For the last few weeks my heating system has been playing up. Most of the time the radiators have been cold although the hot water has been fine. Then occasionally, usually mid to late evening, they would come on but go off again before the temperature on the thermostat was reached. Very strange!
Now this system is an Air Source Heat Pump. It’s tanks, control panel and associated gubbins take up half a small room in the loft, partly because it is also connected to the solar thermal panels on the roof which have their own set of gadgetry. When there are problems I know to go and see if there is an error message on the screen and / or try switching everything off and then back on again. I am sure I could learn how it all works but given the thickness of the ‘Owner’s Manual’ and the number of calls to Technical Support’ during installation I doubt whether the effort would be justified. Sometimes I think longingly of the simplicity of the old solid fuel range which John installed soon after we moved here; then I remember the work of feeding it, emptying the ash, the sooty muck that got everywhere. Not to mention trying to cut enough trees before we gave up and used coal. And the coming home at the end of a day or, worse, a weekend away to a cold house knowing it would take ages to get the fire going properly and the heating working. So I phoned Green Warmth who installed it and service it each year to ask for help.
I thought it might be a problem with the pump which circulates the water through the radiators and Paul, the boss, agreed so told me how to take the cover off and free the blades. It worked! For about an hour – then back to (non) service as usual. I had just emailed to ask them to come out and it worked again. We agreed to wait and see and try to establish any pattern until the annual service later in November. I put on extra thick socks and jumpers, lit the woodstove in the sitting room and took a hot water bottle to bed each night. When it got to the end of the month with no date from them I emailed again and got a very apologetic reply – one of the team had had to take compassionate leave for a bereavement and they were behindhand with their jobs. I knew how important it was to me that my family were able to get time off when John died so I approved of them being understanding to one of their employees and was happy to carry on until they could come.
So Monday Gary, one of the engineers came and did the service and replaced the pump. The radiators started to get warm and off he went. The radiators went cold again and came on properly mid evening until I turned the thermostat down when I went to bed. Then nothing all day Tuesday so late afternoon I emailed again. He came back this morning and burrowed deeper into the logged information in the controller. It told him it was 32 degrees outside so no heating could be needed! I doubt if it has ever been that warm here in mid-summer! He eventually found the outside sensor and opened it up. A spider had got in and spun a web over the sensor confusing it utterly! A quick clean and the system got a bit of a shock as the temperature dropped 22 degrees in a minute!
So there you are a small spider can disable a very sophisticated, computer controlled, high-tech system just by spinning a web!
Actually I am glad it did. I had no idea that the small grey box on the wall above the end of the car-port was a vital part of the heating. It was about to be encased in the roof of the new shed where it would be permanently too warm and very hard to find. Gary will be back next week to move it somewhere safer and if there are any more problems before then will replace it. Thank you spider!