this one large floor which spans the whole building.  Right now the room is at a steady 20C.  The floor however is at varying temperatures between 23C and 30C - very cosy therefore in stocking feet or slippers.  However, heat rises so up near the ceiling it will be uselessly warm.  Hey ho.  The important thing is that the floor itself is acting as a huge horizontal radiator and the overall experience is comfortably warm.

2. We also have a gas stove in one corner of the room.  It has a catalytic exhaust into the very large room.  The stove is rarely lit but it does provide a heat source in the event of a power cut or as a boost in exceptionally cold weather.  It has two thermo-electric fans on top of it to propel heated air into the room.


1. This had a modern electric radiator which was seldom used and has been moved to the annex lounge.

 2. There is also a log burning stove up there.

3.  Being where it is, and with glass walls there is a fair amount of solar gain, greenhouse style.


Like most people nowadays we have a 'point and pull the trigger' thermometer.  It has two modes - body and surface.

Surface mode shows the temperature of whatever it is pointed at.  It is fascinating to go round the house to find the hot and cold spots.  Some examples:

My computer screen right now: 28.8C

Inside the kitchen cupboard where the first floor UFH manifolds are: 46.7C (!!)

The wall of a WC room behind that cupboard:  26.4C

Hallway floor between kitchen and landing (where the cat elects to sleep): 38.3C (!)

Floor of main tower lounge: 29.2C

Main tower lounge wall thermostat reading: 20.5C

Inside of tower outer wall in main lounge: 17.5C

Those are just snapshots today, with an outside temperature just above freezing.  

So, the main source of heat for the original tower is the new concrete floor between the ground and first floors.  In effect it is a huge horizontal radiator.

*We have heat-recovery-ventilation (HRV) in both the main tower and the new annex - two separate systems.  Besides freshening the inside air this distributes air between rooms, so evening out the overall temperature.


- Insulation makes all the difference

- No need for heat sources in every room, especially with *HRV.

- Beware over-specification of 'central' heating systems.

A final thought - My childhood was spent in a big old Victorian six-bedroomed house, heated by one open coal fire in the middle room downstairs.  Its hot flue rose to the roof, heating the upper floors somewhat.  There would be ice on the insides of bedroom windows in winter.  People 'wrapped up warm'.  Certainly not recommending a return to that but this huge tower is being heated adequately using a fraction of the energy that was being put into it previously.

See you later insulator.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Heating a Huge Water Tower 1 - a New Approach

 This old place was always going to be a devil to heat.  It is a huge volume, single glazed and with a massive iron water tank for a roof.   It was never intended to be lived in and the very idea of insulation for buildings was not on the Victorian agenda.

In a process that evolved during the prolonged planning process we settled on the following:

1.  A newly inserted steel and concrete floor would separate off a well insulated ground floor from an uninsulated first floor.

2.  There would be gas powered under-floor-heating (UFH) to both floors.

3.  In due course we would fit internal secondary double glazing to the main tower original windows.

4. We sprayed the underside of the tank with a thin coat of expanding foam to retain the shape of the girders but to prevent condensation.

5. The new-build small two-floor annex to the north side was heavily insulated to modern standards.

More than ten years on, the world has changed.  Gas is to be phased out.  Electricity is to be the thing.  Most importantly we have had ten years experience of a horribly expensive but (in the dead of winter) inadequate gas central hearing system which was found wanting.  To be fair, nobody knew how to heat a building with metre-thick outer walls, roofed by 250 tons of cast iron.  Heating costs have not been excessive, perhaps because the 27 kw (Worcester-Bosch) gas boiler could not supply enough heat.  Nor could a replacement larger 30 kw Worcester Bosch boiler.

As for underfloor heating using water pipes leading from no fewer than 14 outlets, each regulated by competing electric valves with thermostats, could not cope.   Some extremities never warmed up, the single source of boiler outflow hot water simply took the line/s of least resistance at 'balanced' water manifolds, one on each floor.

Here is the pair of manifolds (flow and return) for just the ground floor.  NINE separate loops of massively long underfloor pipes:

Expensive to fit, maintain and ineffective.  In retrospect, badly specified (by us) and extravagantly designed (by system suppliers Myson).  Every square inch of the heated ground floor had top-spec. UFH, quite unnecessarily. 

The utility-cum-boiler room was well heated by the manifolds and the gas boiler itself.  That UFH loop has NEVER been needed but there it is, expensively useless.  

Remember too, the ground floor is heavily insulated - floor, walls and ceiling.

Meanwhile on the first floor a five-loop manifold, located in a kitchen cupboard, supplies UFH to the huge main lounge / dining room (uninsulated and with the cast iron tank/ceiling) and the kitchen, a small WC and the landing.  The kitchen UFH loop was seldom on for the same reason as the utility room below - surplus heat from the manifolds and, in the case of the kitchen from cooking.

Double glazed secondary glazing was installed after a couple of years and that was very successful in terms of enhanced insulation, noise reduction (not much in Settle anyway) and elimination of window condensation.

The inadequacy of the heating in the main tower was part of our decision to build-on the two-bedroom virtually self-contained annex at the back of the tower.  It is very heavily insulated, draught proofed and heated by one 1.5 kw electric radiator.  That is occasionally supplemented by a 1.21 kw electric radiator for more even heat distribution if needed.   Its footprint on the ground is bigger than the tower itself yet a mere 2.7kw of electric radiators heat it!  

This compares with a 30kw gas boiler which fails to heat the main tower!!!!!!!  30 kw vs. 2.71 kw.

This is the modern single 1.5 kw electric radiator which heats the massive extension most of the time:

Stylish, small and never needs servicing it is located in the lounge, approximately in the middle of the  extension.  Heat-recovery-ventilation and natural movement of air distributes its heat output to other rooms.  Here is its makers plate showing its maximum output - just 1.5 kw though is is rarely on fully, depending on thermostat demand:

and the makers plate of the back-up radiator:

Total 2.71 kw.   Electricity is dearer than gas - but not ten times dearer.

The figures seem absurd but that's not the whole story.  This posting has been long so - to be continued.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Stunning Ribblehead

 Like many others these days the Yorkshire Dales National Park have a daily advent calendar on Facebook.  Today, Day 10, is this incredible picture of Ribblehead viaduct with Ingleborough peak in the background and the Irish sea somewhere by the far horizon. 

Well worth clicking on to enlarge.

The picture is by Wend's Photography and was taken from an altitude of 2,800 feet in April this year.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Get Well Cards and Letters

 Having an overdue clear-up of cupboards I came across a most welcome bundle of what turned out to be get-well cards and letters received after my near-visit to my Maker back in April 2018 when I had broken my neck.

There were 52 of them which must have overwhelmed the capacity of an NHS bedside table by a long way.

I spent an hour reading them afresh.  A few I remembered but most I did not so it was a delight to revisit them all and to take in the good wishes expressed - for which renewed thanks.  Those which mentioned a speedy recovery must have been a great boost at the time when things could have gone one of only three ways.

Belated thank-yous!  I opted for near total recovery but am fairly sure I did not send thank-yous at the time or in the weeks and months that followed.

Collectively they are a splendid example of the effectiveness of the Settle-Carlisle grapevine and of the Police Serious Rumour Squad.

 One included some happier days photographs.  These were new on me and made me smile.  This one shows me driving an unregistered, untaxed and uninsured vehicle which does not comply with most of of the requirements of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations.  The photographer promises not to tell the cops.

and from the same source: