Blog Archive

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Tech issues Part-1 (Infrastructure)

Everyone is aware of the most obvious tech issue with living in England: driving on the left side of the road. Since we're walking and without a car, this shouldn't be an issue for us. Another fairly obvious one is the 240 volt power plugs. The 3-prong power adapters are cheap and easy solution for many electronic devices - however a more complicated solution (power transformer) is required if the device you brought from USA is not capable of 240 VAC. It's important to carefully read the labels on every device you bring to the UK to verify it can operate at this higher voltage. 
Appliance Power Label

US Plug Adapters

 There are some less obvious ones that may take an equally long time to get used to. One of these is relearning how to use light switches when "down" means ON and "up' means OFF.  Of course making the mistake of pushing it the wrong way is not nearly as tragic as forgetting which side of the road to drive on. Still, it seems kind of crazy doesn't it?  
English Light Switches

Another difference in home design and infrastructure is the hot water heaters. Nearly every home/apartment we've seen has this kitchen appliance attached to the wall that is about the size of a dorm-fridge. These are the on-demand water heaters. Yes, on-demand systems are starting to gain popularity in the USA, but they are quite a different set-up. These "boilers" have been around a long time as a kitchen fixture.  The same boilers are used to heat the home as the hot water taps. 
Kitchen Water Heater Appliance

There are several reasons they might be difficult to get used to. For one they often don't heat the water quite as hot as typical american storage type water heaters. In many cases home showers are fitted with a supplemental heater right inside the shower that can give a boost to the temperature making it more suitable for showering. Another reason they are a bit difficult to get used to is that there is quite a bit of hysteresis in the thermostats, meaning that the output temperature goes up and down by as much as 10-15° F. So when you're taking a shower without a supplemental heater, the water temperature might go from chilly to very hot every minute or so as the heater cycles the thermostat on and off. 
Supplemental Shower Heater

It might seem odd that while standing in the shower with the water spraying, you can reach up and adjust the heat setting on an electric water heater right inside the shower.  At the same time, for safety reasons English bathrooms usually don't have any plugs, outlets or even a light switch (you can only turn on bathroom lights by pulling on a cord).  Here's an image of what's inside these little shower heaters - does this seem safe inside a shower?

Inside the supplemental shower heater. 

- David