Saturday, November 10, 2007

Heating Systems in Former Soviet Countries (Justin)

In former Soviet countries like Moldova, hot water is almost a luxury. The government of Chisinau provides both hot and cold water to residents through a boiler system. The hot water is turned off in the summer while maintenance is done on the pipes. (See this NY Times article from this summer about it being the same way even in Moscow). Here’s a picture of the hot water pipe in our neighborhood.

But, November 1 was a holiday of sorts because it is when the government turns on the hot water systems to all the heating systems in the city. Most buildings use a radiator heating system (“отопление”). The radiator pipes fill with steaming hot water, and this radiates enough heat to warm entire rooms. We were fortunate enough to have a mild fall, so the office wasn’t too cold before that. Now, it’s ridiculously hot in the office (but it’s great).

Our house has a similar system, except our hot water is dependent on our own heater instead of the government. We have a European-model gas heater that runs our radiator system and even has its own thermostat, so we can keep our home a comfortable 21 degrees celcius. Here are what the radiators look like, we have one in every room.

Having the water heater means we didn’t lack for hot water this summer, either. When you turn the hot water in the tap on, you hear some clicks from the heater as it is sparking the gas burners to come to life. The water runs through the heater and heats up pretty quickly.

I imagine this system is probably more energy-efficient than the central air-heating systems we have in the States and our electric hot water tanks that run all the time.

This is the first time I’ve lived in a place that had such a system that actually worked and I think it’s great. The last place I lived had the physical infrastructure, but after Communism fell the boiler system was looted and never rebuilt, so everyone had to either cook their own hot water or install water heaters. We’re very blessed not to have that problem here!

1 comment:

Keith Walters said...

So I know this post is old but I have not read any of my RSS Feeds because last week was finals week and I have been crazy buisy which wrapping up the semester. Anyways I just thought I would let you know that your heating system is far more efficient than our US water heaters. In Asia they evan has smaller units that ran inline with your sink or shower head (basically any fauset that you wanted hot water at had to have this shoe box sized contraption on it) but they were electric and worked like a coffee maker to heat the water.