Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Polly Passes Gas Safely

Some time ago I had reason to call out the service engineer for Electrolux. Strangely enough, the name of the company concerned is just a little bit misleading; considering the appliance he'd called out to see is a gas cooker!

The problem was that one of the rings was refusing to ignite using the ignition button and was only lighting when a naked flame was applied. Really, it was such a minor problem that I probably wouldn't have bothered him if it weren't for the fact that the cooker was still relatively new and under guarantee.

The issue of the sparking; or rather not sparking was cleared up relatively quickly, however he did point out one or two more issues which were far more pressing; he was appalled by what he observed: the canister was placed beside the cooker inside the kitchen. He immediately insisted that it should be OUTSIDE with an insulated copper pipe to carry it through the wall. Just as importantly; the heavy orange plastic pipe must not run across the back of the cooker due to the extremes of heat and the associated risk involved.

Another important thing that did come out of this meeting was the fact that he'd never encountered Portagas, the supplier I was using at the time; having dealt with CalorGas or FloGas for years this was a new one to him. On testing the flow/pressure it was discovered to be slightly below par as the flame wavered gently from side to side. I promised to get rid of PortaGas and re-instate good old Calor/Flo-Gas instead.

On that note we arranged that he'd call back and see how things were going in a couple of weeks time; with me promising to rectify the safety issues he'd pointed out. Being a bit of a DIY'er I tackled the issue of storing the canister in a safe place with gusto; hiring an industrial masonry bit to drill through the back wall of the house. I also located an old plastic dustbin to camouflage the unsightly yellow canister and drilled a whole in the top for the tubing.

At this stage I was rather pleased with my efforts and set about removing the regulator (ie connector); it needed to be replaced and anyway it wouldn't fit through the two centimeter hole!
What I found inside was just revolting; the very thought of it still makes me feel nauseaous at just the thought of it. As stupid as it sounds there was a thick gungey fluid within the orange plastic tubing; reminiscent of syrup or honey an just as gloopey! The smell of this stuff was something else...

All this a long time ago, and up until recently had been all but forgotten. That is until the cooker started playing up again and emergency LPG was purchased in the middle of cooking the Sunday roast. It was Portagas again and within a few days things started to go awry again in the cooking department, the rear left ring wouldn't light fully and was in a permanent simmer position regardless of the position of the dial.

The top oven wouldn't light for ages and then was unable to achieve required temperatures for cooking! Finally the main oven packed up, the flame is little more than that of a pilot light and any heat produced would make perfectly white meringues or prove bread beautifully; but it's not much good for anything else.

Like anything else; as soon as you know you can't have something, you desperately want it! Yes folks I want to bake, make casseroles and pot roasts, you name it and I have been drooling over the mere idea of being able to use my gas oven to make it in! Should I call out the engineer or should I just revert back to good old Calor/Flo-Gas? I am seriously hoping that it is the latter that will cure my ailing oven - it worked before, after all...

The only problem with such an optimistic (hopelessly so) outlook is that each day passes with me cursing the oven, the gas and anything else in sight. I can still make toast and have virtually the full use of the top plate and being a survivor can make a cake or bread if necessary in the microwave oven. The slowroasted pot-roast can be done in the slow-cooker and I can manage.

When eventually we do get around to looking for Calor/Flo-Gas we are going to be challenged big time; as the Portagas folk are refilling any yellow canister returned to them, making it difficult to know who does and who doesn't do the real Calor or Flo-Gas. Even some of the shopkeeper's that I've spoken to haven't realised that they were selling anything other than the real stuff. Should you find yourself or your cooker suffering similarly and wish to purchase Calor Gas please consult the company's interactive map for a supplier.

To add insult to injury I am told that the deposit paid for the proper original Calor Gas cylinder's will not be refunded by Portagas! There was a mini-holy war when I took one of the cylinders; which by now had been painted with the Portagas insignia back to a local shop demanding a refund. Sure enough I got it; but I wasn't so lucky the next time at the other branch of the same shop...

For the sake of decency and for my own peace of mind I won't rant on any more about the issue of PortaGas v Calor-Gas or Flo-Gas. I have recounted my own experiences relating to problems with my cooker and reported the fact that the service engineer whose job it is to fix these things had not heard of PortaGas; which I think is quite odd. I was not impressed with the customer service end of the company concerned especially relating to the refunding of deposits paid.

NB. I must point out also that I have just discovered that canister's intended for outside storage should be the RED Propane Gas and not the YELLOW Butane gas which is inclined to remain in the liquid state at temperatures below zero degrees centigrade. Propane on the other hand will vapourise at anything above -42C. In the light of this information, I believe it is time for me to consider changing not only my supplier but also the type of fuel required to revive my poor slightly wider than average cooker!

Ladies and Gentlemen; I leave you to make up your own minds; and urge you to pray for the ailing health of my lovely Electrolux gas cooker and for a transfusion of Calor/Flo-Gas LPG in the near future to make it feel better. Meanwhile if things get really bad I can always use the camping stove or even the Trangia meths stove...

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