Monday, November 2, 2009

In Hot Water, Revisited---Happy St Patrick's Day

The American/Irish comedian Des Bishop cannot be bested in his explanation of both the immersion tank and hot press. I will not attempt to compete and suggest anyone interested in living in Ireland have a look at his routine.

I will though tell you my own view of this strangest bit of Irish domestic life.

When we moved here in July of 2005 our lovely relocation agent met us at the house we'd rented and gave us a quick tour. She showed us the boiler and clucked about how good it was that we had a tumble dryer in the shed, made sure there was a clothes line, and above all showed us the: da, da, dum….Immersion Tank. 

It was in a cabinet or 'press' in the bathroom just over the tub and resembled an ancient piece of moonshine equipment wrapped in yellow insulation. It had two switches attached to it. 

One said 'SINK', the other 'BATH'. 
She went through a quick and mostly incomprehensible explanation about how you turn it to 'BATH' an hour or so before you want to bathe or shower and then you have to remember to turn it off again after.

And if you want hot water to wash dishes or clothes you have to turn it to 'SINK' but be sure not to leave it too long because it just wastes heat. Okay. Turn it on before, off after, halfway during….what?!

American hot water heaters are in a broom closet and you really never see them unless they break, the pilot light goes out, or you want to sweep. 

We don't turn them off and on and we certainly don't have conversations about how we need to get home because tonight is bath night and we have to get the immersion tank turned on. 

You want a bath, you turn on the faucet and the bath fills up…..with hot water.

The press that the immersion tank resides in is called the hot press. Hot enough to finish drying the clothes that won't dry on the line in the damp Irish weather. A friend dries the clothes on the line, finishes them in the dryer, folds them and puts them in the hot press and then puts them away in drawers. 
The hot press is valuable space in any Irish home. In an ignorant act of blasphemy, I just threw all our towels and extra razors and soap up there along with the scale and other detritus I didn't want laying around. I have to say the towels were always nice and warm after being in there even if they were crunchy from hanging on the line.

A very ingenious way around this whole immersion tank minefield is the electric shower. 

Electricity and water might not sound ingenious to you but somehow, very carefully I'm sure, it works. There is a switch in the ceiling with a cord that you pull, very similar to the 'emergency somebody help me nurse alert' in hospital bathrooms. 
When you pull it, on comes the electricity in this little hairdryer looking box inside the shower (again, I know) with on/off switches and temperature and water pressure controls.

I can't imagine going for anything less than 'high' for pressure as it is more of an American low but nonetheless, the choice is yours. Once you get it going, you have hot water for days. Stick the kids in there and you've conquered an hour of playtime and they come out pruney and squeaky clean.

Sadly, baths are not good. I have not managed to fill up the bath at either of my Irish houses because the hot water runs out before it gets even a quarter of the way full. Last night I tried to make up the difference with the electric shower but it took forever and wasn't really hot enough. I even added two kettles full of water and achieved a bit above tepid. Really. 

What a waste of heat and water; two of the ten Irish commandments broken in one single act.

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