Central Heating Woes

Being an ill-informed foreigner, there are many things I do not understand. The most important of which, so far, has been the heating system. Since some may be unaware, in Soviet buildings, the heating of water and homes is often centralized for the entire neighborhood or city. I am lucky because I live very close to the central heating station, but for those who live far away, the water can be much cooler by the time it arrives. As you might imagine, this method of heating has many inconveniences. For one, you have very little control over the temperature in your apartment or house. Another, is that if there is one weak link in the system, several people will not have heat.

In my building, heated water is pumped up one side of the building, across the top floor (where I live), and then is circulated back down to the other apartments. Knowing that I am not local and assuming I had not opened the valves to my radiators (to allow the water to recirculate down my side of the building), my downstairs neighbor came to my apartment a few weeks ago, and asked me to turn on the heat. Being totally ignorant about how the heating system works, I asked if she could show me what to do. She also did not know how to fix it but asked her son to come and help me. The neighbor’s son tinkered with some of the switches, emptied water from the radiators into a bucket, but in the end, could not get the radiators in the kitchen and bathroom to work. Since the central heating is only done seasonally, he thought there was just air in the pipes. To fix this issue, he told me I had to open the radiators a few times a day to help get the air out of the pipes, which I did. Yet, the problem persisted.

Eventually, my landlady had someone come, inspect, and fix the radiators (the valves had broken) and my apartment is probably too warm now. More importantly, however, my downstairs neighbors now have heat and are no longer angrily knocking on my door.

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