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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Adventures with a Fortic Tank

Warning: This is a minority-interest geeky post! A Fortic Tank is not military item with tracks and a few bangy accessories. It's a sort of hot water tank and fits in an ordinary airing cupboard. Indeed, that's where I first met one. I'm sorry to disappoint those hoping for a story of romance in a plumber's merchant.

It's still an interesting story though and as in the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, someone ends up with a bruised arm. In keeping with the tradition and to maintain the suspense, the leftness or rightness of the arm will not be disclosed until later.

Anyway, every now and again, the immersion heater fails. The first time this happened was a learning experience. I turned off the cold water and opened the hot taps to drain the thing. Next I applied a huge spanner to the heater element and after a lot of banging and cursing got it to rotate. As I did this a few drops of water oozed out. I turned it some more and as there seemed to be a growing trickle of stray water, I put a bucket underneath.

Suddenly, the element fell out followed by a torrent of water. Whoosh! I had a frantic five minutes emptying buckets before the water stopped. A bit like Pinocchio in Sorcerer's Apprentice but with an exponentially decreasing quantity of water.

Learning point 1: Draining a Fortic Tank isn't as simple as it looks.

I replaced the element and 18 months later that one failed :-(
So I repeated the banging, cursing and whooshing procedure but with bigger buckets. The old element was horribly corroded so I looked around on the Internet and discovered….

Learning point 2: The cheap copper elements are no good in hard water areas. I needed to buy an "Incoly" element.

So, I replaced the element and 6 years later that one failed :-(

By now, I was fed up with the banging, cursing and especially the whooshing and only partially effective buckets. Also, since this was about the 5th element I was concerned not to break something and have to replace the whole shebang. I really wanted an element that would last too…

Learning point 3: They make elements out of Titanium. Hard to find and costing about £80 but supposedly the best.

Learning point 4: You're supposed to do the banging and cursing with the cylinder full. It's more rigid and less likely to break. You drain it after the element starts to move.

Learning point 5: Used my non-whoosh draining technique. This is how it works:

You need:

  • Siphon tube (I used B&Q "Water Supply Pipe for use with B&Q easy watering system")
  • Blob of blue-tack
Method:

  • Start with the tank full
  • Stop cold water coming in. Careful application of elastic cord on the ball cock can avoid the need to turn off the rest of the system
  • Fill a siphon tube with water. Block one end with a lump of blue tack and the other end with a finger. (Filling tip: Put tube in a bath, stuff one end up the cold tap, turn on and wait for a steady stream at the far end)
  • Plunge your finger, tube and hand into the water in the top tank.
  • Take your finger off the tube end but ensure the tube end is kept below the water.
  • Feed the tube into the pipe joining the two tanks. On my tank, it's angled favourably. Keep feeding, you will probably be able to tell when it hits the exit and enters the bottom tank. It's awkward and it's at this point that I acquired some nicely coloured bruises on my right arm.
  • Feed in another 6" of tube for luck
  • Unblock the far end of the tube and check for a steady flow. Have a cup of tea and come back to make sure it's still flowing.
  • Turn on hot taps etc to assist draining
  • Do something else for about 9 hours - which is how long mine took to drain.
  • Suggest you leave the tube in place (bunged!) until you are sure you won't need it again.

So is titanium any good? Don't know yet. Come back in 6 years!

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