I have been busy during the last week or so, installing a couple of radiators in the house. Although the heating in the living room is provided by the main boiler, the rest of the house is heated by electric radiators. This is expensive, and wasteful of the investment in the boiler, so I set about installing a couple of radiators in the study and the main bedroom. The project had three main components: choosing and mounting the radiators, choosing and mounting a pump and finally, connecting them all together.
The brand of pumps favoured in our area seems to be Salmson, a French brand. I think they've got a factory in Laval. But I can get a Wilo pump (German) in England, for about 1/6th the price. (Maybe that's just because I don't yet know where the wholesale plumbers' merchants are to be found around here.) So when I was in England just before Christmas, I popped into what used to be my local plumbers' merchants, Peter Doble in Ashford near Staines, and bought a suitable pump for 60 quid.
The Bricoman in Laval is having a sale at the moment, so I went to them for the radiators and for most of the rest of the bits. The main decisions were around the type of pipework (copper or plastic) and the nature of the fixings (compression, push-fit or crimped). In the end I chose plastic pipes since they are new and supposedly an improvement over copper (and much cheaper), and I chose push-fit fixings since they are easy to fit. In fact I had to use some compression fixings as well, since I seem to have exhausted the stock of push-fit ones throughout the Mayenne.
Here are some impressions. The plastic pipe is easy to work with. It's flexible and tough, and easy to cut using the special tool. It looks like it will last. Described as "multicouche" (multi-layered), to the eye it looks like it's basically an aluminium tube coated inside and out with a tough plastic. I think that there is also a layer of something like fibreglass on each side of the aluminium, for extra resilience.
However, for exposed pipework, I think that copper pipes with soldered connections would give better-looking results: the compression and push-fit joints for plastic (and copper) are fatter than the pipe and look, to my eye, like knots in string. If I were going to stick with plastic pipe, I'd invest in a crimping tool and use the thinner crimped joints.
The Wilo pump has the same diameter attachment as Salmson, which is good to know, since it means that in principle they are easily interchangeable. It's described as especially efficient, in that it adjusts its power output according to how much hot water is needed by the system. Seems to work fine.
The push-fit fixings behaved impeccably; not a leak to be found. It was pretty much inevitable that I didn't do up some of the compression fixings tight enough, so there were a few weepy joints, but that's an easy problem to fix.
I'm not convinced by the thermostatic controllers that I chose. They are designed for one-way flow of water, and the manufacturers assume that the water pipes are coming straight out of a (plasterboard) wall to the radiator. Hence the numbers on the controller in the picture being upside-down. A bi-directional one would allow me to mount it with the controller sticking out to the side, which would also give better control of room temperature. I will replace them at some point in the future.
But in the mean time, I intend to enjoy a cosy house.