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The Lobby – general discussion

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The Lobby is our off-topic discussion space here on Which? Conversation.

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Where to go next:

There’s more to explore in other parts of the Which? community space:


If you’re looking to get outside for a bit, feel free to check out the Which? Gardening Group over on Facebook. Hosted by the Which? Gardening team, this is your space to chat about plants and gardening, as well as see what goes on behind the scenes at Which? Gardening.

Over to you!

What’s on your mind today?


Thought for today

Never forget you are unique……….just like everyone else.

Absolutely, but I hate it when is see the term ‘very unique’.

“Uniquest” is better.

What a very unique word.

The tautalogical phrase of modern times that gets me is doubling up of really (that’s really really awful…)

Perhaps even more awfuler might be “very best”? I would have thought something is the best, or it is not. Which? publicise a lot of “best buys”. Perhaps they should have “good buys” and one “best” ( although it is unlikely to exist as there are competing features.)
We devalue words quite easily – “hero” is one such, to my mind.

It’s a paradoxical oxymoron.

Em says:
22 July 2021

I always took the meaning of “really really awful” to mean it is both very awful and in fact awful.

Like “this is egg is really, really bad” – it is really bad to eat because it is rotten.

Em says:
22 July 2021

Martin Gardner offered this sentence, as an example of repetitive words that make sense if you can parse it correctly:

“Wouldn’t the sentence ‘I want to put a hyphen between the words Fish and And and And and Chips in my Fish-And-Chips sign’ have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Chips, as well as after Chips?”

Popular examples of oxymoron.

Awfully nice, bitter sweet, seriously funny, deafening silence, orderly chaos, poor little rich girl, less is more. We need to go backwards to go forwards, you are clearly confused, or one I used quite recently, you need to die before you die.

… which was followed by a deafening silence.

………or parting is such sweet sorrow (Romeo and Juliet) ,

Maybe Juliet was making much ado about nothing.

Good grief!

Thanks Em, that Martin Gardner text is magnificent.

Yes, but why Fish And Chips? In the UK it’s usually Fish and Chips.

What a load of pollocks. Being cheapskate, less characters cost less so dolphinately Fish & Chips.

Or Fish ‘n’ Chips.

My personal favourite is this: “James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher”.


It’s an excellent example of the need for precise punctuation. With that, it becomes clearer:

“James, while John had had “had had”, had had “had”; “had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.”

With punctuation, legal documents could become comprehensible.

Does it Ian?

With punctuation in legal documents there would be less work for lawyers; it’s a self-sustaining profession.

Have you noticed that anything remotely connected with religion is also verbose. No prayer I have ever heard in church is complete in less than a couple of minutes and analysis of same might suggest that is is essential, when contacting the Deity, to spell it out.

And of course the opposite applies… qv “Jesus wept” when used as an exasperative expletive.

I agree, and every hymn seems to have two more verses than necessary – it is obvious the composer was struggling to write more to pad it out. I assumed this was to give the rector time to get from the pulpit to the ambo for the next part of the service [that’s if they know their apse from their ambo, of course].

A degree of build-up is needed in invocations to the Deity because sudden prayers make God jump.

The Lord’s Prayer [Our Father . . . Harold be your name . . .] is reasonably concise and covers several bases, although the modernised language still grates.

The next line worries me. ” Thy king, Dom, come” ”. Could be the second cummings.

School Grace: For what we are about to receive, the pigs have just refused.

Crusader says:
Today 12:39

With Christianity here in Britain, and in Ireland, and over in europe , it has been presented all wrong for centuries as an orthodox religion, which is a man-made distortion of the real thing. Far too many folk spend their lives going to orthodox churches, because that’s often what they’re brought up with, where there’s plenty of religion but no trace of the Holy Spirit, like there certainly is in proper spirit-filled Evangelical and Pentecostal churches where they practice proper born again Christianity and the people there are properly fully committed to God and have a share of his Spirit as I have. And in the Bible, and for Christianity to work properly it must be Bible based, Jesus did thoroughly emphasise the point that we “must be born again”, and if anyone wants to look it up it’s in the Gospel of John, chapter three, verses three, five, and seven. But unfortunately far too many orthodox clergy have no idea of being born again so they just practice empty and dead and spiritless religion which is no good to anyone and doesn’t get anyone saved. Instead it just leads to disillusionment and disbelief and confusion etc. leaving people not knowing what to believe and it also leads to all manner of wrong and distorted beliefs. And if anything is quoted in the Bible more than once then it’s deadly seriously important, and the point about being born again is quoted three times on the same page, in the same chapter, so it’s of major importance, absolutely vital. And the clergy should know that, they have to learn about it in their training so I can never understand why they don’t put it into practice instead of just ignoring it and then leading people astray.

Thought for today

If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down.

Angelic as usual, Beryl.

Did you know 191,047 people (and still rising 🙄 !!!) signed a petition entitled “Do not allow Jeff Bezos to return to Earth”.

But that would result in floating, not ‘flying’.

It occurred to me, when thinking about my latest blessing in disguise, that this is another of those curious phrases that are bitter sweet. Pyric Victory might be another as might Narrow Escape. Still, it could have been worse!
In fact there have been two blessings to be thankful for. Yesterday I pushed the start button on the laptop and nothing happened. There was that awful feeling for about half an hour, before life was miraculously restored and I backed up everything twice after a visit to Currys for a second hard drive. The first was, itself, having connection problems but eventually did the job. This morning, the ‘Sleep’ mode had turned itself off over night but the laptop turned on. I wonder if any tech savvy Which? technician can recommend a plug in device that takes a snap-shot of the entire Drive C, rather than just the files therein? I may need it if I replace this laptop.
The second blessing was a collapse of tiles in the bathroom, probably heat related. The repair will delay my final payment to the builders -which is a good thing!

The collapse of tiles in your refurbished bathroom is a bit worrying, Vynor. It suggests that the adhesive and grout was not correctly applied which would allow moisture to get behind the tiles and affect the wall.

There could be differential expansion/contraction between the wall and the tiling so it’s possible that any new wall treatment had not been allowed to dry fully before the new tiles were fixed or that any sealing of the plaster or plasterboard/cementboard surface was inadequate.

I should make sure you discuss the possible cause thoroughly with the tradesperson who will do the rectification to ensure that appropriate techniques and materials are used.

A collapse of wall tiling could have been very dangerous if someone was in the bathroom when it happened.

Sound advice John. They have had a look and I wait further action.

I agree with John, Vynor. Was this repair/refurbishment specified down to detail such as one might expect from an RFQ for work or more like “please tile that wall with tiles like these”? If the former it will be easier to check and enforce; if the former you should of course be able to rely on approved jobbing builders to do an all round good job, preparing as required before the finishing detail.

HI Vynor,

Windows 10 has built in disc imaging software see:-https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/how-to-create-a-system-image-in-windows-10/84fa6683-e3ac-4e93-9139-368af9267869

However, you cannot select and then restore individual files and folders from such a backup.

To get the latter functions, the software I recommend is either non-free Acronis True Image or Macrium Reflect 7 Free (see:-https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree)

Both the above can write and restore system image files to or from external hard drives.

For me, I no longer bother with making backup system image files, because W10 is easy to re-install from USB installation media and because I’d sooner just back up all my user data.

As a relic from a former century, I like to use the XCOPY command in the Windows 10 “CMD” terminal for my file backups. For example


will copy all files and folders from the current directory (e.g. C:UsersDerek) to the current directory on E: (e.g. if that is a portable USB drive).

As ever, when making file backups, care should be taken to make sure that files are copied from the working space to the backup space. Mistakenly doing it in the reverse direction has been known to have undesirable consequences.

Thanks for that Derek. My thought was that though all my files are safe I have to re-install all the ‘programs’ to get them to work. Rather than searching around for everything (or anything now no longer available) I could simply dump the whole lot, files and all onto the new Laptop hard drive. Acronis seems worth a purchase. The old ‘Clickfree’ external drives used to snapshot everything, but I believe they are no longer available.

I used Acronis True Image to transfer my Windows 7 C: drive to a new larger disk.

I had to borrow a disk writer to complete the transfer with the benefit of not having to reinstall all my software.

Good luck with the tiles. Some years ago our fitters used grouting around the bath/shower that absorbed water that then went mouldy.

The bathroom was given to a sub-contractor, but the main builder was responsible for that and remains responsible for the repair. In fairness to him, he is doing his best to get the tiles fixed. These were flat above a window and gravity had some part to play in their falling. I’ll get them to do a thorough check after the repair has been done.

Did you see the section on cloning a laptop hard drive Vynor?

There is a Try Now button that lets you use True Image 2021 free for 30 days.

I have now and it doesn’t seem to be that straight forward – nothing is these days. Food for thought!

When my Lenovo laptop expired about a year ago all the files were synchronised with my desktop PC’s which saved a lot of hassle when I replaced the dead laptop.

Unless you get an identical laptop, a cloned system disc in a new one will almost certainly be doomed. Drivers will be different, bits of the OS not needed on the old laptop (and therefore not installed will be missing… Unless there is a program that you no longer have, better off starting clean on a fresh machine.

DerekP says:
23 July 2021

My thoughts too, but actually W10 often just works if a system disc is swopped between machines. Any proprietary software might need to be rekeyed though.

Linux usually just works too.


I have typed this and lost the lot by a push of one wrong button. So here goes again.
My copy of Which? arrived today and I found quite a lot to interest and enjoy.
Well done for the advert for Which Conversation this is a good beginning, but in the magazine it is somewhat preaching to the converted. I look forward to our “lively discussion” bursting on to these pages in future.
The opening article was supposed to be read with horror, and it was. Several things struck me. The Which? fake house is one of millions of computer set ups in the UK. It was targeted immediately it went live and at the peak time had fourteen hacking attacks every hour. This tells us that there is gigantic network of malware computers with the ability to target every computer on any network all at once. Obviously there are not millions of hackers out there, but this network of evil, similar to information gathering and processing used by Google, Amazon and Microsoft, must have a presence and a physical fingerprint on the web. Why is it that the authorities cannot infiltrate this and disrupt it? It will eventually rob us of the internet if it becomes so pervasive that we can not transact any communication in safety. If, as suggested the home computer is compromised and used to power this information grab, there should be some compulsory software that needs to be present in every computer to detect the running of any malware invisible to the owner. As to smart devices, this must surely be a wake up call to us all. How long can they exist for if they are so easily hacked?

