1978 was one of those milestone years: Senior prom, high school graduation, one last summer working for the old man and then off to college. Musically, ’78 was a mixed bag, with the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb and The Village People topping the charts.
Some pretty good stuff from some classic rockers in ’78 (although in ’78, they weren’t considered classic rockers just yet, and admit it, you’ve never heard of Ian Dury and The Blockheads). Unfortunately, 1978 also gave us “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” from Rod Stewart.
Zevon’s classic received some accolades in 2004, when BBC Radio 2 declared the opening line of Werewolves of London the greatest ever. Didn’t even know where was a contest for that.
I remember working on some old American Standard Arcoliners from the 40’s my Dad and uncle installed, and I remember looking at, but not daring to touch, an old asbestos-coated gravity behemoth from the 20’s. There’s something awe-inspiring about an 90-year-old hunk of cast iron with a burner that’s still cranking out the BTU’s.
Makes me want to hang on to my 2004 Mini-van for a couple of more years, at least.
In our recent podcast (click here to listen), Dan Holohan (www.heatinghelp.com) talked of a contest searching for the oldest boiler in the United Kingdom. “I thought this was going to be great, because you look at how old England is, and how old Scotland and Wales are. They’re going to come up with a boiler that’s absolutely ancient.”
And how old was the oldest boiler in the UK?
“32 years old,” says Dan. “They were marveling that this boiler was as old as the marriage of the old couple that owned it. Can you imagine a boiler that’s 32 years old, and how astonishing this is?
“I got underwear that old!”
So do I.
A Google-search on the UK’s oldest boiler brought this headline:
Relic? What in the name of Monty Python’s Flying Circus is going on here?
The oldest boiler in Merry Olde England is 32 years old? That means it was installed in 1978, the year Andy Boyce, Louise St. John, James Yates and I all graduated high school.
England may swing like a pendulum do, and the British may live in houses dating back to the Boer Wars, heck even the War of the Roses. But if the boiler is older than Animal House, The World According to Garp or Ashton Kutcher, it’s a goner.
Earlier this year the UK announced something called the Boiler Scrappage Scheme (leave it to the British to make a government program to upgrade boilers sound like a scandal). It was a plan to encourage homeowners to upgrade their old boilers to new, high efficiency condensing boilers, sorta like the tax credits and utility rebates provided by the Stimulus Package on this side of the pond.
The “scheme” issued 125,000 vouchers in England alone, worth £400 (400 Pounds = $630.47) to offset the replacement cost (Government stats say the average replacement cost is around £2,460, or roughly $3,900.00). It took less than 2 months to run out of vouchers. In Scotland, all 4,600 available vouchers were given out in just two days. Homeowners were told they could expect to save up to £235 ($370.00) annually with a new boiler.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a government “scheme” without some sort of controversy. Apparently, the big energy suppliers that offered boiler installations often charged up to ⅓ more for the job than independent contractors. In typically British phraseology, the press said that controlling prices under a scheme “designed to incentivize the move towards energy efficiency by reducing costs would seem cynical to the extreme.”
Well, it was a scheme, after all…
Post script: Upon further review, that 32 year old boiler was, relatively speaking, just a pup, a mere babe in the woods compared to what was found in Billericay, Essex.
Colin Sadler’s boiler was much, much older than 32 years.
It was 42 years old!
Mr. Sadler’s boiler was installed way back in 1968. It was a Crane Cavalier boiler, and by all accounts was still going strong (here’s a link to the article).
In the US, we would have told the buyer that the boiler was brand new.
Wait, it gets better. Colin said the old boiler has “done us proud for many years, but we’re looking forward to a new energy efficient boiler, as I think this one has earned its retirement.”
And a guy named Richard Cotton, head of sales for something called “the npower hometeam” (which ran the contest), said “Colin’s boiler is a great example of some of the antique systems entered in our competition. It’s a surprise to see a system still working after more than 40 years.”
Hey Richard, come visit your former colonies sometime. We got your antique boiler right here!
It is interesting, is it not, to consider the differences in attitudes? Over there, it’s a “surprise” to see a boiler still working after 42 years. Here we howl when told that a new condensing boiler might have an expected life span of “only” 12 to 15 years.
Here we get wrapped around the axe-handle trying to decipher “paybacks” and “ROI” on boiler upgrades (click here for that story!) and complain that the Stimulus Package incentives didn’t go far enough. In Scotland vouchers that cover roughly 15% of the installation costs are snapped up in 2 days.
In a land that gets bored with a new cell phone in 6 months, trades in cars every few years and gets up at 3 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving to buy a $200.00 laptop at Wal-Mart, we’ll struggle with vise grips, bubble-gum, paper clips and a can of stop-leak to get a 50 year old clunker-boiler through “one more winter.”
In a land where Willie Shakespeare was writing As You Like It decades before the city of Boston even existed, and where his 16th century childhood home is still standing, a boiler installed in 1968 is considered such an oddity that it required a nationwide dragnet to track it down.
So, what’s the oldest boiler you ever worked on? What’s the oldest one you ever actually replaced?
Now try to keep that one out of your head for the rest of the day.
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