Moscow hot water alert

Summer hot water alert: The summer hot water “shut off” will begin on May 13th. In theory the number of days for maintenance of pipes which is the reason for disconnecting hot water (provided centrally) shouldn’t exceed 10 days, and in some cases the reality could be much shorter. In more recent years the average shut off is around 3-5 days for recently constructed housing developments but longer in older apartment complexes.

apt hot water cartoon

It goes back to Soviet times: the practice of shutting off the hot water has been an unpopular tradition for most Russians for a two week period between May and August. The city checks pipes and performs needed maintenance in preparation for the upcoming winter.

Although some new housing projects use on-site boilers or individual water heaters, most of the city’s housing receive hot water from a series of boiler plants throughout the city and the water is piped underground to each apartment where it is used in normal hot water functions and to provide steam heat via radiators in winter.

If the shut off is only 3 days some Russians simply endure until a hot shower is possible again. Many however, and this writer can remember when shut offs could last up to a month, make the effort to heat water in the kitchen and carry it to the bathroom. The installation of new pipes has made it possible for city crews to shorten the time needed for repairs.

photo: ITAR-TASS
photo: ITAR-TASS

For those of us who want a daily shower, most Russian kitchens have an electric hot water kettle for tea, called a чайник (“Chai-nik”), and to fashion a temporary shower, water is heated in the chai-nik and then poured into a bucket or large mixing bowl in the bathroom. A shower is then accomplished by using a large ladle, a ковш (“kovsh”), to pour water over themselves while standing in the bathtub.

Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin last year cut the inspection and maintenance period from two weeks to only ten days in total. The shut offs are rolling by region so that not everyone is impacted at the same time. Moscow isn’t the only Russian city with summer shut off, in fact many Russian cities must cope with this inconvenient tradition, however that tradition may be coming to a close as a spokesperson for the Moscow United Energy Company (MOEK) says the annual summer rolling shut offs should end by the year 2017.

The schedule for the Moscow region is available at the Moscow Energy Company’s website: www.oaomoek.ru.