I was amused at Which?’s claim that they have been concerned at the rip off price of printer ink for years. No they haven’t! For the first time I know of, they tell us that printer inks are a concern that they are going to talk to someone about. I’ve been banging on about this for years and have been quietly ignored. Ink reviews have mentioned the expense, but shoulders have been shrugged and the expense accepted as a necessary part of printing costs. Good luck with your talks, let’s have a little action on that and the software that stops printers using third party inks. Now what about the price of spectacles? Does Which? care enough about that to talk to someone?

The article on electric fans caught my attention. I had (until yesterday) an air-conditioning unit costing about £400 new. This didn’t do any cooling. Cold air came out of the louvre and disappeared while the room got hotter. The unit had to be vented, via a hose and a window vent to the outside. The exhaust from the unit burned the hand and distorted the window frame and its fixings. The article also suggests that fans should not be left on over night for fire risk. Most fans have timers for twelve hours and most of us put them on at night to keep cool. Perhaps Which? would like to re-write their cooling advice when they next talk about it?

There on page 40 was a list of don’t buy products. I was quietly entertained by the knowledge that while Which? slated the Roku sound bar and the Nokia Phone, the shopping channels on TV have been selling them in their hundreds. I know now why they had so much stock to shift, but does it mean that if you shout loud enough you can shift any old tat to the gullible public?

So, if you charge the E.V. at an expensive charger it costs more than it would to put petrol in an ordinary car. Currently a petrol mini is cheaper to own for its first ten years that the equivalent E.V. The piece on page 49 misses the point that one buys a PHEV to go places without waiting around to charge up en-route. It suggests that if one can charge at home one should prefer an EV to a PHEV. Not yet perhaps. Tesla seem to have a fifty percent repair rate for their vehicles. This is surprising, given that they have spent considerable time and capital on a dedicated charging network. Motorway driving is bad for the battery consumption. It certainly is for my car. However, current trends suggest that within a year or two we will all be driving at sixty miles and hour on any UK road and twenty in any town -if you can get in without paying. It is certainly bash the motorist season at the moment.

I liked the article on baking. My current oven is ten degrees Celsius lower than the dial suggests, my previous oven was twenty degrees below the set temperature. I compensate for this, but I shouldn’t have to.

More televisions? Some in every magazine I pick up. I agree about the adjustment of monitors, mine is a pain!!

Vynor has made some interesting points for discussion.

Instead of replying to his post under this one with different subjects getting discussed all at once, I am going to suggest replying with a new thread referring back to Vynor’s above.

malcolm r says:
23 July 2021

Sometimes Ctrl+Z can restore what has been accidentally consigned to the big server in the sky. Otherwise it is simply Self+ Ctrl.

A colleague of mine, many years ago, who was not very computer savvy, was writing his report after a trip abroad. We saw it was all in capitals so explained how to convert it to upper and lower case. He did so, and never saw it again. He was not too pleased, and we were not much futher help either. To his credit he typed it all over again.

Vynor said https://conversation.which.co.uk/community/off-topic-lobby-3/#comment-1633028

Well done for the advert for Which Conversation this is a good beginning, but in the magazine it is somewhat preaching to the converted. I look forward to our “lively discussion” bursting on to these pages in future.

I haven’t received my magazine yet, but you do sometimes get the impression many people at Which? hardly know the convos exist, let alone recognise there are a few people here who have been giving helpful advice for many years now. We don’t expect a medal, but it would be nice to be acknowledged.

There is, and has been for at least the past twenty-five years an inherent dichotomy between how we view the site (I won’t call it a forum, as it isn’t one, by any measure) and how Which? Ltd–the real power behind the organisation–views it.

The waters are further muddied by the changes that have occurred since Patrick was ‘let go’. I believe his view of the site and his belief in its potential were vastly different from those now held. He viewed the site as a ‘community’, a view which both excited and enticed. Despite the same wording remaining in at least one topic header, I am unsure how the site is currently viewed, but I’m certain it’s not seen as a ‘community’ in any way.

I am, however, more certain of how we–the ‘regulars–are viewed. The words ‘irritants’ and ‘malcontents’ come to mind, and even some less salubrious terms could well be imagined. We’re certainly not viewed as interested, important, caring, thoughtful or compassionate. I doubt we’re even seen as assets.

The software engine underlying this site is poor. Six years ago we were told new software would be installed ‘soon’. The fact that it hasn’t been and the fact that those inside the organisation most closely involved with W?Cs agree it’s in dire need of replacement speaks volumes abut the funding available. It has to be a lack of funding, because any other reason for leaving such a poor product in place would speak to motive, and that should concern us all.

Why has funding been unavailable? Which? Ltd controls the purse strings, so it might be imagined that they don’t place much value on this site.

I was told many years ago by Lord Waitrose that ‘The view from the engine room is very different to the view from the bridge.” Sometimes, I just wish we had a view of any sort.

Ian, thanks for sharing those thoughts. I am inclined to agree with your 3rd paragraph.

Much of social media exists to serve the advertisers who pay for it.

I don’t think W?C obviously serves that purpose, but I do wonder if “flood” topics are created so the numbers of “me too” or “I’m Spartacus” posts can be counted as evidence in support of Which? campaigns.

Indeed. And without registrations, W? can’t be sure of the total numbers posting.

Funny how I was having these same sentiments yesterday before Vynor posted his comment.

