Fuel Radiators on Over Winter


(Jo Houseman) #1

Hi


We have a house in France but currently live in Australia. Having heating full stop is a new experience for us. When we were looking for a house in France it was after one of their coldest winters and a lot of expats who do not live in France permanently came back to burst pipes which worried me a lot when our house went through the first Winter.


I think some of the expats left water through their pipes - we drain ours.


We have noticed that it is costing 500 euro a year for 500 litres of fuel for the radiators and apparently it is suppose to just be on "defrost" however when we were there in Dec/Jan last/this year we noticed it kept kicking in even though it was 12 degrees or so outside.


We have a neighbour come and turn it on at the start of winter when it gets cold and then turns it off when the risk is gone.


If we just drained the pipes and did not have the heating turned on would we be ok? Would the radiators be ok? The guys across the road don't keep their heating on over winter they just drain the pipes but they do not have old fashion heaters either.


I am not sure if the radiators would freeze - would they if we did not turn the heating on?


We are just trying to suss out if we drain the pipes can we save money on heating or is it too much of a risk. Our house is in the Dordogne near Belves so it gets a bit cold but not -19 degree temperatures. I think the coldest I seen (monitoring it on my iphone) is about -4 degrees.


Any advice would be appreciated.


Cheers


Jo


(Pauline Vincent) #2

We always shut all the shutters during the winter and just leave one window ajar so that the air can circulate and we have no problems.

Mike


(Nick Graves) #3

Apart from all the excellent suggestions below, have you considered an internet-connected thermostat(s)? This "smart home" approach is developing very fast, and gives you control over what is happening in your house from wherever, even Australia. We have the Heatmiser NeoStat system installed in our French house (www.heatmiser.com/heatmiser-neo), which works well for us - a thermostat installed in three separate rooms. Our heating is underfloor electric, which makes this easier, but there are other solutions for water-based systems, including internet-connected thermostat valves on each radiator. Honeywell, Danfoss and others all have solutions, and as I say, it is evolving very fast. The one requirement of course is a reliable internet connection (not always a given in rural France). Also, this technology is moving faster than many of the artisan plombiers in France :-(


(graham powell) #4

Hi,

leaving the heating at 12deg will cost money and at end of day will keep house cozy but gain very little. frost protection really does not need to be much more that 5/7deg provided the stat is not in a room right next to the radiator, otherwise it needs to be higher to compensate for being too warm.

The real solution is the add antifreeze to the system just like you do for your car, there are plenty out there, fernox do one that goes down to 22deg, which is if gets to that in the house it going to be considerably more outside, other option is to also turn the pump on when the frost stat come on that way it keeps the water moving, moving water takes longer to freeze added with antifreeze there is absolutely no reason for heating pipes to ever freeze.

But that does not negate the drinking water, make sure its off, pipes insulated at all points because even a pipe with water stood in it will freeze.

Obviously putting the boiler on as well will keep the damp down, but personally although I leave my house shut up for relatively long periods we don't get vast amounts of damp, bit 'musty' but soon clears when the windows open, hope this helps

Graham


(Diana Pinnell) #5

No expertise on heating, but understand the problem. We have a flat in the UK and worried we were keeping it too warm. When we changed the boiler we fitted a Hive thermostat which we can see and control over the internet - it comes in three parts, one on the dining room wall, one on the boiler and one on the router. Currently in holiday mode it reports the internal temp is 11 degrees C and will kick in if it goes below 7. Added advantage that I can turn it back up the day we leave France to have the flat back at normal temp when we arrive.

Sadly can't do the same for the French house as we heat the house with logs, but we installed electric storage radiators and they keep it around 11 degrees in our absence on heures creuses. However we do have a Heath-Robinson system of checking - a weather station outside reports the temp there over the internet and IP camera shows a thermometer indoors. Wemo switches manage additional heaters over my mobile phone - I turn the sockets on if it gets too cold indoors. Best of all is the neighbour who adjusts the electric rads when the weather turns colder.

I think we are a bit obsessive! No doubt EDF adore us.


(Sally McCarthy) #6

Another thing to consider especiallyif temps in the 4-10 range is moisture and condensation, we ha e just come over to find the power off sono heating and the whole house very damp and mould on all solid surfaces! Eugh. Also all furnishings damp.


(Tim Williams) #7

Haven’t read all the posts so apologies if this has been covered.
Our oil boiler has a small hot water reservoir built into it and, I think, this is quite common. Therefore even though the boiler may be set to ‘frost protection’ it will still come for a few minutes every so often to keep the hot water ‘tank’/flask/reservoir hot thus eating up valuable oil!
Have had my boiler modified but, if I’m honest, it doesn’t appear to have made any difference.


(John Withall) #8

Always wondered why 5 deg was chosen as water doesn't freeze until much lower, did they do a deal with the energy companies?

Mike/Pauline when we were looking for antifreeze in France the lowest price was €75 and of course it depends on the size of the system.


(Pauline Vincent) #9

In response to your heating problem you say you drain all the pipes I assume that is for hot and cold water.

With regard to your heating you say you have a defrost which is actually a frost stat. You do not mention that you have a room stat, programmer or time clock. You can get a room stat which you can program to go down to 5C. The frost stat you have is a waste (in 1992 there was a hurricane and the electric was off for 3 weeks in February so there was no heating as there was no electric).

I would suggest that you put central heating anti freeze in your system which I always recommend to everyone. This is not expensive. The cost of the anti freeze is roughly 50 euros plus labour. Hope this helps.

Mike


(Hilary Jane Dunk) #10

Jo,

I bought some time ago but have only just started living over here (in the Dordogne, not far from Brian)...but the few winters ago that he is referring to, the temperatures in my road reached minus 17 degrees for 15 days. I wasn't over here at the time and the system wasn't drained sufficiently......hence flooding damage over several weeks from a fractured upstairs loo, dripping down into hall way and saturating walls and floor in that area. My (fantastic), French neighbours noticed something wrong and turned the water off, repeatedly aired the house for me to help speed the drying process and counteract damp & mould. Warped floor boards and damage to a much treasured, Breton marble-topped walnut buffet (part of a set bought for a song from the local broccante) was the final result.

So, if you aren't going to be around at the time, don't bank on the likely hood of mild winters......drain it down or programme it to switch on at a low frost protection setting. Some programmers, I believe, can be activated by a phone call these days.....


(Mike Ayres) #11

Hi Jo

Another simple measure is to have what is known as a frost stat installed, it will then protect the system and also other pipes in the house, I would stress though please do insulate any likely candidates for freezing to be safe. You can usually set the temp at which they will start the system and they are provided with a cover. A friendly neighbour as many have said is invaluable if only to check that the roof is not leaking. As always and I'm sure you do isolate the mains water supply on departure, my Dad once arrived at his cottage in Yorkshire and there was water running out the front door, it had been going for weeks, it trashed the entire contents of the house. I have one of the stats shown below installed in my garage which is integral with the house.

Good luck

Mike

http://www.honeywelluk.com/products/Temperature-Controls/Frost/T4360/


(Mike Ayres) #12

Hi Jo

Another simple measure is to have what is known as a frost stat installed, it will then protect the system and also other pipes in the house, I would stress though please do insulate any likely candidates for freezing to be safe. You can usually set the temp at which they will start the system and they are provided with a cover. A friendly neighbour as many have said is invaluable if only to check that the roof is not leaking. As always and I'm sure you do isolate the mains water supply on departure, my Dad once arrived at his cottage in Yorkshire and there was water running out the front door, it had been going for weeks, it trashed the entire contents of the house. I have one of the stats shown below installed in my garage which is integral with the house.

Good luck

Mike

http://www.honeywelluk.com/products/Temperature-Controls/Frost/T4360/


(Kit Wells) #13

Not really to do with winter heating problems but we have a contract with a firm called Savelys. Cost about 144 euros a year. They come out to do a full service of the heating system once a year (flushing system if necessary) and are on call to come out if anything is not working properly. They do not charge for this extra service - only for parts used. They are a large but very friendly company, admirable efficiency and speed. Don't know if they operate outside Charente/Charente Maritime.


(Adrian Pexman-Cock) #14

If you have put antifreeze in your system it is advantageous to leave the pump running, agitating the fluid so reducing the risk of freezing. If you turn the stat down to 5C or so it will only run when the temperature drops.


(Haydn E Ebbs) #15

A point I have not seen mentioned is that if a lower floor radiator was to spring a leak it is highly likely that it could drain most of the fluid out of the system. If you have turned your heating system off, then isolate each radiator in turn. That way if one was to leak the only loss is the fluid loss from that radiator


(Mike Kearney) #16

Hi Jo,

Antifreeze sounds like your best answer. Oil-fired boilers are not known for being economical on frost protection. If yours is more than 20 years old, it might pay to replace it. Regular maintenance is also important.


(Jo Houseman) #17

Hi Mike

We have only drained our water pipes - not the radiators/heating system hence why we have covered the radiators.

We have had lots of advice from this forum ie either draining the radiators but that could lead to rusting and air pockets, putting anti freeze in the system and just leaving it as it does not get that cold where we are (except for the drastic winter they had in 2010 - where many people had burst pipes, etc).

I think we might end up putting anti freeze in the system and will try and tee someone up to do it while we are there in December/January at the end of this year.


(Mike Kearney) #18

Hi Jo,

I don't quite understand. If you are draining the system,then the boiler won't work, because there is no water to circulate. It is a complete mystery how you could have used €700 of fuel doing nothing...... I think you need advice from a local heating engineer.


(Jo Houseman) #19

Well we are just back from France. Our heating ended up costing 700 euro worth of oil this time. So frustrating and it was a mild winter apparently. I don't want to play around with the thermostat just yet as am not entirely sure how it works so we have drained the pipes again, my husband has put insulation on all visible pipes and we have put blankets on all the radiators. Hopefully this will suffice for now. We will think about getting a plumber out to put the anti freeze in. We will be back there just after Christmas so we can check how it is going then. Arrggghh :)


(Alan O'Sullivan) #20

Good avice here by Mike Kearney. Not only does insulation on pipes extend the time it takes to freeze but also the time it takes to defrost.