One of the most common reasons for a Aqualisa Quartz shower unit to suddenly stop working is an air lock in the system. If you’ve experienced a power cut or have had to drain your hot/cold water tanks recently then an air lock is likely to be the cause.
The main symptom of an air lock is that when you turn the shower on no water comes out of the shower head. After trying a few times (turning the shower on and off )you may find that all of a sudden no lights appear on the control dial altogether.
How to Fix An Air Lock In Your Electric Shower System
The good news is an air lock is relatively straightforward to fix. It should only take you a few minutes and won’t need any tools or plumbing skills.
The control unit may have to be reset if none of the lights are on and no water is coming from the shower head. This is simply a case of locating the control unit (usually in the loft or the airing cupboard) and switching the power off for 30 seconds, then back on again.
Before turning the shower unit back on remove the shower head from the hose and let the hose dangle to the floor. This will reduce the pressure required to get water back through the system to the absolute minimum.
Next simply turn the dial to the coldest setting then turn the shower on. Let it run for a few seconds and hopefully you’ll get some spluttering of water out of the hose. If not, turn the shower off, wait a few seconds and try again.
When you turn the shower on and assuming some water is coming out, try leaving it on for a few seconds longer each time before switching it off. You should notice the spluttering decrease and more water come out of the hose each time.
Once water is running constantly from the hose slowly turn the temperature up a little at a time. Hopefully now there will be enough pressure in the pipes to ‘pull’ the hot water through the system.
If the above doesn’t work simply try turning the dial to the hottest setting instead and work backwards to the cooler temperatures.
One of the best things about the house we moved in to about 5 years ago is the fact thjat it has a wood burner in the living room. We’ve been amazed how much please a fire in the living room can provide.
Of course owning a woodburner means that you need to have a constant supply of seasoned (dry) wood. For the last few years the only practical place to store our wood was down at the bottom of the garden which involved barrowing all delivered wood 50 yards and then carrying it back up to the house as and when it was needed – not ideal in the bowels of winter!
So, I finally decided to sacrifice a heavily shaded flower bed on the drive next to the garage and make a wood store from old pallets in a more sensible position!
The construction was pretty simple really after I’d managed to scavenge 3 pallets from a local garden center. The only thing I had to buy was the roofing felt used on the roof.
I’m pretty pleased with the result. I can fit roughly 1.25m3 of logs in the store which is enough to keep us going for a couple of months in winter. I’ve got a similar sized store at the other end of the house too so hopefully I’ve got enough storage next to the house for a winters worth of logs. Now I just need to find a good source of free logs…
I’m increasingly keen on using what nature has to offer to replace man made and shop bought alternatives. This probably explains the ever increasing amount of fruit and veg plants in the garden.
Last summer while out walking we collected a load of fallen pine cones with some vague ideas about making Christmas decorations with them. Instead after drying out over the summer they ended up being used as fire lighters/kindling in our wood burner.
Pine cones make remarkably good kindling and I’ve found with just a sheet or two of newspaper and a few pine cones i can get the wood burner lit in just a minute or two.
So on Sunday while out walking we found a plentiful in a local wood and managed to re-stock our supply to get us through the winter!
While out for a walk on Sunday, spotting several Blackthorn bushes laden with sloes reminded me of last years failed attempt to make some sloe gin. We left the picking far too late and by the time we finally headed out to pick some sloes those that the birds hadn’t eaten were all well past their best. Despite it only just being September many of the bushes near us (SE England) have lots of ripe sloes on so determined to avoid another missed opportunity we started picking straight away.
What is Sloe Gin?
If you’re keen to start dabbling in a bit of foraging or like the idea of making some home brew then sloe gin is a great introduction to both. Sloes are one of the most common hedgerow berries in the UK and are a distant relative of the plum. They are small blue/grey fruits that grow on the blackthorn bush which is common amongst hedgerows throughout much of England.
To make sloe gin you simply infuse regular gin with sloes, adding some sugar which helps extract the juice from the berries as well as sweeten the final drink. After allowing the juice to infuse with the gin and sugar for a few months you simply strain and end up with a ruby red gin with a great flavour.