I had come to the conclusion that the ‘regulars’ were seen to be a constraint because we are perceived as being reactionary, out of touch with modern ideas and lifestyles, sometimes too hard on modern consumer problems — like debt, overdrafts, compensation, remedies, personal responsibility, etc, etc — and we waste a lot of space and clog up the columns with pathetic attempts at humour from a bygone age. It has seemed to me for some time now that life experiences are not wanted and so long as we can tell people [over and over again] how to get off a parking ticket or why telephone numbers can be false we serve a purpose!

There are no signs that anything we write is of much interest to the journalists and others in Which? or that our points inform their work, so why do we bother? Well, I enjoy the company and have a naïve belief that some of what we we say might occasionally be helpful to the individuals who write in with a problem — although with no registering requirement that is sometimes just a futile gesture and we could just be one of many avenues that people pursue. Do consumers attach any special value to the responses they get from Which? as distinct from any other source – like social media, the daily papers, TV, or YouTube? It’s not obvious that they do appreciate the expertise of either the Which? professionals or the bilge churned out here by the regulars with nothing much better to do in the daylight!

The other day the number of incoming posts to Which? Conversation was very low, without a single new contributor, and I am wondering whether it is actually much use at all.

Patrick Taylor says:
25 July 2021

Look at the Choice Community in Australia for a lively and useful consumer board. I have recommended it for several years as being far superior to this lame effort. One might deduce that W?’s vision does not include having readers starting topics and the overhead of overseeing it. Given Choice is hugely smaller in terms of Income and staff it seems that they can manage this well. Smarter people?

Some of the postings here are so similar to what is on Choice but there you have proper indexing AND of course User generated mostly.

Another aspect of W? which I find amazing is that nowhere does it provide any resource outlining what happens when you allow companies to behave badly. People should learn from history but W? provides nothing , notably it has airbrushed its cartel case against JJBSports from its history.

Education is in W? original remit but it appears shouting the same simplistic messages repeatedly is far easier. How about a nice article on why Alltrials was needed and though necessarily it will be critical of the pharma industry surely educating the subcribers and public to what one needs to be aware of about industries is a laudable thing and fits the consumer charity role.

Obviously doing an article of businesses being bad was difficult under the previous regime but when Unilever and P&G carved up Europe with Henkel and arranged to increase prices surely that should be of interest to all consumers to see how big businesses operate.

W? apparently has no view on whistleblowing though as we now know the Grenfell tower disaster could have been avoided if one person of those in the know had been in a position to tell without committing financial and professional suicide. The number of NHS scandals covered up until forced into the open at a detriment to the whistleblowers is another area in which those refusing to be party to cover-up need reward.

Perhaps the most disgusting was the Post Office jailing staff whenthey knew their accounting system was faulty . Death, destruction, depression, closures just so bosses could get bonuses. Oh yes as consumers it would be nice if charity representing our interests actually had some backbone.

Vynor said: The article on electric fans caught my attention. I had (until yesterday) an air-conditioning unit costing about £400 new. This didn’t do any cooling. Cold air came out of the louvre and disappeared while the room got hotter

We had a similar model, I believe. We ended up pushing the vent pipe up the chimney. The thing was not only generally ineffective, but had a very noisy compressor which did a fair imitation of an Abrams tank attempting to escape a mud pit.

Some year ago we took the plunge and invested in Air Conditioning. It’s a heat pump inverter model, is almost silent outside and utterly silent inside, took two days to install and has proved invaluable ever since. But this is a built in system that requires professional installation and houses the compressor outside the building.

Good idea pushing the vent pipe up the chimney instead of out of the window. We acquired a second-hand one but found it not worth the hassle plus it was incredibly noisy.

If you put the vent pipe up the chimney there is a risk that debris could fall down the chimney and enter the air conditioner. It would be easy to design a vent tube to prevent this problem but I do not know if these are available.

If anyone wants an effective air conditioner they would be well advised to go for a split-unit one, as Ian has mentioned. At present I am happy to avoid the warmest rooms in hot weather and rely on ventilation.

Crusader says:
24 July 2021

The vent pipe should be ok if there’s a disused flue liner fitted in the flue, provided it has a suitable cowl fitted on it’s top end and it’s still well fitted. Then you can shove the vent pipe up the liner, but it must be fitted so that it can’t slip back down and leave it’s open end exposed to falling debris. Or if there’s no flue liner fitted how about cutting a suitable sized hole in a wall, similar to the one needed for a gas wall heater, and fit the vent pipe in there, with a suitable terminal fitted of course, they’re a bit similar to a roof cowl, it would let the heat out but keep rain out. Or why not just fit a suitable sized cowl on the end of the vent pipe first, if you can find one which will fit and then shove your vent pipe up the flue, then it will be protected. There’s plenty of cowls available at builder’s merchants and you could take your vent pipe with you to find a cowl to fit it if there is any of suitable size. I’m considering getting a portable air con machine now that I can afford one and I’ve had gas wall heaters fitted in my bedroom in the past but now the holes are filled in but I could soon reopen one and fit an old flue terminal as I’ve got some kicking about in my attic. Though I might struggle to get such a heavy machine up my stairs, just as well I’ve already invested in a stair climbing sack truck, and very good it is too, it gets heavy radiators up the stairs, and up the steps outside.

