Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The heat of the matter

argh! Goddammit!" Denis jumped back from the stream of scalding water and cursed as he banged his head off the bathroom wall. There were other expletives, but they are not fit to be written here.

"Is everything alright in there?", came a voice from beyond the bathroom door.

"Yeah, its all fine, no worries ma", he lied. He took a closer look at the taps. "Nothing a little bit of precision twiddling can't fix", he mumbled to himself.

* * * * *

So I left Japan. After a year an a half. Not a bad run - certainly longer than I expected when I went out there. Been back in the UK for 2 days and am slowly waking up to the reality of life here.

Before I left the land of the rising sun, I was out for dinner with my friend Shanel and she asked me what I thought I'd miss the most (and the least) once I was gone. My
immediate answer was the bathroom. It always is - this isn't the first time I've re-located back to the United Kingdom. But this is the first time after a japan experience, which is a whole different thing.

In Japan, everything is push button digitally controlled. You can set precise temperatures for the shower water, bath water... even the toilet/bidet water. Yes, the toilets with the built in bidets are often computer controlled allowing you to set everything from the pressure of the water jet, to the temperature of the seat you are sitting on.

And of course, being Japan, everything is incredibly polite. At my friend Luke's house, after a 10-15 minute wait, the water heater would play a little tune and say in happy female voice "your water is at the desired temperature. Enjoy your bath!". In Japanese of course.

In contrast, English bathrooms are
crap. They have the least amount of design effort put into them in the whole house. Cold, unfriendly places with leaky plumbing and toilet flushes that always seem to trickle. The showers are nearly always a bolt on to the bath (England is a bathing nation, not a showering one) and are woefully inefficient at providing you with a refreshing, cleansing experience.

This morning, I was reminded of this immediately. The shower at my mum's - who I'm visiting for couple of weeks - is really just a spout of dangerously hot water.

Now, before I say any more (which I will) I need to point out that my elderly mother is poor and lives in a subsidised council property. Last year, Westminster Council changed the water boilers in all the apartments on the estate for reasons of efficiency, safety, bla bla bla.

So, I took the liberty of investigating the 'new' water boiler and it turns out that the hot water has a fixed temperature of 55 degrees Celsius. Hold on, let me clarify that: The hot water has a fixed temperature of CRAZY!! that's about 10 degrees hotter than I would expect to find in a hotel shower or a thermostat regulated one (like the one I had back in Japan).

The problem is, that its fixed. you can't regulate it. So that means you have to mix it with cold water. Which is tricky to do because the taps themselves are cheap and clumsy.

Can anybody see where I'm heading with this? No? OK, I'll spell it out:

Aside from the safety issues, it would seem that a lot of energy is being wasted here. At no point is the water cool enough to touch, so you
always have to run it with cold water in the mix. So much for energy efficient eh? most of the residents here are probably wasting 25% of their water heating bill.

Or perhaps my science is wrong here? It
is wasteful to heat water to a high temperature and then let it cool down, isn't it? At least, that's what the public service announcements on TV would have you believe.

Global Warming? I blame Westminster Council.