How to Make Sloe Gin
Depending on the weather the best time for picking is September and October. The fruits are naturally hard and bitter so don’t expect to be feasting when picking sloes. When they’re ripe sloes should not be rock hard but have a little give.
In late summer/early autumn keep an eye out in the hedge rows and you should spot the purple/blue berries appearing. If you can try not to pick them too early as unripe sloes won’t produce too much flavour for your gin.
Once you’ve picked your sloes, the only other ingredients you need is some granulated sugar and some medium quality gin.
Sloe Gin Ingredients
800 grams of sloes
70cl of gin
200 grams of sugar
1. First of all wash your sloes and ensure you’ve removed all of the leaves, twigs and bugs. You don’t have to be too fussy as you’ll be filtering all of the impurities out after 12 weeks anyway.
2. Next you need to pierce the skin of the sloes to help them leach their juices into the gin. The slow method is to prick each one a couple of times with a fork or pin. The quick method is to freeze the sloes over night then take them out of the freezer for a couple of hours and as they defrost the skin bursts, saving you the hard work.
This freezing method has the added benefit that some people believe that you shouldn’t pick the sloes until just after the first frost – it is thought that this freezing activates the sugars in the sloes which in turn enhances the flavour of the final liqueur.
3. Next you need to sterilize your bottles/jars. The easiest way to do this is the pop them into an oven for 10 minutes at about 170 degrees. For the lids, which often have plastic/rubber seals or the rubber seals from kilner jars simply pop them into a pan of water and bring it to the boil.
4. Place the gin into your bottle/kilner jar then simple add the sloes to almost fill up the bottle. Next add in the sugar and seal tightly before giving it a good shake.There’s no need to worry about dissolving all of the sugar as this will happen over the next few days. Try to fill the bottle/jar as much as possible, the more air that is in there the greater the chance of bad bacteria spoiling the flavour of your final liqueur.
5. Store the bottle/jar in a cool dark place and for the first couple of weeks give it a little shake/turn every day to help dissolve the sugar and get the flavors mixing. After this first week or two turning the bottle once a week should suffice.
6. After three months it’s time to decant the gin, removing the solids so it can mature further and be stored for a long time (if required). I use a small kitchen funnel and tea strainer to help separate out the sloes from the gin. Once you’ve strained it you should end up with a clear dark red liquid.
7. Now i simply re-bottle the gin into freshly sterilized bottle and store. You can start drinking it straight away but it will keep for many years and it definitely improves with age.
While I’ve described the basic recipe above some people recommend putting a small amount of almond or vanilla essence. I’ve also heard cinnamon complements the flavour of the sloes well but i haven’t tried it yet, maybe i’ll try that next year.
The Ascaso Dream is one of the best looking home espresso machines out there. With it’s retro styling and solid build it is a good blend of style and functionality. In this post I’ll write about my experiences with the Ascaso, sharing a few tips and provide as honest review of the device as possible.
Feel free to ask any questions or leave your own tips at the bottom of this post.
Using the Ascaso Dream
The manual I got with my espresso machine was not really that clear – the translation from Spanish (where the machine is produced) is a bit hit and miss. After some research online and some experimentation here are the procedures I follow to pull a shot of espresso:
1. Switch on the machine (ideally 30 minutes prior to pulling the shot)
2. Run a little water through the empty filter to warm the pipes
3. Load the filter with coffee
4. Turn on the coffee switch for 25 seconds exactly
It is generally excepted that 25 seconds is the perfect time to brew an espresso, which is generally accepted as being 1 fluid oz (30 ml) in volume. As a general rule you’ll need about 8-10grams of coffee for a single shot.
Of course all machines (even of the same model) are different so you’ll have to experiment with different beans, grinds and amounts until you find what works with your particular setup.
Ascaso Dream Review
The first thing you’ll notice about the Ascaso is it’s great build quality. The aluminum casing feel solid and strong compared to many other consumer level espresso machines that are often cased in plastic.
The styling hasn’t been neglected in favour of build quality and alongside the Francis Francis this if probably the most stylish espresso machine out there with it’s retro look and curved lines. I particularly like the metal switches…
The machine is easy to use and comes with just the core features (no pointless bells and whistles) required to pull good quality espresso and make good cappuccinos.
