I have been living in Southampton for two-and-a-half years now, but have never had cause to use the heating in my flat. I can usually get by living parasitically off the heat of my neighbours (one of the advantages of flat living: just ask Edwin Abbott) and waste heat from my culinary adventures.
There is now a hint of traditional winter in the air: a nip, if you will. I’m also finding that visitors to my demesne are starting to arrive wearing ALL of their clothing in a desperate attempt to stay warm. Offers to share my rather limited body heat have generally been re-buffed as (a) inadequate and (b) wholly inappropriate. People also seem to take little comfort when informed that shivering is an excellent route to weight loss, though no-one has (yet) tried to deck me.
So, on returning from my last sojourn across the Irish Sea, I resolved to at least test the heating system to ensure that I knew how it worked and could (if suitably motivated) dispel any frost forming within the flat. In this way, I may narrowly avoid becoming some sort of social pariah in the winter months. I can move away from being considered ‘cold and unfeeling’ to merely ‘unfeeling’.
My flat does not have central heating but, in a throwback to my childhood, is equipped with night storage heaters: though unlike in the 1970s I believe these can be encouraged to produce heat without 24 hours written notice (if you are willing to eat the cost of the peak electricity consumed). Yesterday evening, and more importantly last night with its promise of frost, was the time scheduled for the first heating test.
In theory, storage heaters have pretty basic controls: you choose how much heat to store during the night on a scale from 1 to 6 (with no link to a more widely known unit of energy) and the rate at which you would like it released on an apparently similar (but probably rather different) scale from 1 to 6. However, puzzlingly, my flat has a rather flash looking controller with up to four programmes for when to turn on and off some sort of heating device. How could this fit into the heating system? The documentation that came with the flat gave no clues and the device itself gave nothing away, save its manufacturer. As a result, I was forced to use an internet image search to discover what purpose the controller served. I now know it to be an RF07T Towel Rail Controller. Yes, my flat is possessed of a radio-controlled heated towel rail with a more sophisticated control system than the central heating for anywhere I have ever lived. What the internet is unable to explain is why I need such an exquisitely controllable towel rail. I would also have to say that in my tests last night, the towel rail seemed to be on regardless of what I did to its controller. I think I shall have to download the instructions if I wish my towel rail to follow bow to my will: to- date, I have merely hung my bath towel over it while it was entirely quiescent and relied on ambient heat to dry my towels (after they had, in turn, dried me).
Having identified the RF07T as a red herring, my attention turned to the storage heaters themselves and I can confirm that my tests were a success. When I awoke this morning, the flat was unnaturally warm despite only choosing 4 for storage and 3 for recall. Unlike my childhood, the first use of the storage heaters for the winter (or in this case last three winters) was not accompanied by the dreadful smell of burning dust: so perhaps the technology has moved on. Future visitors need only give 24 hours notice of their arrival and I have the option (but not the obligation) to ensure that they are toasty warm throughout their visit (or until the storage bricks run cold).
I think we can all now agree that I am a splendid human being and an excellent host. The possibility of a warm welcome awaits all who visit and suggestions that I spend my spare time farming cold comfort can now be put to rest.