Sunday, September 30, 2012

There's a hole in my bucket - Water Explained

Courtyard well
One of the things you'll have to come to grips with if you decide to live in Transylvania, or purchase a holiday home, is the water situation. Probably most people reading this site can't remember a time when water didn't come gushing out of the tap twenty-four hours a day on command. I certainly can't. And furthermore, lifestyles in the West are not particularly conducive to water saving, unless you've already taken the plunge (or rather the reverse) and decided to preserve water for ecological or, judging by UK water rates these days, economic reasons.

Pretty much every household in a Transylvanian village will have a well, called a 'fantana' locally. Of course, there may be newer constructions which haven't bothered with a well, but if you're on this site you're more likely to be considering a traditional property. Wells are great, it's essentially free water and who doesn't like something for free? But there are a few factors you'll have to consider when buying and renovating your property.

Firstly, wells do require some maintainence. They will, over time, require cleaning out or 'denisipari', which means something like 'de-sanding', the removal of the build up of sand over time. They also need to be used regularly in order to prevent the water in them going stagnant. The water in the well is generally very cold, so whilst it might be ok for washing with when it's 40 degrees celsius outside, you'll probably want a way to start heating it up as the autumn months close in.

In the summer, it's not unusual for wells to dry out, especially if there is a drought. If you are living on your property full time and are also living self-sufficiently and using additional water for irrigation and animals, then a prolonged drought might see your well dry out. A lot will depend on the location of the house (if it's up on a hill, there's a greater chance of it drying out sooner) and the depth of the well. You'll also have to consider the location of the septic tank or outbuilding (if you have one) as it really shouldn't be too close to the well for reason that should be obvious.

If you decide to install an indoor bathroom, and I think most holiday home buyers would consider this a necessity, especially if you're thinking of earning a little extra money through rental incomes, then the well can be harness to your indoor water system. Generally, a concrete box will be set into the ground close to the well which will house the pump and filters. The pump comprises two main parts: the pump itself and the cannister for storing the pressurized water. A unit like this usually starts at about 200 Euro, supposing a 50 litre cannister. An experienced plumper should be called in (if you can find one) to make certain calculations regarding the water depth, the require flow rate, and so on, to make sure that the pump won't dry out the well too quickly.

Some villages also have their own water main supply, so those with an eye for economy can incorporate a switching system allowing the water supply to the house to be switched between the two depending on the availability of water in the well. Wells should always be kept covered, to prevent curiosity actually drowning the cat.

Lastly, if you intend you house to be a holiday home, you would be wise to ensure that the system can be completely drained when you are not there, especially in the winter when the water in the pipes could freeze and either leave you with a water system that needs a couple of days to thaw and work, or in the worst case scenario burst and cause serious damage to your house.

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