Em says:
24 July 2021

Same here. After many sleepless hot summer nights, I bought a Creda portable ACU, similar in design to the units tested by Which?. I don’t remember the exact details, as it went to the tip when I started to fit Daikin split units to the worst affected rooms. Now most of our house benefits from a professional split-unit a/c installation, as it has become more affordable over the years and more importantly, doubles up as a cheap source of electric heating during the winter. This more than offsets the electricity used during the summer months, so our a/c use is a green as it gets.

I’m sorry to say that, once again, Which? only tells half the story to help you make an informed decision. I also don’t understand the test criteria used: “One of our tests involves measuring how long it takes to cool a room by 10°C.” Is that it?

Contrary to what most people would imagine, an air conditioner has to do much more than simply chill the air. It also has to get rid of the “latent” (hidden) heat, before it can drop the air temperature. Warm air, especially in the UK, holds a lot of moisture or relative humidity.

This is why so-called “swamp” coolers (called evaporative coolers in the trade) are totally ineffective in the British climate. I’m surprised Which? didn’t include a prominent warning about the 6″ cube mini-coolers promoted on the Internet during the hot summer months. These are a total con – so is the false advertising – and a complete waste of money.

Back to latent heat of condensation/evaporation. We know how wet a chilled bottle of water gets, and how quickly it heats up again in hot weather. A lot of that warming effect is caused by the condensation of moisture from air to bottle, not the higher air temperature found in summer.

In an a/c unit most of this water condenses on the cooling fins – just like in a dehumidifier or condensing tumble dryer. It also release a lot of heat in the process. The water collects in the condensate tank on a portable a/c unit. (Oh, did Which? forget to mention that this has to be emptied every day?) Now imagine you pour that water into an electric kettle and boil it back into water vapour. It takes a long time and uses a lot of energy, right? That’s how much invisible latent heat energy your a/c unit has to dump, not even cooling the air by one degree.

So an effective a/c unit has to cope with all of these:

* fabric gains – how much outside heat leaks into your room through the walls and windows,
* solar gains – radiant heat transmitted through glass from the sun during daylight hours
* appliances gains – TV, hair dryer, hot water tank, etc. ,
* people – we generate body heat and humidity through breathing and sweating
* air changes – air drawn in from outside which is both hotter and more humid

These quickly add up to 2-3 kW per room – more for a large sitting room, kitchen or conservatory.

Portable a/c units are typically rated at about 2.5kW cooling capacity (tested at 35°C/40% Relative Humidity – which is low for the UK) with an EER (efficiency) of 2.5. In other words, you will use 1kW of electricity to get rid of 2.5kW of heat. But that is barely enough capacity to cool even a modest room.

Firstly, that portable a/c unit is inside the room you are trying to cool. So where does the heat of that 1kW of electricity used to run the a/c end up? Inside the room! Add that to the appliance gains.

Secondly, where does it replace the air blown out the hose from? With warm, moisture laiden air from outside the room you want to cool. (We can debate whether it is blowing out [i.e. wasting] chilled air from inside the room or drawing in warm air from outside the room to replace it. Fundamentally, it makes no difference to the physics.) Add that to the natural air changes.

So were are trying to chill the air in a typical room with an under-capacity portable a/c unit. As a result, it uses most of its remaining capacity removing the moisture from the air. This explains Vynor’s paradox:

This [portable a/c unit] didn’t do any cooling. Cold air came out of the louvre and disappeared while the room got hotter.

You will also wake up after a noisy night’s sleep with a dry throat.

Neither of these problems exist with a well-designed and installed split a/c unit. Units of similar cost and greater capacity are more energy efficient (look for an EER of 4 or more). The noisier, heat generating components (the compressor and heat exchanger fan) are outdoors.

The downside is that cost of installation is about the same as the a/c unit itself. More if it involves much electrical work. Unfortunately, most of these activities are controlled within the UK, so you have to use professionals, although basic preparatory work can be done to help keep the costs down.

Annual maintainance (i.e. cleaning) can also be expensive, although a friendly a/c engineer can show a compenent DIY’er how to do it.

But don’t imagine that your portable a/c unit doesn’t need the same loving care and attention. All that cold air and water condensate is an ideal breeding ground for mould and bacteria. Within 2-3 years of regular use, any a/c unit needs thorough cleaning with specialist bactericidal chemicals, as well as more regular removal of dust and skin debris which would encourage rapid regrowth. This means cleaning the cooling fins, fan scroll, condensate tray and drain tube, as well as the more accessible filter and vents. They are also prone to leaking. Towards the end of its miserable life, I stood my portable unit in a plastic tray to avoid ruining the carpets.

Good idea pushing the vent pipe up the chimney instead of out of the window.”

Be careful. Depending on the model this could be extremely humid and cause you a damp problem. Does the model also have a condensate bucket that you have to empty (or pump out) every hour or two? If so, you’re all right. If not, you’re likely going to have a damp chimney and its ramifications soon – mouldy wallpaper, peeling plaster…

When I had one of these, I constructed a plenum between a window and the inner reveal – discharged the hot air outlet into the plenum )perfectly sealed so no blow-back), which in turn vented through the wide open fanlight. The whole window glass was way too hot to touch when it was in full flight – but it was reasonably efficient.

I trust this is thinking about the science involved and not the outcome of experience, Roger.

It’s surprising just how much water the current AirCon split units leech out of the air. The pools by the drain points are quite substantial.

