Sunday, November 8, 2009


The weather is turning chilly here in Oxford. Like clockwork, the heat and hot water failed in my apartment last week. I became painfully aware of an important principle of thermodynamics: When it is cold out, if you don’t have heat, you get pretty cold too.

Anyway, after a few days of poking at the boiler, I narrowed the problem down to a problem with the pilot light. I tried relighting it, but even after a dozen attempts or so (and a few more cold nights), still no luck.

My last resort before calling a professional was to consult the oracle of google. Typing in “flamingo 40 boiler pilot light problem” came up with a number of discussions of exactly this issue. It turns out there is some “Overheat Themostat Reset Button” hidden in the device. If it gets tripped you have to reset it before the pilot will light again.

As a physicist I've always been a big fan of thermodynamics. Reading about thermo makes me generally happy. But I think watching the heat come back on after multiple cold nights made me even happier than reading Enrico Fermi's great lectures on thermo.

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