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Ballon with heating coil


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Whilst during the decades of my living in my UK house I had practically no plumbing problems as soon as I rented it out I have had pretty much continual problems involving frequent replacements of the shower pump and the hot water cylinder.

To date there has been only one proper flood, fallen ceilings etc but the leaks from the shower pump mean I have to do ceiling repairs as well as the pump replacement and I want to avoid the damage that will occur the next time the hot water cylinder lets go.

I would like to do away with the pump and replace the cylinder with a mains pressure French ballon, one with both a heating coil and an immersion element as a back up, will one of these be compatible with an old type non condensing UK gas boiler? I realise that I will need either an expansion vessel or a means of draining the groupe de securité.

I have heard that they are called something like un ballon avec serpent and that they are very expensive, but how expensive is that? I once saw one at a UK plumbers merchant and it was close to a grand.

Where is the best place in France to find one at a reasonable price.

Thanks in anticipation.

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Unless the water is exceptionally hard (but you say you had no problems in the years when you lived in the house so I'll guess it isn't that bad) UK style indirect heating cylinders typically last a couple of decades or more so I can't really imagine why you would need to be replacing one frequently or why you are expecting the current one to 'let go' any time soon. A decent pump should last a few years too.

What exactly is going wrong ?

Personally I'd be vary wary of concocting the hybrid system you propose, it might even fall foul of regulations which could give you a real problem if something happened and a tenant was scalded. You should also consider what effect it might have on an insurance claim after a leak or other plumbing related incident.

It's the reverse of the common question about bringing over UK boilers etc. to plumb into a French property and the same advice applies - don't !

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I sympathise with what you'd like to do. Back in the UK our shower pump was nothing but trouble, and because you usually want to hide it away out of sight you don't find out about the leak until it's done some damage. Ours currently sits in a cat litter tray, so when it leaks it causes an electrical problem as the water rises, and trips out the tripswitch at the mains. I cannot regard this as anything but a dreadful type of bodge, and probably dangerous too, but it stops the plaster coming down from the ceiling.

A mains pressure system is likely to be a better idea. Though you might want to find out what pressure you actually have at the mains there.

I wouldn't have thought that you'd have any real problem with a French cyclinder. The serpentine is a separate circuit through which the hot water from your boiler flows. It can't matter a great deal (can it?) how that hot water is being heated. Your French cylinder should have pockets for thermostat probes and these can be used for your existing boiler thermostat.

But I am a total amateur here: whatever you do, don't rely on my advice. I do know that you can buy pressurised hot water systems in the UK (my mother has one, but it came as a kit with the condensing boiler), so you might want to check out whether there isn't a simple UK alternative.

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Mine is sited under the bath and when I first poked around to find a space I found a baking tray already in position where the previous owner, a complete bodger had put it to catch the drips from the bath drain so it got pressed into further service after repairing his bodged repair.

Pumps seem to last 2-3 years with tenants whereas I was still on the first one after 12+ years although I either take baths or quick showers, being a traveller I just use the shower to wet myself, then switch it off while lathering/washing and then back on again to rinse off, probably less than 90 seconds of use, I had one guest (French) who used up all the hot water on his shower and thought it was hilarious that his wife, the other couple and I had to have cold water.

The hot water cylinder was probably the original 40 year old one when it let go in the early 90's I replaced it with a B & Q one not knowing that there were more expensive thicker ones available with zinc anodes, the replacement was much much lighter than the original. It lasted less than 10 years and let go catastrophically while I was travelling the world, I blamed my housesitter as he was another one who would empty the cylinder in one go, i think the shock was more than the corroded walls could take plus he was the type of guy that would not notice a leak until the water rose above his waist!

Iet was replaced by a plumber who only used anotehr cheap cylinder, a shame as I would willingly have paid any price for a better one, this seems even thinner again and has been in use 7 years now so I feel that I am on borrowed time. The tenant has reported that the shower pump doesnt, but this could be an airlock (another common occurence at least on its predecessor) so I feel it is time to rid myself of two liabilities in one fell swoop, not the tenants, they are great but the pump and cylinder.

I have 6 bar water pressure and have already used an ordinary French ballon in my pied à terre that I constructed (no gas central heating to consider) and you can actually make yourself bleed with the shower head on the masochist setting!!

I know how the pressurised systems work and there is no problem at all in having one in the UK, in fact it overcomes all the dangers of bugs etc from the static header tank, byelaw 42 or whatever it was, I have seen them in the merchants and a friend had one fitted but was shafted for £2500 from the plumber for this new space age whizz bang, I brought him down to earth by showing him a Brico-depot catalogue although a bit unfair as they dont have the serpentine.

What I am uncertain of having never seen a French serpentine ballon close up is whether it would have all the necessary outlets for a gravity fed gas boiler UK CH system and also the cost of one in France, the cheapest place to find one etc.

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