After switching on the Dream is ready to go after about 1.5 minutes, though it’s best t give it 15 minutes to warm up if possible. The pump provides 16 bar of pressure, more than adequate to pull a good espresso with every grind you can throw at it.
The steam wand works very well and after a little practice i was able to produce good micro foam. I’m not yet able to do latte art but now i have a tool that will enable me to try…
Here’s a great video review I found from Seattle Coffee Gear which is worth a look:
Priming the Ascaso Dream
This is the process of filling the boiler . Heating up an empty boiler can seriously damage your machine so it is an important procedure to do. Ideally you should prime your espresso machine….
After using the machines steam function
If the machine has not been used for some time
If you’ve just refilled the water reservoir
Here is the procedure I use to prime my Ascaso Dream espresso machine:
1. Turn on the machine
2. Turn the steam tap on
3. Turn on the coffee switch
4. Allow water to run from steam wand for 5 seconds)
5. Turn off the coffee switch
6. Turn the steam tap off
Ascaso Dream Tips
If possible always switch the machine on 30 minutes before use in order to warm not just the boiler but parts like the portafilter
After pulling a shot of espresso run a little water through in order to clean the pipe from the boiler to filter
If possible use mineral or filtered water at all times. This will reduce the build up up of minerals, reducing the need to descale as regularly
Always descale the machine a minimum of quarterly, more regularly if you use it multiple times per day
Sometimes I’ve noticed that the espresso produced by the Ascaso is not as hot as I’d like. After doing a bit of research it seems this can be a fairly common problem with the Dream machine.
The main reason is that the boilers cycle operates between a set range. This means it heats the water to a pre-determined temperature then shuts down and the water is allowed to cool until it reaches a lower limit before it kicks in again. If you’re pulling a shot in between you’ll probably get a slightly cooler shot than the machine is capable of.
The first thing to do to get a hotter shot is to listen to the boiler. When you switch on the machine, or if you’ve left it on for a while (aim for 30 minutes) you should hear the boiler click on. Listen carefully and after a short time you’ll hear the boiler click off when the temperature reaches the thermostat’s higher limit. Try pulling a shot straight away and you should get improved results.
I saw another great tip on the excellent website coffee geek to try and get the boiler a bit hotter. Again wait for the boiler to switch off (when the water is at it’s hottest) then flick on the steam switch for a few seconds. This will add quite a bit of extra heat to the boiler which will enable the Ascaso to produce a much hotter shot. You may need to play around with the amount of time you put the steam switch on for as you may find the water is too hot.
How to Descale an Espresso Machine
Descaling an espresso machine is essential in order to keep it in great shape. I use Dezcal, a detergent free, citric acid based descaler, commonly available over the internet. If your machine has light use aim to do this at least every 3 months, more if you use your machine regularly or live in an area with soft water.
When descaling your machine always start with a cold machine. In total allow about 90 minutes to thoroughly descale the machine. Here are the exact steps i follow:
1. Fill the water reservoir 3/4 full of warm water (this helps dissolve the descaler faster)
2. Empty the descaler into the water reservoir and stir until fully dissolved
3. Switch on the machine
4. Turn on the coffee switch and run about 1/4 of a cup of water through the filter
5. Open up the steam knob, allowing 1/4 of a cup of water to run through the steam wand too
6. Turn off the coffee switch then switch off the machine and close the steam knob
7. You have now replaced the water in the boiler and pipes with the descaler water
8. Allow to sit for 20 minutes
9. Repeat the above process twice more until the water reservoir is almost empty.
10. Remove the water reservoir, rinse out and fill with clean water
11. Proceed to run the whole reservoir through both the filter and steam wand as before to clean the tank.
12. Refill the reservoir with water and repeat to ensure all of the descaler is removed from the boiler and pipes.
As you run water through the filter and steam wand while cleaning it is normal to see a bit of sludge and deposits come through into the cup. This is normal and shows the descaler is working well. Assuming you descale regularly you shouldn’t see any big deposits get flushed out.
