Moving to a foreign country – even one where you speak the language – is a humbling experience.
My advice? Settle into the feeling that you are going to be the biggest idiot in the room. A little humor and humility go a long way toward settling in.
When we were looking for house in Ireland we toured an owner-occupied home they were putting on the rental market. During the tour the owner made a passing reference to the hot press.
“I’m sorry. A hot what?”
In hindsight, my question probably did not inspire confidence with the homeowner. Needless to say, we did not get that house.
The house we ended up moving into also had a hot press. I’m a lucky, lucky gal. As I was putting laundry away last week, I decided to snap some quick iPhone photos of the hot press to share with you.
Now who’s the lucky one?
My hot press is not glamorous or styled or magazine-worthy, but it gets the job done. It may also be a metaphor for my life. Hmm…
What is a hot press? It is an Irish term for an enclosed storage space such as a cabinet or closet where a home’s water heater is stored. Ours happens to be in one of the bathrooms. The original hot press concept was for the space to double as an “airing cupboard.” This meant slatted wood shelves were installed around the water heater, which could be used as a drying rack for clothing.
By and large, the Irish seem to prefer to air dry their clothes. I kid you not, it can be 40 degrees outside and you’ll see people hanging their clothes OUTSIDE to dry. I speak from personal experience when I say it will take approximately and this is a conservative estimate, 71 billion hours to dry clothes outside in Ireland in those temperatures. I don’t care how windy it is.
Here is our little water heater all bundled up in some sort of insulated tarp. I did warn you this wouldn’t be glamorous.
Storage is a precious commodity in all homes, especially ours. So, I’m not using the hot press to dry my clothes. It seems like it would be very inconvenient to hang them in there anyway.
I use the hot press as a linen closet. I store our towels, hair appliances, iron and other toiletries that I’m not worried about being damaged by a slightly warm environment in this space. Some of these items include toilet paper, my precious nail polish collection, first aid supplies, extra razors and toothbrushes, extra soap. All the exciting stuff.
The other “fun” thing about hot water heaters especially in older Irish homes is they are often immersion heaters. This was new to me. It means you can heat just the water in that tank using the tank’s immersion heater, which is electric-based. Or, you can heat all of the water to the house (the water in the hot water heater and the water for the radiators) using the heating oil and not electricity.
The immersion heater and the heat for the radiators are controlled by timers on a dial, like the one shown in our cupboard below. No one explained to us how the timers worked or which timer controlled which thing when we moved in. There was a casual, passing mention of “just set the timer” and you’re good. Needless to say, we did it wrong for approximately 4 months.
Humor and humility, folks. It gets you through.
I have since learned in the winter to set the radiator timer located in the kitchen for however long we want to heat the house. Typically, it comes on for a couple of hours in the morning and 4 hours in the evening. Remember, this will also heat the water in my hot water tank.
If I want hot water during the day when the radiators aren’t on, I need to have the timer in my hot press set appropriately to turn the immersion heater on – the one that just heats my cute, little hot water tank.
Are you confused yet?
Oh, gosh. Me too.
In the summer, I will only use the immersion heater for water and the timer for the radiators will be turned off.
We do have two showers in this house. One of the showers heats its own water. The other uses the water from the hot water heater.
The other feature of the immersion hot water heater is that I can set it to heat only half the water in the tank or all of the water. This is determined by a switch in the cupboard that says “sink” on one side and “bath” on the other. Super self-explanatory, right?
If you have gotten the impression that Irish people are VERY concerned about electricity costs, you would be right.
Back to the clothes drying topic. We are fortunate to have a clothes dryer. It’s outside in a shed.
I’ll just let that hang there for a second.
I mainly only use the dryer for sheets because it is terribly inefficient. The rest of our clothes are hung to dry in the second bathroom – it’s a small room, so it stays nice and warm. Or if I really want to dry something quickly I lay it on the radiators.
So if my towels and washcloths look crispy, that’s because they haven’t seen a tumble dryer or a fabric softener sheet in months.
If you have read through this entire post you deserve a cookie.
I’ll finish with a bit of bonus trivia. NO ONE pays for water in Ireland! There are no residential water bills. You’ll pay to heat your water and many people think electricity is way too expensive in this country, but you won’t pay for the water itself.
Now, do you feel enriched by this knowledge? I’m happy to help. Go eat your cookie.
If you want to know more about our experience of moving to and living in Ireland, check out these posts:
Thinking about visiting Ireland? Read on!