Thursday, December 21, 2006

Great Balls of Fire

The eyesore pictured above is the gas-powered water heating unit that is installed in my kitchen. To operate it, you push in the big blue button on the front, you hear a clicking noise as the pilot light inside lights up and then you can see a blue flame through the narrow window above the button and hot water comes out of the hose. You can control how hot or cool the heated water is by dialing the blue button clock-wise (that controls the water flow) and/or sliding a lever at the bottom right which is under the button (that turns the flame up or down).

This system is not only unattractive, it's also inefficient but Japanese apartments are too small to have the type of water-heating systems that you see in most U.S. homes. A similar type of water heater is in the shower area. It can also be a little scary if you forget to use the ventilation fan in the kitchen while operating the kitchen water heater. If you don't use the fan, occasionally a large blob of flame will burst out of the top and make a loud noise. For real excitement, there are the times when flames shoot out both sides and the top. You can imagine that I try hard to remember to turn on the fan.

I consider us somewhat lucky that we have this type of unit at all. In my husband's first apartment in Japan (before we were together), there was no hot water at all. This was awhile ago so it may be relatively rare for apartments to no longer include hot water in the kitchen but I have heard other foreigners complain about not having hot water to wash their dishes.

In both of the offices occupied by my former company, they had tiny little cylindrical water heaters installed under the sinks so that you didn't have to have this type of monstrosity hanging over your sink. In one case, the water was scalding even at the lowest setting and, in the other, it didn't work at all. I'm guessing that's why few of those types of water heaters are used. I'm also guessing they are more expensive. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure they don't shoot out balls of fire on occasion.


Roy said...

You know there was a certain brand of those water heaters that leaked gas and killed several people over the last few years. Be careful!

The first apartment I lived in didn't have heating or air conditioning or hot water or a bath and I never got around to buying one of those things to hang over the sink. I don't know how I managed to live there for 3 years. I guess when you are young you just don't care so much about comfort and would rather spend money on going out and having fun. I didn't even want to spend money on a stove/gas heater so I found one in the gomi and used that until it started to spit out flames and making noises.

At any rate, you don't see those things as much anymore. If you haven't already you really ought to go out and see what the new Japanese mansions are like. Very modern with cool stuff like LAN ports in the walls and ventilation systems that stuck dust out throughout the apartment.

Shari said...

I guess that the reason we have one of those things is the apartment building is old. The box itself isn't so old. It was replaced about 5 years ago. Fortunately, we didn't pay for it. In fact, we're relatively lucky in that our air conditioner and the water heater were original issue and are maintained by the landlord. When they die, they pay.

While I wish our apartment were more modern, I'm generally happy with the location we're in as well as the size of the apartment and how the roooms are laid out. I'd be really reuluctant to live in a more tunnel-shaped place (ours is more of a cube so it feels more spacious than most apartments). Given how much junk we have, we're also not keen on the hassle of moving.

Besides, what would I complain about if the place were nice and new? ;-)

Shari said...

I note with a bit of irony that just last night after talking about this, I saw a Japanese T.V. program that featured one of these boxes! Weird timing. :-)