Wednesday 14 January 2009

Money to burn

I'm now in the middle of my 2nd winter here in Turkey (last year I was back in the UK for 6 months and missed the whole thing). For a country that fears the cold, Turkey seems pretty poorly equipped to warm itself efficiently.

Having been born and raised in the UK (a country with weather more temperamental than a menstruating polar bear), I don't remember there ever being too much of a problem in keeping my house warm. The classic British route is Gas Central Heating; a system so common its initials alone are enough in a estate agent's advert - GCH.

My first Turkish winter took me by complete surprise. I never imagined Turkey could get so cold. But I was living in a 'summer house', meaning a house that was built for summer jollies not for winter residence. The walls are thin. The windows are single glazed. Things that are ideal in the heat of the summer but completely energy inefficient in the winter.

I tried an electric fire at first but in the words of Withnail, I may as well have "sat round a cigarette". The wiring in the flat was so ancient, the cables were heating up more than the fire itself.

Then I tried the old fashioned route of the coal burner. I'm sure I mentioned this before in the blog. Very useful but hard work and potentially lethal. Noxious fumes nearly took my life on at least one occasion as did hauling coal up from the garage. In a house with no insulation, the heat was fierce but soon disappeared.

Since moving to Izmir and into the teachers' residence, I've discovered a new system. I have big radiators on the walls with pipes leading back into a cupboard with a huge tumble drier type machine. From there the pipes continue out onto the balcony to a large diesel tank. Yes, a big square tank about the size of 4 large fridges, that you fill up with diesel. I was intrigued (and freezing) so I decided to give it a go.

How does it work? Well the other night I saw a petrol tanker outside in the road. You know the kind you see driving up the M6 with 'BP' written on the side. Well I shouted down and a man scurried up. The next thing I know I'm ordering 100 litres of diesel and watching it being pumped into an 'ashtray' sized hole in the top of the huge tank (I know it's ashtray sized because I've been using an ashtray to cover the hole - call me over cautious but people smoke on the balcony. 1 cigarette+100 litres of petrol=Boom!).

About £100 of diesel later, the system was ready to go. I pressed the button and... fuck all. 3 days later they fitted a new pump and I pressed the button again. Whoooooooffff! My god, did it ignite. It's smelly and noisy but it certainly pumped out sufficient heat. When I say smelly and noisy, imagine a Ford Transit idling under the stairs.

That was 10 days ago and it ran out of fuel yesterday. Nice. So, it's going to cost me about £400 per month to heat this fucking place? Why? Well because Turkey has the most expensive petrol prices in the world. That's why!

So, in igniting the diesel burner, I was effectively doing this...

Actually, this would have probably worked out cheaper! Why didn't I do the calculations first??

So, what are the options for keeping warm through a Turkish winter?
  1. Coal burner. Already discussed. Cheap. Efficient. Dirty. Lethal.
  2. Gas burner. Old school types your nan had. Saw one in the florist the other day. The guy said it was useful but the fumes are deadly.
  3. GCH. Only available in certain parts of Izmir. Not here yet.
  4. Diesel burner. See above.
  5. Olive stone burner. No, I'm not making this up. You can get a burner that uses a fuel made from the stones of olives. Very cheap and effective but you need to give 3 rooms of your house over to storing olive pips. Tinker, tailor, soldier, fuck that.
  6. ...and the one that everyone has been suggesting since the beginning to be honest... One of these babies:

This is called a UFO. Most people seem to be using them. So I'm off to Turkish B&Q tomorrow to get me one. No doubt it'll give me skin cancer but at least I'll be warm without having to sell my possessions.


Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. I remember my freezing Greek winters well. I too was surprised when I first encountered the olive stone thing.

My answer? When I lived out of town, a log fire. In town (with no fireplace), a duvet brought over from England and lots of warm drinks to see me through 'til Spring.

Anonymous said...

Stop being cheap and get your brit ass in a decent house which has proper insulation and a central heating system. Izmir can get cold for 2-3 months through the year but it all depends on where you comparing it with, you didn't say you are coming from hawaii or did you? So stop bitching mate, you are lucky to be in izmir. How much are you getting for promoting UFOs?

Billfredo said...

Blimey, I expected more aggression from my Ataturk post. Didn't think that central heating systems would get people worked up.

Trust me, I'm fully aware how lucky I am. If I wanted to be anywhere else on the planet, I'd be there. Izmir is terrific!

As for UFO backhanders? That's a damn good idea. I'll have to see if I know anyone who knows anyone there! :)

Unknown said...

Oh dear, sounds like Anonymous got out of the wrong side of his warm snuggly bed!

He's obviously had a humour bypass as well....

As usual BillFredo, an extremely funny blog.

Anonymous said...

Just read your problems about heating. I must admit it gave me a giggle (sorry!).

I found it a good it.


Unknown said...

Living in spain... similar problem...
Bring on the summer!!!!

Nomad said...

I am definitely in agreement with you, mate. I have been through the same cycle in search of heat. When I first came to Turkey, I lived in a dinky town in the north and the first year there was 12 inches of snow! In order to have a warm shower, you had to burn kindling at the base of a torpedo shaped water tank, wait about 40 minutes and pray to the good Lord, you will finish cleaning your bits before the hot water becomes icy.

I also tried one of them new fangled -NOT- fuel burner type heaters about 5 years ago. There was obviously something wrong with the fuel mixer (whatever) and the whole thing began to roar and burn so furiously that the sides began to turn a translucent red. By that time, I was in a panic and decided that being cold was marginally safer than instant combustion.