Horstmann Quartz E7 water heating control system
advice,  essentials,  expat life,  wtf

WTF?: The Immersion

The first time showering in our apartment was quite memorable. Poor Steve learned the hard way that you cannot take hot water for granted here in Ireland.

Meet the immersion water heater controller:

Horstmann Quartz E7 water heating control system
Our water heating control system

When we moved in, I noticed this contraption on the wall but for whatever reason, I disregarded it. I remember thinking to myself, “This looks ancient and it’s set to ‘off’ anyway. Maybe it’s something that’s just been here for years and isn’t important.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This important device controls the hot water supply for our entire apartment. When it’s off, you won’t have hot water.

The previous tenants naturally turned it off since the apartment was to be vacant for a while. We had no idea about this whole water heating concept, though, so we were very confused when we turned the shower on for the first time and found the water wasn’t warming up after a few minutes.

After some Googling, we discovered that the switch on the panel should always be set to “timed” unless you plan on not being home for a few days. The controller knows what the current time is based on the setting of the larger dial. Our system starts heating our water from around 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. daily, when electricity rates are lowest. The bottom dial is for the boost function, when you need hot water “in a pinch.”

We turned the boost on so that Steve could shower before work. We thought 20 minutes of heating was enough, but soon discovered we were wrong. A few minutes in, I heard yelling.

“IT’S F***ING FREEZING!” Steve yelped.

I did some more research and learned that the boost function heats up to around half the tank in two hours. Twenty minutes simply wasn’t sufficient time to heat enough water for a shower. Let’s just say Steve took one of the quickest showers of his life that morning.

In the States, we never had to turn on a switch to get hot water, and we never really encountered hot water shortages. The only time we really experienced one was when a group of us rented out an older house during a snowboarding trip, and six people in a row took showers. In our apartment here, there’s barely enough hot water for the two of us to take consecutive showers in the morning (and we each take about 10 minutes, so certainly nothing crazy). By around 1 p.m., we pretty much don’t have any hot water coming out of the shower or sinks, so the boost function must be used. (Or you just get used to washing dishes and brushing your teeth at night with cool water. It builds character!)

An alternative water heating option for the shower in Ireland is this:

electric water heater in shower
It felt so nice to take a hot shower

We recently visited Cork and stayed at an Airbnb that had this electric heater. OMG, it was brilliant. INSTANT HOT WATER. I’m a little confused because in Ireland, it’s illegal for residential bathrooms to have electrical outlets, but somehow electric water heaters in the shower are totally OK . . . but I’m not complaining.

So gone are the days of spontaneous hot showers. Now it requires careful planning and remembering to set the boost function prior to any sort of workout that takes place after noon. (Four months in, it still hasn’t become second nature for us to turn boost on before exercising.)

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