What IS a PulsaCoil?
PulsaCoils are thermal stores, rather than hot water cylinders. Like
conventional hot water cylinders, a thermal store is a container filled
with hot water but here the similarity ends. Once filled, the water in a
thermal store never changes. Instead, the heat stored in it is used to
heat the tap water using a heat exchanger. This allows the hot tap water
to be delivered at full mains pressure, and is one of the primary
benefits of installing a thermal store instead of a conventional hot
The Gledhill PulsaCoil transfers heat into the tap water using a pump
and an external 'plate heat exchanger'. A plate heat exchanger is a
block of very thin stainless steel plates arranged so that cold mains
water can flow through one set of spaces between the plates, and hot
water from the thermal store core can flow through an alternate spaces.
Heat transfers through the plates and heats the cold mains water on it's
way to the hot tap.
How does the PulsaCoil 2000 work?
An immersion heater heats the water inside the thermal store. A
thermistor (heat sensor) is attached to the domestic hot water outlet
from the plate heat exchanger. When the thermistor records a fall in
temperature, the circuit board runs the pump. The pump circulates stored
hot water through the plate heat exchanger, heating it, and the circuit
board turns it off again when the thermistor reports a temperature rise.
This system is proportional. The bigger the temperature fall seen by the
thermistor, the faster the circuit board runs the pump. This way the
designed flow temperature (of 52 degrees Celsius, I think) can be
maintained at almost any flow rate when a hot tap is turned on.
The vast majority of PulsaCoil 2000 breakdowns to which I am called
out fall into one of the following categories:
1) Depleted water in the thermal store.
The PulsaCoil 2000 is filled with water using a small header tank
installed separately above the unit. This is not always permanently
connected to the mains supply (usually when an overflow pipe to outside
cannot be fitted), which means water lost from the thermal store through
evaporation and/or leaks needs to be replaced manually. If the water
level in the PulsaCoil 2000 falls too low, the pump simply does not have
enough water to pump through the heat exchanger when a hot tap is turned
on, and the unit will not deliver hot water. The problem starts
intermittently, and the unit runs noisily. The answer is to check the
water level in the header tank and top it up to the waterline moulded
into the wall of the tank
2) Water dripping onto the floor.
As the Pulsacoil 2000 model grows older, a problem is emerging where
the copper tank inside leaks, and water oozes through the outer steel
case near the bottom and drips slowly onto the floor. Water also emerges
from where the pipe feeding the pump passes through the outer steel case
at the bottom. This is never an emergency as the leak is always very
slow, and people call me thinking a joint needs tightening or a seal
replacing but sadly this isn't the case. The leak is a pin-hole in the
copper tank inside could be anywhere on the tank. The leaking water
percolates down to the base through the rigid foam insulation filling
the space between the inner copper tank and the outer steel case,
saturating it. Finding this leak is impossible as there is no access to
the inner copper tank without stripping off the outer steel case and all
the foam insulation. Technically feasible (just), but always cheaper to
buy and fit a new unit. If your Pulsacoil is showing these symptoms but
the leak is manageable, i.e. not making the floor wet enough to damage
anything, there is perfectly feasible to just live with it. The water
leaking out will mean the header tank on top needs topping up every few
weeks as in 1) above, but there are no other consequences. If you have
this problem, see Replacing a
3) Thermistor failure.
The heat sensors (there are actually two) can become unreliable with
age. This usually presents as unpredictable hot water performance or
unstable hot water temperature. The thermal store will be hot, but the
pump will not run fast enough (or at all) when the hot tap is open. The
circuit board may be reporting thermistor failure via it's red LED. One
flash per second indicates flow thermistor failure, seven flashes per
second indicates the pumped return thermistor has failed. Two flashes
per second means the circuit board thinks both thermistors are good, but
this is not always true in my experience, and changing both apparently
good thermistors on a unit behaving inconsistently can often cure the
4) Circuit board failure.
No flashes on the circuit board LED means circuit board failure,
usually. If there is 240v across the live and neutral terminals on the
board yet no LED flashing, then board failure is virtually
5) Persistent tripping of the overheat protection thermostat.
The red 'Fault' light comes on and the unit fails to heat up
until the front cover is removed and the manual 'overheat reset button'
is pressed. An upgrade kit is available from Gledhill to cure this. The
old overheat protection thermostat is removed from the circuit and new
immersion heater thermostats fitted incorporating new, separate overheat
6) Immersion heater element failure.
The unit fails to heat up. Easily diagnosed by measuring the
resistance of the heater element. A good element will measure 18 Ohms
7) Immersion heater leaking.
Older 'Skel' brand immersion heaters (fitted as original equipment)
seem to suffer from leaks in the thermostat sensor pocket. On many
occasions I've seen water emerging from the copper tube in which the
thermostat sensor is housed. This is clearly dangerous as it introduces
water into the electrical connection box on the heater element head, and
it often results in thermostat failure. The only repair is to replace
the whole immersion heater and thermostat.
8) External Economy Seven time clock failure.
PulsaCoils are usually connected to an Economy Seven tariff
electricity supply. When there is no separate off-peak power supply to
the unit an Economy Seven timer will have been fitted. These seem to
fail after a few years and no longer deliver power to the immersion
heaters, even when the indictor lights on the timer say power is being
delivered!. Although it's a straightforward matter to replace these
timers, finding an electrical merchant who keeps them in stock can be
very difficult. I keep them in stock myself as a result.
9) Water scale-contaminated plate heat exchanger.
The plate heat exchanger is prone in some areas to water scaling.
This presents as maximum water temperature becoming progressively lower,
and in the final stages of scaling, the flow rate from the taps reducing
too. The fix is to either fit a new plate heat exchanger, or to descale
the existing heat exchanger using conventional descaling
If you'd rather I came and fixed your PulsaCoil 2000, contact me here
First published 2nd January 2007
Last updated 3rd May 2016
Copyright 2007-2016 Michael Bryant