Winter’s last blast

Snow March 2016The old saying is, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”. It’s proving true so far, we’ve already had two snowfalls this month sufficient to disrupt traffic for a couple of hours. With spectacularly bad timing, we chose last weekend to re-connect a radiator that hasn’t been in use since we had some damp-proofing work done in late 2013. The radiator had to be removed for the wall behind it to be replastered, and we left it off to make redecorating easier. That took the best part of 18 months because you can’t wallpaper onto new plaster until it has fully dried out and by then it was winter again, which isn’t a good time for decorating.

By the time the walls were redecorated, it was last summer and we didn’t want to reconnect the radiator without the heating system running to check for leaks. So we just hung it back on the wall and left it, valved off. Then, come the autumn, we thought we’d better add some more inhibitor to the system and reconnecting the radiator would be a good opportunity to do that as it would create additional volume to accommodate the inhibitor. Well, we finally got around to buying the inhibitor last month. We haven’t missed the radiator in all of this time, there’s another one in the room and it does a perfectly good job of keeping it warm, thanks to the solid wall insulation we had fitted not long ago.

Last Sunday it was sunny enough to warm the attic – one of the drawbacks of a well insulated attic floor is it’s too cold to venture in there for most of the winter.  Seizing the chance, we re-made the compression fittings at each end of the radiator, poured a litre of inhibitor into the feed and expansion tank in the attic, turned on the heating and opened the radiator valves. The radiator got hot, but it leaked. The leak didn’t appear to be coming from a compression joint and eventually we located it – thanks to a newly-acquired borescope that works with an Android phone – a small, weeping hole low down in the rear panel of the radiator.


Borescope – a 6mm (1/4″) camera on a long flexible cable and my current favourite gadget

There was much muttering and swearing at this point. Then we closed the valves and stuffed a bowl under the radiator to catch any remaining drips while we decided what to do. The simplest thing, we concluded, was to remove the radiator and scrap it. It’s not needed, so there’s little point in buying a new one. I suppose we could lug it to a mechanic’s workshop and get the hole brazed up, but I’m not sure I’d entirely trust such a repair and it’s a lot of hassle, and expense, for no real benefit.

Compression end caps

1/2″ and 15mm – virtually the same size

A couple of days later, with snow falling outside, we drained down the radiator and removed it. We’d taken the precaution of buying a pair of both 15mm and ½” end caps to block the valve openings where a radiator should be connected. One of the curious things about domestic plumbing is that the old ½” Imperial compression fittings are almost the same size as the modern 15mm ones, despite the fact that ½” is a lot closer to 13mm than 15mm. The reason is that 15mm relates to the internal diameter, while the Imperial sizing relates to the outside diameter. If you’re dealing with the plumbing in an old house then you’ll likely need a mix of both types, together with a variety of conversion fittings and olives. We thought we’d got all the bases covered by having end caps in both sizes but, as is so often the case in this house, we were wrong-footed. Neither size would screw onto the valve, and end caps are definitely required because the valves leaked ever-so-slightly when the pump was running and the pipework at pressure.

We braved the snow to examine the compression fittings on the radiator, which we’d left outside but (thankfully) hadn’t yet got rid of. They were definitely 15mm, one of them even had 15 stamped on it, but the thread was finer than the standard thread in our 15mm end caps. Odd. I turned to Google and found that fine thread compression fittings do indeed exist. They are intended to reduce the torque needed to do up or undo the fitting, presumably to avoid damaging the attached pipework. Now I need to find a plumbers’ merchant who stocks them – none of the general DIY stores nearby do.

Fine thread compression fitting

Both 15mm, but the new cap on the right has a coarser thread than the old fitting

In the meantime, we have newspaper and rags under the leaking valves. When the heating season ends we’ll lift a few floorboards, work out where this radiator comes in the run and figure out how best to remove the redundant pipework and valves more permanently. Remind me not to tinker about with the heating system in March again, it’s just too cold to be dealing with leaks.

His ‘n’ hers hats

I’ve made us a hat each from the budget reflective yarn I bought last Saturday.

Hates made from reflective yarn My dear husband’s Cozy Ribbed Hat (on the right above) has already had its first outing when we walked up to the pub with friends one evening. Much amusement was had by all, shining torches at his head and taking flash photos. Yes, we do look like pillocks with our glowing heads, and there’s no way we’ll be wearing the hats out together because to do so would invite ridicule from passing strangers as well as friends. But if it makes us more visible to traffic in the dark, that’s fine with me.

Reflective hat taken with a flash

Cozy Ribbed Hat taken with flash

The pattern I chose for my shiny headgear was Mag Mile Hat, although I varied it a little to suit my different tension. It’s basically a 2×2 rib with a cable over 14 stitches in one row. That cable was something of a challenge in firm super chunky acrylic, especially with the ply of reflective tape which tried its utmost to separate from the acrylic given the slightest opportunity.

Each hat used a little over a full 100g ball of the yarn. I may separate the reflective tape from what’s left of the third ball and use it for something else. It might be nice to have just a narrow reflective strip in a smarter hat or pair of gloves for dark winter evenings.

My Kelmscott cardigan is progressing, slowly. After just short of a month I have completed the back, one front and perhaps a quarter of a sleeve. I must stop being distracted by shiny, shiny yarn and get knitting Kelmscott before the spring comes. The collar is massive and lacy and will take ages.

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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