Today's post is a guest submission by Rebecca Robyn Thompson. You can find her blog over at

Water is an integral part of life in Ireland - and not just the rain. Winter is just around the corner and hot water is becoming increasingly vital part of everyday life -- especially if you are accustomed to warmer climes.

My mother tells the story of how she moved from Hawaii to Ireland in January only to be told by her roommate that the heating didn’t work! Later she realized that her roommate had simply given up trying to figure out the Irish heating system which actually functioned fine --that spring. While this misunderstanding happened in the 90s similar mishaps still take place. Only last month I heard the story of a timid Spanish teenager who took cold showers for a month before admitting to her homestay family that she didn’t understand what an “immersion” was.

So let me set the record straight. Many Irish homes have a thermostat on the wall just like in other countries. This is usually left at 20C-22C and in newer systems can be programmed to come on or turn off on a timer. This controls the hot water flowing through the wall radiators which can also be adjusted individually by a knob on each radiator. So if you’ve got the heating on and you’re still freezing, check the radiator.

If it is a gas system there will also be a button or switch labeled “immersion” or “1hr boost.” This is for the hot water coming out of the taps. Irish systems maintain a very limited amount of hot water at all times, if you want to do the dishes or take a shower then you need to turn the immersion on. Turn it on and then wait 10-20 minutes to allow time for the water to heat up. (If it’s a switch then you will also have to manually switch it off again as well or your heating bill will be through the roof!)

All of this mysterious “immersion” business happens inside the boiler which is located in the “hot press.” This is a cupboard, usually on the first floor landing, which is warmed by the excess heat from the boiler. An absolute life-saver in our damp climate where it can be close to impossible to get delicate clothing to air dry.

To avoid waiting for the immersion to heat up many Irish households have installed electric power showers - but these also have a pull cord to turn on the hot water!

If you only need a bit of hot water, the kettle is still your best option. No Irish household is complete without an electric kettle. Use it to fill up a hot water bottle to tuck under a wool jumper and you’ll be ready to brave the chilliest day.

Or just make a cup tea. Offering a “cuppa” is an essential part of Irish hospitality and will usually be offered three times. Once to be polite. Twice to double-check you weren’t just being polite by saying no the first time. And third because it’s really no trouble, why don’t you stay for a chat? Don’t like tea? Just ask for hot water and warm your hands around the hot mug.