If the machine has not been descaled regularly descaling might dislodge larger bits of scale which can occasionally block pipes when flushing through. If this does happen you may need to take the machine apart to try and find the blockage or take it to a repair center. In the [unlikely] scenario that this does happen don’t keep running the machine if it appears blocked as this can damage the pump.
Ascaso Dream Summary
Great consistent crema
Ease of Use
Full metal casing
Basic temperature gauge
Not always hot espresso (see above workaround)
Temperature gauge is not very accurate/appropriately scaled
Supplied instructions are poorly translated to English!
Cost – it’s not the cheapest on the market!
All in all I am very pleased with the Ascaso Dream. It looks great in the kitchen (so the wife likes it!) and produces consistently good espresso. As with all espresso machines it takes a while to ‘learn’ your machine and perfect the results you get out. If you not interested in this element then you’re probably best off buying an automatic machine like a Nespresso.
If however you are interesting in becoming a home barista and learning to pull good espresso then I’d definitely recommend the Ascaso Dream.
If you want to clean the glass on your wood burner don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to go out and buy some specific purpose made cleaning agent from your wood burner supplier. All you need is a bowl of water, a few sheets of newspaper, 5 minutes and a small amount of ash from inside the burner.
Obviously wait until the burner and ash inside has completely cooled before starting the clean.
1. Scrunch up a sheet of newspaper and dip in the bowl of water to moisten then dip in the ashes.
2. Rub the ash/paper on the inside of the burner door in small circular motions. You should soon start to see the soot come away from the glass, leaving a milky residue.
3. Once you have cleaned a small area use a clean piece of newspaper to rub away the residue.
4. Repeat over all of the glass door and you should be left with a nice clean burner door.
What Causes Soot on Wood Burner Glass?
Not burning wood at a high enough temperature
Burning wet or unseasoned wood
Not having enough draft or airflow when burning (open the vents slightly to resolve)
When it to opening your pool up for the summer it can be a daunting task when you remove the winter cover and reveal a horrible looking green liquid. Don’t fear opening your pool is a relatively simple task. Just follow the steps below:
Remove winter cover and install the summer one. If required net out as many leaves and debris as your can. Top up the water levels if required so that the level is halfway up the skimmer entrance..
1. Get the pump running and leave running 24 hours per day for the first week or so while carrying out the procedure below. Once the pump is running backwash your filter a couple of times.
2. Chemicals. At the heart of every well maintained swimming pool is a good chemical balance. Throughout the year you’ll need to add different chemicals to the pool in order to keep the balance right. One of the best free resources out there for calculating how much of each type of chemical you need to add to your pool is The Pool Calculator.
3. Cyanuric Acid
First of all Test Your Cyanuric Acid (CYA) levels. CYA is often referred to as Stabalizer or Conditioner. An ideal level to maintain is between 40-80. 100 is manageable however when you get up to 180ppm the effectiveness of any chlorine you add to your pool is taken away. If it is that high the only solution may be to drain a large % of the water from your pool and refill.
4. Adjust your pH level
Once your CYA level is in an acceptable range, adjust your pH so it is in the 7.4-7.6 range. If you pH is not at the correct level it can mean that any chlorine you add is not as effective as it would be, which may cause you problems as well as costing you to add more chlorine than necessary.
5. Shock the Pool
Next add a large shock of liquid chlorine and allow to circulate for 48 hours. After shocking the pool with liquid chlorine it is common for the water to a slightly milky colour. This is caused by the dead algae being suspended in the water. Don’t worry, with your pump on 24/7 you filter should clear up the water after a couple of days.
6. Kill the Algae
If the pool is still green add 2 x large bottles of algecide and allow circulate for 3-4 days.
7. Brush it down. Once the pool water is reasonably clear thoroughly clean the water by brushing the walls and floor then vacuuming thoroughly.
8. Adjust the water level. Top up the level of the water to be covering the skimmer hole sufficiently.
9. Check Regularly. Test the water and adjust the chlorine and pH levels to properly balance the chemistry of your pool.
Tips to Opening a Green Pool
If you follow the above procedure opening your pool should be pretty straightforward. However if your swimming pool was green to start with the process may not be so straightforward.
