Jeff Howell: Understanding Economy 7 and Kitchen Taps

METER FRUSTRATION

Q

Our all-electric bungalow is wired with a two-rate meter to take advantage of cheaper Economy 7 electricity. Our night-storage heaters are controlled on the "night" circuit by our electricity supplier via a radio timer, currently set for 10.30pm-12.30am and 2.30am-7.30am (checked by observing the neon light on one of the heaters). I wish to make maximum use of Economy 7 for the immersion heater, washing machine and dehumidifier, so have asked Scottish El ectricity if the low-rate times are the same on the "normal" circuit. Their answers have ranged from "Don't know", "can be varied by the supplier", to "12.30-7.30am". They do not answer my email enquiries. My neighbours and I are frustrated that we are purchasing a product which the supplier will not fully explain, and which we may not be using in the most economical manner. Can you help?

NT, Lancaster

A

Economy 7 ("off peak") electricity is the cheapest fuel for readers with no mains gas supply. It can be difficult to get suppliers to tell you which times the off-peak rate kicks in and out, but this is often because they don't know - the switchover times are determined by the electricity generating companies, not the retail supply companies (a result of the convoluted way in which the electricity industry was privatised in the Eighties).

The only sure-fire way of knowing is to observe the neon switch lights on your storage heaters, as you already know. If you use timers on your washing machine and dishwasher, or any other appliances, then it is worth keeping an eye on these times, as the generating companies can shift them by five or 10 minutes either way without notice, to even out the switch loadings within a region. They don't want all the storage heaters in one area to switch on at the same time, as this would create a surge and possibly blow transformer fuses.

On the Level: Jeff Howell

On the Level: Jeff Howell's home advice

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On the level: Jeff Howell's home advice

On the level: Jeff Howell's home advice

Having established the Economy 7 times, you can then be sure that all your electrical appliances will be cheap to run during those periods. As long as you have only one electric meter, then all your consumption will be coming through that. Your storage heaters will be wired through a dedicated consumer unit that gets the power supply switched to it during the off-peak periods. But there will be a fused spur that also directs this off-peak electricity back through your "normal" consumer unit, so all the power circuits and lighting circuits are switched to the cheap rate at the same time.

Most Economy 7 users have a special hot-water cylinder fitted with two immersion heaters. The lower heater is wired to come on automatically every night, on the same circuit as the storage heaters, and the upper one can be switched on manually during the day-rate period if needed for a boost.

UNDER PRESSURE

QWe need to replace our kitchen mixer tap, which has been in use for 30 years, and which now leaks badly at the neck swivel joint due to our hard water and despite re-washering. When I look at websites for replacements, I find there are high and low-pressure units on offer. The hot water supply at the sink is, at the moment, from a tank in the airing cupboard upstairs and the cold is from the mains. Does it matter whether the new fitment is high or low pressure?

JW, by email

A If I were you I would fix the existing tap and keep it. It probably just needs properly descaling, and the correct-sized O-ring(s) fitting.

If you want to buy a new tap anyway, and you have indirect ("low") pressure hot water, then you will need a low-pressure tap. Many readers have reported problems with regard to this, often with European imports which have only 8mm or even 6mm copper "tails" to connect to the incoming water pipes. If you then find the mains cold water flow is too fierce, you can always fit a pressure-reducing valve to the cold supply only.

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You might want to try a pet store -- the fish tank section. They will carry immersion heaters for large fish tanks/aquariums, but I do not know how hot they will heat the water. Also, do you have a large gallon or so thermos (the kind with a little spigot)? Heat your water on the stove and put it in the thermos and at least you will have warm water throughout the day to wash your hands or a quick dishes rinse.1. Why does my immersion heater keep blowing?If you have very hard water off the shelf elements sometimes do not last very long. There are elements designed for hard water (such as Sand Hog) that will last for years. Although they are much more expensive then the cheaper ones they are well worth the price. As the other poster stated, make sure the elements are covered with water before turning on the power2. can I fit an immersion heater to my boiler myself - and how easy is it?!?Provided that you have a copper storage cylinder, then it would be possible to fit an immersion heater, the biggest problem is obtaining a cable to carry the 3Kw load which has to be on it's own circuit. You require a "WILLIS-TYPE" immersion heater and sleeve, which you fit vertically OUTSIDE the cylinder, the bottom is connected to the bottom of the cylinder by a 15mm pipe, and the top is fitted one meter up the breather pipe, when turned on the hot water rises vertically, then goes down into the top of the cylinder by "thermo-syphon" The very hot water floats on the cold water and after some time depresses the cold water in the cylinder.. As the Draw-off is already at the top there will be hot water available immediately. Email me if you have difficulties. This system was invented in Belfast in the thirties by a guy called Willis, and is found in 90% of houses here in Northern Ireland.3. How does an immersion heater for a bathtub work? We don't have them in America.?You can get immersion heaters from the livestock store, same principal as the coffee mug just bigger, we used to use them to heat up buckets of water4. electric immersion heater used to heat 100g of water for a cup of herbal tea.The heater is labeled 200Watt?Electric Cup Heater5. what affects the heating power of an immersion heater?The power is set by the running resistance of the heater element. When the element heats up, it's resistance will rise, and settle at a certain value. This value will regulate the amount of electrical power dissipated in heat. The effect of water temperature on this resistance will be minimal, as the element will run at several hundred degrees. To measure the power, you would need to measure the current drawn by the element while it is running, and then multiply this figure by the mains voltage. Alternatively there will be a plate on the side of the boiler telling you the power consumption, or at least the current drawn.6. Is it consumable, water heated by electric immersion heater?Sure. If youve ever drank hot water out of a faucet, or used it for cooking, and have an electric water heater, youve drank from an immersible element heater. The element is immersed in the water to heat it7. Our water is constantly scalding - whats wrong? Immersion heater fault?Sounds like a thermostat-related problem. Whatever is used to set the desired water temperature is not functioning properly, or not all. The water is being constantly heated 24-7. Call a reputable plumber to check this out immediately.8. Does a longer immersion heater last longer?The 14" long heating element may or may not last longer, but it's reasonable to give it a try if the 14" element is from just as reputable a source as the 11" element9. If only 1 kw of electric at 240volts is available to a 3 kw immersion heater?What limits the current ? If you try to connect it to a 1 KW circuit all you will do is trip the overcurrent protection. If do you put 1/3 the current through the heater you get somewhat less than 1/3 heat out of it. (The resistance does not rise to the design level.) EMail me.
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