I’m trying to sort out all of the outstanding items on my ‘to-do’ list so I can get away to the UK in my Savannah and know that I don’t have any unwelcome surprises waiting for me when I return home again. At the top of the list was moving my washing machine from the kitchen into the bathroom. This became more urgent after I installed a new dishwasher in the place where the washing machine had been leaving the latter standing afterwards in the middle of the room and my having to walk around it the whole time.

Basically, the plumbing involved was quite simple. I installed a ‘stéatite’ hot water tank in the bathroom when I came to France. It has worked very well over the past seven years and I would only replace it if, for example, I installed a new central heating system in my house. The system has a cold water inlet and a hot water outlet and as I wanted to place the washing machine under the hot water tank, all I needed to do was break into the cold water supply and fit a washing machine valve and then break into the bathroom waste system to allow the washing machine to pump out its used water.

The latter, though fiddly, wasn’t as difficult as it might be because of a special unit that’s attached to the underside of the hot water tank, as shown in the following two pictures.

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It’s called a ‘Groupe de Sécurité’ and it has several functions. The first, and probably the most important, is that it acts as a pressure relief valve should the thermostat malfunction and the water in the tank start to boil. The second is to act as a drain-off valve should it be necessary to evacuate the whole system and the third is to act as an expansion relief valve because when the water in the tank is heated, it expands.

If all of the hot taps are closed, the extra volume needs somewhere to go, and the answer is out through this valve. What you then need is a method of disposing of the excess water and this is done by incorporating a ‘syphon-type’ arrangement in the system that’s connected into the bathroom’s waste outlet. So, although a bit fiddly as I said above, tapping into this gives a way of connecting the washing machine outlet to the waste system.

Now I’ve said many times on My Trike that French plumbing supplies are appallingly bad and I stick to that assertion. Every plumbing job that I’ve done in France, and without being immodest as I’ve got quite a lot of experience that goes back to when I was at school and university and I’m pretty good, has taken at least twice as long as it need have and required at least twice the effort compared to a similar job in the UK. The reason is that French plumbing fittings leak.

I’ve got several brass stop cocks that I’ve fitted over time to my toilet inlet all of which have given up turning off after a couple of years. I’ve had many cone-type fittings that have leaked after being properly installed and threaded ones that would not, just not, give a seal. As I’ll go on to mention, this happened yet again with this job.

And due to the lousy standard design, all of the toilets that I’ve come across in France, including the brand new ones that I saw in Périgueux hospital, leak. Not over the floor, but because the flushing system uses a bell-type arrangement that is lifted to allow water into the flush pipe, and because that system soon becomes affected by hard water deposits, water starts to flow by into the toilet bowl eventually leaving unsightly, thick yellow lines of lime scale all around it. And yes, I’ve got that problem too.

But the first thing I found when I went to weigh this job up was that my old ‘Groupe de Sécurité’ that I installed seven years ago had developed a fault. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was leaking. It wasn’t stopping the ‘excess’ water which was flowing constantly into the waste system. The leak was only a trickle but it was noticeable and as all water here is metered, it plus the leaking toilet (which I have to turn off every time at the stop cock until I can deal with it) soon add up to a sizeable unnecessary extra on your water bill.

So as well as making the mods for the washing machine I first had to replace the old ‘Groupe de Sécurité’. I bought a new one yesterday from Brico Depot so that was the first job this morning. I wondered if I’d be able to do the swap without draining the hot water system and decided that so long as I shut off all of the valves associated with it, I’d probably be able to make the switch without losing much water. I allowed the water to cool overnight just in case I got sprayed in the process, but as I’d anticipated, the switch to the new ‘Groupe de Sécurité’ pretty much went without a hitch.

Good show, you’re probably thinking, that’s another chore off the list. Ah, no. This is France don’t forget. What did I say about the quality of French plumbing supplies? Yup, you’ve guessed it, the new unit leaks more than the old one that I took off so it’ll have to come off again and be taken back for either replacement or refund. You can imagine that after my recent experiences with my mower belt saga, I’m furious about this.

I’m getting so fed up with always having to do a job two or three times before it’s right solely because of the lousy quality of the products that you buy over here. I can never remember having this problem in the UK – quite the reverse actually.

I eventually got the job done, but not before having to throw away the first washing machine valve that I bought because (a) it leaked and (b) I couldn’t get a seal on the thread that screwed it into the ‘T’ that I’d painstakingly inserted into the cold feed, and bought another better one that, thanks goodness, I managed to find locally. Here’s a shot of the washing machine in its new position.

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It’s only ‘temporary’ as the bathroom will be completely revamped with a walk-in shower etc as part of my redevelopment plans, but it’ll do for now. Tomorrow it’ll all become totally disorganised again when I take out the faulty new ‘Groupe de Sécurité’ but at least the washing machine is now where I wanted it to be even if I have to keep turning off the cold feed to the hot water system to stop the ruddy constant trickle of clean, fresh water down into the waste pipe 😐

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