If the pool water is green it means there is a lot more algae in the water than when it is clear. As stated above after shocking the green pool with chlorine it will most likely go a milky/green colour. This tells you that the algae has been killed. If there is lots of dead algae suspended in your water your swimming pool filter may not be able to remove it all.
If the pool isn’t clearing after 36 hours try switching the pump off and allow the water to settle for a few hours. Then carefully vacuum any debris that settles on the bottom of the pool straight to waste (not through the filter). By doing this you should remove the majority of debris in the water enabling your filter to deal with the remainder. You may need to repeat this vacuum to waste procedure a few times.
Another thing to try at this stage is to add a water clarifier or flocculant to the water. Most pool chemical shops sell different versions of these. They work by sticking the very small debris particles together, enabling the pools filter to catch them more easily.
1. Firstly ensure the chemical balance of your pool is correct. The two main things to worry about and adjust if required are the chlorine levels and the pH.
2. Ensure your pool is thoroughly cleaned. Take your time to clean it thouroughly brushing down the bottom and walls prior to vacuuming to ensure any algae build up is removed from the water. Complete the clean by backwashing the filter and cleaning all of the filter cages.
3. Add some winterizing chemicals to the pool. I like to use ‘Winterclear’, adding 1 litre of chemical for every 7,500 litres of pool water. After adding run the pump for 48 hours to fully circulate the chemicals.
4. Drain some water out of the pool so that the level drops 10cm below the bottom of the skimmer opening. The water level will naturally rise (via rainfall) over the winter.
5. Drain the skimmer pipe. To prevent any issues with ice add a sealed plastic bottle (with a few stones in it) into the skimmer.
6. Remove the summer cover and install the winter cover.
That’s it, your pool should now be ready to hibernate over the winter and should be in the best possible condition for when it is time to open your swimming pool in the Spring.
I recently bought an antique pin kitchen table to sit in our new home. We got the table delivered and were extremely happy with it until after our first meal.
Several plates and cups that were slightly damp (not even really wet) had left large white ring marks where the table had absorbed the water.
Some details about the stained table…
Our table top is made from reclaimed pine floorboards
It has been recently fully sanded and waxed with Briwax
How to remove water ring marks
After much research and reading on the internet I performed a couple of small tests on the table before settling on a method to remove the white stains. The method below was used to successfully remove all of the water ring marks from the table. Best of all the whole table took under 5 minutes to do!
Place a plain white cotton t-shirt over the affected area
Pre heat a normal household iron to a low heat and ensuring the steaming function is switched off
Place the iron on the t-shirt over the affected for 10-15 seconds then check to see if the mark is gone/reduced.
This worked superbly on our table, removing any trace of the many water marks we accumulated over the last 3 months. Here are some additional tips i’d offer:
Use an old t-shirt as some wax/stain is left on the shirt during this process
You may need to adjust the time the iron is used as it will be different for different bits or wood/irons
Best to start off with less time and build it up slowly as I guess it is possible to burn the pine if you are not careful
I intend to re-wax and polish the table several times over the next few months. I am hoping that the more layers of wax there are the more resistant to water stains the table will become.
Finally, don’t blame me if this doesn’t work or damages your table. I’ve read about others doing this with success and it worked 100% for me so if you have pine furniture with white water marks this may be worth trying.
Looking after a swimming pool can be a daunting prospect if you have never done so. In this article we’ll break down the basic swimming pool chemistry you need to know about and try to teach you the basics maintenance that you’ll need to run on your in ground swimming pool.
Basic Pool Maintenance Tips
pH should be maintained between 7.2 and 7.6
Chlorine levels should be between 1-3 ppm, about 2.5 ppm is ideal
Run your pools pump for at least 8 hours per day
An ideal temperature for an outdoor pool is 78 degree Fahrenheit
Ideally you should test your swimming pool everyday. As you learn how your pool reacts to both the water in your area, the weather and the amount of use your pool gets you may be able to get away with testing less frequently. Every swimming pool reacts differently so there are no set formula to any aspect of swimming pool chemistry.
When taking a sample of water always try to gather it from at least 30cm below the surface and away from the swimming pool wall.
Swimming pool test kits come in many shapes and sizes however as a minimum you should be testing the pH and chlorine levels on a regular basis. If you can maintain these two measures within the ranges stated above then you should have a relatively trouble free maintenance routine.