Crusader says:
24 July 2021

That’s all the more reason to stick the pipe up a flue liner if there is one, as gas boiler exhaust gas is also full of moisture which is why the boiler manufacturers insist you fit a liner when installing a back boiler, though I don’t think anyone does anymore, as it now looks like they’re no longer made. And it’s that moisture, or water vapour in the gas exhaust fumes which is recovered by a condensing boiler but that’s another subject altogether. And you’re dead right to give a warning about the dampness in the hot air discharge from the aircon outlet pipe, as it can also breed dreaded dry rot fungus which I know to be extremely destructive, I should know as I’ve had to deal with them on several occasions in my home and I’ve seen what they can do and they’re furiously aggressive and determined things and they can get through two layers of top quality brickwork and destroy structural timbers like those in your roof, or floorboards and their supporting beams etc. so beware! And where I live next door’s staircase was destroyed by the dreaded fungus.

Em says:
24 July 2021

Psychometrics – a field of study concerning the theory and techniques of psychological measurement. Psychrometrics – a field of engineering concerning the physical and thermodynamic properties of gas-vapour mixtures.

It is important not to confuse the two. Psychometric testing, like IQ and behavioural traits, can be used to assess someone’s likely performance in a particular job role. Whereas psychrometric testing can only assess whether the candidate is full of hot air.

Yes – science not experience LOL. Just trying to help.

Not many years ago I had to replace a trusty but inefficient oil boiler. Inefficient insofar as the flue temperature was… hot. However, this had two benefits – heated an upstairs room otherwise without heat, and ensured no acidic condensate rotted the lining in the chimney (and if the chimney lining was damaged, no chance of damp in the brickwork. The “cheap” boiler swap had a payload of needing a new liner in the chimney – stainless steel – to resist the far more corrosive flue products from the new boiler.

My parents had a Baxi Bermuda combination gas boiler/gas fire that made use of an existing chimney and a stainless steel liner was subsequently fitted, possibly after the switch to natural gas. These back boiler units were compact and avoided the need for a large wall-hung or floor-standing boiler, but were phased out as Crusader has mentioned.

My parents also had one. I thought they were a good solution for providing whole house heating and hot water with the option of just heating one room when full central heating was not necessary. There wasn’t a great selection of gas fire styles available so many families had identical appliances, but that was not unusual for many household items in the 1950’s-60’s. There are many still in place if you look at the pictures on property websites showing unmodernised homes.

Full A/C systems in the UK home are similar to swimming pools – most probably needed for a couple of weeks a year, but still require regular maintenance. Keep the heat out the same way you keep the cold out by insulating the roof and investing in thermal curtains and blinds and a good old fashioned fan. You will be helping the environment and reducing your energy bills at the same time.

Em says:
25 July 2021

@Beryl – Agree totally. An A/C only system is a waste of money and energy, unless it is can be run on solar panels. And good insulation is a pre-requisite for an A/C system too, or your system will cost twice as much to purchase and run.

One of the disadvantages of a modern eco-house is that there is little thermal inertia in the building materials used. This means it heats up quickly in winter, but also heats up quickly in summer. I’ve done what I can to keep this house cool in summer, through passive insulation methods.

I would urge anyone considering A/C to look at a split system; the costs aren’t that much more than a portable unit. Ensure that the system includes the reversible heat pump option, even for a single room. They are only around 20% more than the otherwise identical cooling-only units. HMRC in their wisdom have abolished the reduced-rate 5% VAT on air-to-air heat pumps and other energy-saving materials, which made this choice cost neutral, but the installation costs for heat pumps are still only 5% VAT rated. The idential labour of installing an A/C only system is 20% VAT rated.

Apart from lower installation costs, you are prepared for when gas and oil central heating is phased out (or your boiler breaks down). If you already have solar panels, then some of your winter heating can be free.

Crusader says:
25 July 2021

Full of hot air? you mean like the average prime minister?

Crusader says:
25 July 2021

Do you mean stuff like the old canon gas miser fires? I remember them back in the 60’s with the batteries in a box at the bottom to fire the little glow plug, I remember those little glow plugs being sold in woolworths. My parents had a canon gas miser fire at the last house I lived at which had been converted to natural gas. And a friend of mine who is a landlord has one in his rent house. They were a great British made classic icon that has stood the test of time, look how many are still in use, not bad considering a lot of them are well over 50 years old, old enough to have been converted. And at least when they were converted you longer needed to buy any more batteries or glow plugs for them.

Thanks for those recollections, Crusader. I couldn’t remember the Cannon Gasmiser fire so had to look it up and then I recognised it.

It was a popular model and it seems that spares are still available. They are bought and sold on-line and are presumably reasonably efficient.

In the late 1950’s and well into the 1960’s, paraffin was a common heating fuel but it was hazardous, not very efficient, and caused dampness, so when North Sea gas became plentiful and mains gas supplies more widely available a lot of people switched to gas for heating and hot water. This soon led to the end of paraffin stoves and the Ascot gas water heater. The compact modern boiler and hot water radiator system was quite a social revolution at the time coupled with wall-to-wall carpeting and double glazing. My parents were able to say goodbye to the dirty old iron stove with a fat chimney that occupied one corner of the kitchen and, taking advantage of the space gained, install a double-drainer sink in cream vitreous enamel on a Formica-laminated base unit with sliding doors! Such luxury!

