Daughter: Daddy, are you awake?
Daughter: Daddy … wake up
Daughter: Daddy … there’s water coming out the light switch.
Me: Zzz … water … zzz … light switch … WTF ?!!
30 seconds later the house is powered down. 5 minutes later I’m draining down our central heating system in my PJ’s. 30 minutes later (crawling around in the roof space in the dark with a small torch) and the failing component is identified. Well, sort of. I know which bit is leaking water, I just can’t work out what it’s normally meant to do, and hence what the dratted thing is called. It’s also not obvious how to dismantle it from the rest of the plumbing up there.
At this point it’s clear that my family do not consider me to be in complete control of the situation. I briefly consider escaping to work, but the look on my wifes face indicates that leaving her with no water, no heating and no electricity would be a mistake that I might not live to regret.
30 minutes on the internet, and Google is turning out to be of limited assistance. I’m now pretty sure it’s an air bleed valve that’s failed, and is now bleeding (all the) water out of the system as well as the odd bit of trapped air. I’ve learned quite a bit about air bleed systems for large commercial installations, but basically nothing on how domestic ones work, why it might have failed, or how to remove/replace the dratted thing.
Brainwave. Telephone the original suppliers of the system (from 3 years ago). Talk to their receptionist, who gives me the cell number for their lead engineer. Who, when I call him, turns out to be at home ill. But then insists on going into their office to get hold of the original design for my system. I’m amazed to hear that they still have it, but 30 minutes later, and he’s identified the part (it is an air bleed valve) and talks me through how to dismantle it from the system. This turns out to be trivial, but non-obvious – it obviously plays a pivotal role in one of those plumbing engineer initiation rites. Whatever – I owe the guy a glowing email to his boss for acting way above and beyond the call of duty.
30 minutes later the local plumbing supplies place have a direct replacement in my (damp) hands, and within the hour, the system is back up and running, at least temporarily. Tomorrow I will need to drain it all down again, and refill it, this time with fresh chemical inhibitors to stop rust and hydrogen formation. But for now, life is sweet – we have heating, hot water, and most of the house electricity supply is back on. And it’s only lunchtime.