Saturday, January 09, 2010

Petty engineering design rant 2 - central heating controllers

So, second post in my ‘being irritated by little things which really shouldn’t matter, but somehow just do’ series:

Now, obviously my heating system needs some method of user input, which should preferably be nice and simple to operate, logically laid out, quick to adjust and so on (and perhaps in these carbon-saving times, designed in a manner which might encourage me to use it slightly less).

I quite like the older-style mechanical ones - you know, the ones with the rotary dial bit with little teeth you flip up and down, or pins you put in holes, or something like that. One glance at it tells you exactly what it’s doing - when it’s going to come on, how long for, and when it’s going to switch off again. To alter the setting it’s dead simple as well - flip a few teeth, move a pin or two - takes about 10 seconds from start to finish.

Our boiler’s controller, however, is a clear casualty of “it ain’t broke, but we’ve got to get the word “digital” in here somewhere even if it kills us” syndrome:

I had a look just now to check what it was set to, and it took me 21 button presses! 21!!! And that’s assuming you get them in the right order to navigate yourself through its invisible menu system (it’s like one of those ancient text-based computer games: “There are exits to the South, South and South. You can see a drowning polar bear. You are holding a garlic press and half a packet of cheese-and-onion Hula Hoops. What would you like to do?” - except much less sensible and intuitive). To actually change the settings will take 30+ presses, again assuming you make no mistakes along the way.

Also, it would be amazingly useful if it had a ‘boost’ button like some do, which allow you to stick it on for another hour, safe in the knowledge that it will turn itself back off again by itself so you can just forget about it. Our one? Well, hitting ‘advance’ makes it go on until the next set ‘off’ time - which could be anytime within the next 23 hours and 59 minutes. To find out when, if you’ll remember, will require an error-free succession of not less than 21 button presses while crouched at an awkward angle at the bottom of a dark cupboard.

Useful. Not. Grrrr.

Vociferation concluded.


Gavin said...

You're upset. I can tell.

John. said...

Hahaha! We'll swap - ours is of the old dial and pin setup. It drives me nuts that to advance heating for an extra hour if it's cold requires moving the dials back and forth, rather than just hitting advance.