Incidentally, the conversion to natural gas in the mid-1970’s led to the closure of all the old town gas works which meant the end of the supply of cheap coke, a further stimulus to the abolition of solid fuel for heating and hot water. Fifty years later we’re going to do it all over again but I am sot sure the transfer to heat pumps and the necessary accompanying changes will be so widely welcomed this time.

The battery-powered hot wire igniter that Crusader refers to worked much better with the old town gas than with natural gas, so that piezo-electric spark igniters and multi-spark mains-powered ignitors took over. Natural gas has a much narrower explosive range than town gas.

The paraffin heaters and Ascot heaters that John refers to were unflued and not only could add to condensation but they could deplete oxygen and, if not burning cleanly, produce toxic carbon monoxide. Contemporary homes had draughty sash windows to help reduce these problems. 🙁

Our old gas stove in the ‘50s was lit with a flint in a springy holder. Then we invested in the latest gadget, a U14 (I think) large cylindrical battery with a long chrome stem and press switch that screwed on top, surmounted by a resistance wire that glowed red to ignite the ring and oven. From memory that was still in used when we switched from coal gas to natural.

I think draughty houses still have their uses to ensure we get fresh air changes.

Crusader says:
Today 12:08

Yes, I remember paraffin, there was two rival varieties, pink and blue. And I remember the old kitchen units with the formica, and they were properly built from plywood, at least the earlier ones were, not flimsy brittle chipboard like the units I used to fit for my parents and friends. And the sliding door units were long and really heavy and of course made to imperial measurements, so when replacing them with metric ones there was a whole lot of re-planning to do to get them to fit. But I don’t miss the sliding doors as the lower tracks used to get full of muck which used to cause the doors to stick. And of course the gas changeover led to more railway closures as there was no longer any need for the coke to be brought in by trains to the gasworks. And in some areas you can still see signs of where the old gasworks railways used to be, usually cuttings filled in up to street level but the tops of the bridges and tunnel ends are often still visible. And I don’t think I’ll be getting a portable aircon machine after all, not after what I’ve read on here. And I don’t think a fixed system would work in my bedroom either as it faces the west and it gets absolutely drenched in absolutely intense brutal frying hot sun all afternoon and well into the evening in the summer and the condenser box would have to be out there on the front wall right in the sun so it would really struggle to lose the heat. How could it when it’s absolutely drenched in such brutal blazing heat for so long? I don’t think it would work.

Vynor said https://conversation.which.co.uk/community/off-topic-lobby-3/#comment-1633028
<The opening article was supposed to be read with horror, and it was. Several things struck me. The Which? fake house is one of millions of computer set ups in the UK. Full comment above

Which? is very weak in giving punchy advice that would save many people getting caught out.

I have now read the article online that ends with a very weak:
You can help protect your computer by keeping Windows always updated and installing a Best Buy antivirus package (Which? March 2021, p46)

What does it mean Help protect !!!!. Which? should be saying it is imperative you protect you computer with security software, preferably paid-for as free ones are under no obligation to provide updates, as someone I know got caught out with years ago. Bots (botnet) are nothing new, I have known about them for most of the 30+years I have been on the internet and the reason security software is so essential.

Presumably the smart devices in this house were linked via a router? Was a new password set on the router before the test began or set partway through the test to see if it made any difference to the attacks?

The point is that bot nets can now target everyone all at once and all the time. If they involve all our home computer networks, secretly harnessed without our knowing about it, then we have a very serious invasion problem to sort out. If they rely on their own systems, then the authorities should be able to find and disturb them for us. Either way, there seems to be a lot of wringing hands and not much action.

As with avoiding scams, there is a lot that we can do to protect ourselves, but it’s worth recognising that there is always going to be a small risk of being a victim of malware.

Years ago a neighbour’s computer was victim of a ‘zero-day attack’, thanks to a rogue attachment sent by her sister, who worked at BP. She had up to date anti-malware software but the solution had not yet been released. It’s important to have backups – preferably multiple backups.

DerekP says:
24 July 2021

I have not been able to find that Which? article online, but the above quotes do seem to assume that threats can breach any router’s defences and target vulnerable Windows devices.

Many homes will also have “always on” Android and iOS devices, ie smartphones. I wonder if such devices pose as much of a potential problem.

Em says:
24 July 2021

The article doesn’t give a lot of information, or much clear advice about the threats.

By far the most important thing you must do – even before worrying about antivirus software, PCs or smart devices – is ensure that your ROUTER is secure. You must change the default password to something complex and not easily guessed, maybe the userid as well. Leaving it as admin admin is asking for all sorts of trouble. Also make sure that the router’s WiFi password is equally secure, but don’t use the same one as the admin password.

Your router’s internal firewall is the first and main line of defence. By default, no traffic can flow between your private internal (home) network, or Intranet, and the public Internet. Of course, that is not much use if you want to access a website or email service. To do this, your router allows certain types of message, originating in your private network and identified by a port number to pass out, and a response to be returned to that or a related port number. Nothing in the Internet knows or can use your devices’ IP address, only the public-facing IP address of the router and the port number to use to send in a message.

But anyone knowing your router’s password can bypass this fundamental security control, see what devices you have and set up port forwarding in the router. This establishes a direct link to one of your devices, making it particularly vulnerable, as it is then exposed to the Internet and must manage all the security threats that that brings with it for itself.

