keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 89: Slade 197
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 203
The thermostat was proving more of a challenge than Slade had anticipated. They had mechanical thermostats that would control the heat of a boiler, and could adapt them to the gas fuel system, but they had to be local--a remote system did not work.
And the Slades’ home needed a solution.
Slade thought long and hard. He had been in old houses with old radiator systems, but he had never worked on them. Still, he recalled that many of them had a pressure relief, a drain cock, and an intake valve. He’d never really considered the intake valve--after all, there were intake valves on flush toilets, so that if something went wrong with the system you could turn off the water to do repairs. If a radiator broke, perhaps cracked or maybe clogged, you would need to be able to shut off the connection to the system and drain the radiator to repair or replace it. But what if it were more than that? If you shut off the connection to the radiator while the system was hot, it would mean that the water in the radiator would slowly cool, and it would stop heating the room. If you shut off all of them, the hot water would be trapped in the boiler--well, and in the pipes, but with nowhere to go that would probably cool also. Then the thermostat on the boiler in the basement would recognize that the water was at maximum heat, and stop heating it until it cooled. You couldn’t get the kind of climate controlled comfort he wanted, but you could control how much heat was in the room--and since the valves could control the flow more than just turning it off and on, you could to some degree get warmer or cooler radiators.
There was a problem, though. The entire system was gravity-fed; there were no pumps. Water moved through the system because hot water rose to the top of the boiler and up the hot side pipes to the tops of the radiators, and as it cooled in the radiators it would fall out the pipes at the bottom and flow into the bottom of the boiler. However, if you shut the hot side pipes, the hot water would rise up the cold side pipes, and while it would be very inefficient it would still wind up with hot water finding its way into the radiators and cold water moving down to the boiler.
What was needed was a one-way valve in the cold water side, that as long as water was flowing down from above it would open and flow into the boiler, but if the system stopped flowing it would prevent water from rising up that pipe. In effect, back pressure should close the pipe, but without preventing the weight of the cold water from opening it.
Did they already have such a thing? They had steam engines; they had quite a lot of complicated hot water plumbing devices with which he was only vaguely familiar. He would love to have a thermostat upstairs, but the only ones he’d every used were electrical, and houses didn’t have electricity yet, so if he was going to have central heat in his new home he was going to need a different solution. This might be it.
He took it up with the engineering professor, who understood the concept readily and said he thought it could be done.
Within a week, the system that would heat the Slades’ home had been completed, and installation began.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #448: Inventive Versers. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: