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Calling all users of solid fuel central heating, I'm so confused!

(6 Posts)
Indith Sun 30-Aug-09 13:43:30

Our shiny new house has solid fuel heating which makes me very happy indeed but right now is annoying me as I can't seem to get my head round it.

Until now we've just used the immersion heater to give us a bit of hot water in the evening for kids' bath and washing up but now it is starting to edge towards Autumn I want to get the heating sorted. I got the chimney swept, got fuel and lit a fire.

First, the instructions the previous owners left are bit ambiguous (sure they make perfect sense when you are used to it but not to us!). We have a pump switch and an override switch. Am I right in saying that in general you have the pump switch off and the override on? So then the pump will get switched on anyway once the water is hot enough? That seems right as if I have the pump switch on it pumps even if the water is not hot, so the override doesn't seem to switch it off if the pump switch is on. But when I had the fire going last night the pump never kicked in, is that just that I never got the water hot enough? If so how do I get it hot enough as I had a pretty good fire going!

Then there is a bit that says that in some circumstances it is best to have the override off as when the fire has been out for a bit the water being pumped will be cold even if the tank is hot so you have to turn the override off until the tank has cooled down a bit. Is that because the tank temp is what triggers the heating but if there is no fire there is nothing to heat the water going to the radiators?

Anyway I am confusing myself even more now!

My plan for tonight is to have a good hot fire in the evening to try to get the tank up to heating kicking in temp (as I think it won't be all that long til we need to be able to do that pretty quickly!) and then bank up the fire for a slow burn overnight which I'm hoping will mean we have enogh hot water to last the day for washing up and baths.

What do you do? In the proper winter it seems pretty easy as a low burn all day and night will be the best way of keeping a constant temp in the house but what is the most fuel efficient way of having hot water when you don't need heating all the time (though a bit of heat in the evenings is nice)

Indith Sun 30-Aug-09 16:44:03


Indith Sun 30-Aug-09 19:18:01

Please please please please please it is going to drive me mad! I've had the fire on since mid afternoon and the bloody heating hasn't kicked in yet! How on earth can the water not be hot enough yet? (I know I can turn the pump on any time I want manually but I want to figure out the wretched override). The thermostat on the tank is set at about 70C according to the previous owners but we can't seem to change it (the twiddly knob thingy is a bit buggered). Mind you they say when you have the fire going with oxygen open to it it gets really mega hot and noisy and scary and my fire seems to burn much the same whether I have oxygen to it or not. Still they say a fistfull of hot coal, 2 scoops of coal over it and it will burn slow for 18 hours and get the water uber hot, well I added my 2 scoops a bit ago so we'll see.

Takver Sun 30-Aug-09 21:38:21

What sort of solid fuel system is it? I think the reason that you're not getting an answer is that different systems are going to run differently. Where we used to live we had a wood burning rayburn & no pump at all in our house, the main farmhouse had a wood Stanley and a pump which came on automatically when it reached a certain temperature plus different valves to open certain parts of the system . . . you get the picture. Our friends have a woodburning ceramic stove with a heat store & underfloor heating, very different again!
I suspect what you need is a friendly plumber to tell you what goes where, or to call the previous owners & ask them to explain better.
From your description, do you have a wood Rayburn? If so, you will find that (unless you have a funky heat return loop system - which you might!) then until you get the water in the tank fairly hot it will be difficult to get the fire to really 'go', because the boiler is right next to the firebox, so it pulls down the fire temperature.
In our old house (our 'new' rayburn for this house is sat outside in pieces atm) we found the trick was (a) to have very dry wood split small, and (b) to fill the oven with small split wood when letting the fire go out. Then when you lit the fire you had lots of really really dry very small stuff to get it going fast. With that approach we reckoned to be able to light the fire and cook dinner in less than an hour, so long as the tank wasn't stone cold. In spring/autumn we probably had a fire for a couple of hours a day and that gave us loads of hot water (with a seriously insulated tank).
If your burner hasn't been on for ages its not surprising that its taking a while to get sorted, though as everything will be cold. Make sure you also know all the places to scrape clinker out - it made a huge difference with both the Rayburn & the Stanley taking the 2 minutes to take all the covers off & scrape out any ash etc from round the oven every time before you lit it.
Also, don't be depressed if it takes you a while to get the hang of the thing, I reckon most burners take a few months to really get to grips with their little quirks.

Indith Mon 31-Aug-09 11:08:47

Thanks Takver

The heating finally kicked in last night so at least I know I have all the switches in the right place and it works the way I think it does!
It is an aarrow stratford thing, with lots of bits missing! The info that cam ewith the house said "unknown" for when it was last serviced so I am going to get that done I think and maybe fix the air control knob and stuff depending on cost!
I'm guessing that now the tank is nice and hot it will not take long to to up the heat each evening and keep things ticking over, it was impressive though the rate at which the house became really hot very quickly as soon as the radiators came on, looking forward to a nice warm winter for once!

walkthedinosaur Mon 31-Aug-09 11:15:00

Gosh it sounds really complicated, I have a Bosky wood burning central heating system with a pump. My understanding is, not to turn the pump on before the water gets to 40 degrees because it causes corrosion in the system, so I always leave my pump off until the water in the tank gets to 60 degrees and then I plug in the pump, as soon as the hot water leaves the tank the temperature drops but then heats up relatively quickly. My system is very basic, really just a plug to turn pump on and off. I always turn the pump off before I go to bed again to stop pumping cold water round the system if the fire cools down or goes out in the night. However, this works well for us because hot water rises so the radiators upstairs stay pretty much hot all night without the pump being on.

I heat my water electrically so my wood burner is really only for cooking and heating.

Hope this was of some help.

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