If you struggle to maintain one or both of these levels (pH & chlorine) or suffer other symptoms such as cloudy water you may need to take further tests or provide a water sample to a local pool specialist to diagnose the problem.
How to Add Chemicals To Your Pool
Be careful. The chemicals used in swimming pool maintenance can be dangerous if not handled correctly. By taking a few simple pieces of advice you can avoid any mishaps and will be able to enjoy your pool safely.
If you are planning on adding chlorine and acid to the pool never mix them together as this can be potentially explosive. While they can be added to the pool at the same time always mix them with water seperately (in different containers) and add them to different ends/side of the pool to prevent any nasty reactions.
The easiest way to add chemicals to your pool is by using an old watering can. Fill the watering can 3/4 full with water from the pool then add the required chemical (granules or liquid). Stir carefully (avoid splashing the water on your or your clothing) with a stick then walk around the pool pouring in the contents of the can. This will ensure the chemical dose is added in an even distribution.
After dosing your pool always leave the cover off and ensure the pump is running for at least 1 hour before anyone enters the pool. This will ensure there are no potentially harmful concentrations of chemicals in the water. Always retest the water before swimming in a recently shocked pool to ensure the chemical levels are safe for swimming (see the basic tips above). If at all possible leave 12 hours between shocking a pool and retesting and swimming.
Add The Right Amount of Chemicals To Your Pool
One thing I experienced when I first took over maintenance of a pool was getting the right measurements of chemicals to add. The dosage instructions instructions on pool chemicals (for granules anyway) usually require you to measure a particular weight of granules based on your pools capacity. It can be tricky to judge what 400 grams of acid granules looks like when pouring them from a 5kg container.
To make measuring your chemicals easier, for each chemical i regularly use (acid granules, chlorine granules & alkaline granules) I have an old plastic cup that I have weighed when fully loaded with chemical. Therefore I know 1 cup = 200gams of chlorine granules. There if i want to raise the chlorine level of my pool (11,000 m3) by 1ppm i’ll need to add about 90g of chlorine granules which is just under 1/2 cup.
Being able to add the exact amount of chemicals required will help you keep the pools chemistry exactly where you want it much more easily.
Swimming Pool Chlorine Levels
As mentioned above the ideal level of chlorine in a swimming pool is about 2.5ppm. If the pool falls below 1ppm bacteria can grow which can be potentially harmful and it is not wise to use the pool. When the chlorine levels read over 6 ppm you may experience problems with stinging eyes which can make your swimming experience unpleasant.
If your chlorine levels are too high then you’ll need to add some chlorine to the swimming pool. You can either add dissolved chlorine granules or liquid to increase the chloring levels. Also if you pool is in regular use you can keep a couple of chlorine tablets in the pools skimmer to help maintain the levels for longer.
Reducing The Chlorine Levels
Sometimes you may need to reduce the chlorine levels. On occasions you may get impatient and over shock the chlorine levels. One easy and effective way to reduce the chlorine levels in a pool is to run the hosepipe into the pool for a couple of hours. Also sunlight has the effect of killing chlorine so leaving the cover off on a sunny day will naturally reduce the chlorine levels of the water.
As a general rule if you add chlorine to a swimming pool the pH will rise. As a result it may be necessary to add acid to the pool first to reduce the pH level if you need to shock the chlorine levels.
Swimming Pool pH Levels
Again as we mentioned above the ideal pH for a swimming pool is pH7.2. This is the same pH that our eyes have is at this level. Every pool varies but you will probably find that over time your pH level will either drop or rise away from this neutral level. As the pH moves away from neutral the effectiveness of any chlorine you add can also be reduced making it crucial to maintain your pools pH at an acceptable level.
How to reduce a swimming pools pH
If your pools pH level is too high you can add some acid to reduce the pH. In an average swimming pool 400 grams of acid granules will reduce the pH by about 0.2. Of course different pools will react to different chemicals so always use the dosing levels on the instructions that come with the acid you
buy and work out the correct dose levels according to the exact capacity of your swimming pool. Likewise to increase the pH level you’ll need to add some alkaline granules.