DerekP says:
25 July 2021

Thanks Em , that is useful detail, as opposed to scaremongering. I have recently looked through some of the logs that my router keeps. They show many connection attempts from the Internet, all of which were automatically blocked.

Em says:
25 July 2021

Thank you @DerekP. Checking router logs (if you can make sense of them) is good advice too. Of course there is a lot more that can be done and checked, but unfortunately this is not my day job.

The next simple thing to do, is check whether your router responds to a “ping” request to its external IP address. Nothing to do with NHS Track and Trace 🙂

First, you need to find the router’s external (Internet) IP address – the one your ISP assigns. If this is not a static address, it could change, so make sure the IP address you have is current. No point in checking someone else’s router! Also note that a router has two IP addresses, the second one is for your private network. It will probably start 192.168.xxx.xxx and pinging that IP address doesn’t tell you what you want to know for this test.

From outside your private network, using your laptop on a trusted friend’s WiFi for instance, ping your internet IP address from the command prompt:

ping xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx

If you get a series of replies, your router is making its presence known on the Internet. This is the first test that many hackers will try. Go into your router settings and disable the ping response. For instance, some Netgear routers have a “Respond to Ping on Internet port” check box.

Thought for today

I went to a psychologist to treat my big ego. I think it worked, I’m feeling much better than all of you today.

I thought that a big ego was untreatable but there is something called alter ego…

Alter ego is the one (often inflated) that everyone presents to the rest of the world, which differs from the real one that lurks behind closed doors, the extent of which varies from person to person. It obviously didn’t work for me since I don’t know how all of you are feeling today, but suffice to say, some are definitely showing signs of grumpiness thats in need of deliverance 🙂

I know, and it was just a joke, Beryl.

I’m feeling great, if a little tired, having been busy in the garden thanks to cooler weather.

Egos are treatable Wavechange, but that’s for another day 🙂

I did some gardening yesterday morning in the shade before the Olympic opening ceremony, which I didn’t want to miss. We had rain and a couple of of thunderclaps early this morning which has cleared the air and the garden plants are looking relieved and refreshed.

I recently discovered by default, a humane way of dealing with slugs. They usually clear the path of left over goose and duck pellets after dark when the ducks return to the river. Ingredients are:

Wheat, wheat feed, linseed, beans, maize gluten, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, salt, seaweed, yeast, marigold flowers, fructose-oligosaccharides.

I am not sure whether sprinkling the pellets around a prize Hosta would deter the slugs from eating it, but it may depend upon the ingredients in them and the marigold flowers seem to be the most obvious, as they are definitely a slug favourite. My question is, are the other ingredients harmful to slugs or nutritious?

Is this mixture just working as a deterrent or is it a slug killer Beryl? If they ingest it, the salt and seaweed will be killing them from the inside.

I moved an unwell hosta to a shady and damp corner of the garden and now it is thriving and seems to be free of slug damage. Another one in a pot is doing better since I put it in the shade. Slugs sometimes devour marigolds, leaving only the flowers but I don’t know if these are harmful if consumed, or why they are included in duck food.

Alfa – I looked up the list of ingredients provided by Beryl and these feature in feedstuff for ducks, chickens, etc.

The pellets are specially formulated to feed ducks and geese.
I don’t see any dead slugs around the following morning, but the path is littered with them at nighttime feeding on the pellets.

alfa – if the salt and seaweed kills the slugs from the inside, then are the dead slugs safe for garden birds or hedgehogs to eat?

I gave up on Hostas and replaced them with Heucheras which come in a variety of lovely coloured leaves and are resistant to slugs. The downside is caterpillars love the green but not the red ones.

My problem with heucheras is not caterpillars but disease over winter. Two have recovered well but the third is unlikely to survive. I hope it is not heuchera rust, but I have put the sickly plant in a pot in isolation, just in case.

Hi Beryl, I have just looked at a few articles on what hedgehogs can and can’t eat and one article says they can eat fish so presumably the salt is safe for them.

That’s good news alfa, I would think if it’s alright for freshwater fowl it’s alright for small mammals. The online company that supply the pellets specialise in all wildlife foods so I would be surprised if they sold anything that would
potentially harm one wildlife species while feeding another. Many thanks for the feedback.

Thought for today

I think my iPhone is broken. I pressed the home button and I’m still at work!

DerekP says:
25 July 2021

Thanks Beryl. I hope you get paid double time for Sundays.

Wasn’t it ET that needed a home button on the phone?

Someone should have told him the green one means ‘go’ on the blue planet.

Patrick Taylor says:
25 July 2021

“Duncan beams with pride as he tells me almost all of the 75 parts that make up the latest model could be used to repair “Number one”, as he calls the 1981 original; Henrys are made to last – and to be easily repaired – in the landfill age of rapid obsolescence.” Guardian

Rather sweet article, and I never realised what a big family business it is.

The making of Numatic vacuum cleaners in Somerset featured in a tv programme that I saw not many weeks ago. I, too, was surprised at the scale of the operation and pleased to see, contrary to some opinions, that a UK business can compete successfully in the domestic appliance world. Investment was a key element. A shame another well-known appliance maker didn’t back Britain in the same way.

Thought for today

My mum once said follow your dreams, so I went back to bed.