Alkahest my heroes have always died at the end

March 9, 2010

hooray for water!

Filed under: Plumbing — cec @ 8:58 pm

The plumbers finally got out late Monday, in time to find out that the well pump needed replacing, and no they don’t keep a 3/4 hp pump on hand… why do you ask?  After the supply store opened back up, they came by around 9:30 this morning and replaced the pump.  The bad news?  Ouch, replacing a well pump is expensive.   The good news?  It was $800 less than I was dreading.  :-/

Laundry and dishes are done, next up… showers for everyone!

March 8, 2010

and the weekend started off so well…

Filed under: Gardening,Plumbing — cec @ 9:24 am

It started off as a good weekend.  I swear it did.  I was up late Friday (technically, early Saturday) talking to a friend from high school, catching up on this and that.  Woke up late, played a bit with the dogs and went out to Celebrity Dairy‘s open house.  I got to pet the baby goats [note: need to add pictures here] and look around the inn.  When I left, I had 3 logs of goat cheese, a pint of blueberry preserves and a half pint of hot pepper jelly.

After leaving the dairy, I went to pick K up from the airport.  We got home, took the dogs out for a long while, then had a nice simple spaghetti dinner.  Sunday I (finally) put some seeds in the garden beds for spring veggies.  The usually: spinach, arugula, mesclun, peas, onions and swiss chard.  That’s when things started to go wrong.

I turned the sprinkler on the plants and things looked fine.  I went back into the house to clean up and noticed the water pressure dropping.  Yep.  It seemed like the water pump was off again.  The breaker this time.  I checked the easy places – no obvious signs of a short, so the problem is likely underground.  Hopefully the plumber can fix it this afternoon when he comes by.  He’ll probably have to replace the whole wire set… all 300′ of it.

So we didn’t get to clean up dinner dishes.  Getting the polenta off of the pot is not going to be fun.  Then I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I did fall asleep, I was troubled by some very disturbing dreams that, uncharacteristically, I remembered when I woke up.  Then to top it all off… no shower this morning.  *bleh*

November 2, 2009

Always with the water

Filed under: Plumbing — cec @ 2:05 pm

Welcome to my Amish rural paradise, water problems are no extra charge.

In this month’s exciting installment, K and I note that we are lacking in water pressure on Saturday night before we go to bed.  Sunday rolls around and sure enough, no water.  My guess was that either the well pump or the pressure switch had gone bad.  We weren’t going to be too happy if it was the pump, since we replaced it less than three years ago.  I went out and bought some drinking water, checked the rain barrels to see if we had water for toilets and called the plumber.

When the plumber arrived this (Monday) morning, the first thing he did was to check for problems with the pressure switch.  No such luck, power was getting to the pump.  That meant they had to crack the well and pull up the pump from three hundred feet underground.  Once the pump saw the light of day, it was a simple matter to see if the pump was good – connect it straight to the power.  Doing so provided the only bit of good news: the pump was working fine.  Somewhere in the 300′ of wire that provide power to the pump was the problem.

Sure enough, they found a number of places where the insulation had been chewed through, and others where the wire itself was either almost or entirely split.  It turns out that every time the pump comes on, it torques a bit, and going through 300′ of heavy clay and rock provides plenty of opportunity to tear at the wires.

Fortunately, it was all put together by noon and we’re back in business.  I thought I would never want to get out of the shower 🙂

September 30, 2009

Always with the water problems

Filed under: Plumbing — cec @ 3:33 pm

I’ve mentioned before that I (we?  maybe it’s K’s fault!) seem to be cursed with water problems.  Since we like our current house, and the well is drawing very acidic water, we’ll probably continue to have water problems.  Two of the more recent ones:

  1. Two months ago, we started noticing that the average daily water usage (as shown on the water softener) had gone from 60 gal/day to over 100 gal/day in a very short period of time, maybe two days.  Needless to say, K and I were more than a little concerned with where all that water was going.  So I ducked under the house and heard the water pump quick cycling: on, off, on, off…  Well that’s not supposed to happen.  It’s supposed to kick on when the house pressure drops to 30psi, and turn off when it hits 40.  We called a plumber, because I’ll do a lot of plumbing, but anything like the water pump that combines water, electricity and problems underground is way out of my league.   Turned out that we needed a new pressure tank (my guess: the acidic water ate away at the inner lining of the air bladder).  Joy.
  2. The next month, the power bill came in very high.  Our first thought was, “well, the pump was on a lot last month, so maybe that’s the problem.”  It came in high again the next month.  We started looking for the source, keeping a log of power use and finally, on Sunday resorted to shutting off all power in the house and adding the breakers back one at a time.  I should have guessed – the pump was using a lot of power.  Went under the house, watched the pressure build to 40psi, the pump cut off and all the pressure drained back out of the lines until the pump came on again.  The cycle repeated on maybe a 30 second period with a 50% duty cycle.  Yay!  my pump was running half the day.  This time, the plumber found that there was a leak at the pump itself and all the water was being dumped back down the well.  On the bright side, we weren’t wasting water – just power.  🙁

One fun thing did come out of all of this, we bought a digital, in-house electricity meter.

October 22, 2008

Another successful repair

Filed under: Plumbing — cec @ 9:07 pm

As I mentioned earlier, we were having problems with the water softener and when your well water is as hard as ours is (“how hard is it?” “that’s a rather personal question sir” “no you git, how hard is the water?”) the water softener is pretty important.

So the venturi gasket looked okay, but I ordered a new one since it’s a bit sensitive.  I also ordered some new internal gaskets that go in the valve.  The parts arrived on Saturday.  Replacing the venturi gasket didn’t help, so I opened up the valve and found that I had the wrong sized internal gasket 🙁 .  Turns out that all of the brand name softeners (GE, Sears, Kenmore, Home Depot, etc.) all use the same valve, but in two differrent sizes, a common smaller size and then the rarer large size.  I’ll give you one guess as to which we own.  Of course, if I had paid attention, I would have noticed that the gasket had two sizes, but oh no…  Anyway, so I figure I’ve got to return the gasket, but then I google around a bit and find that in addition to the gaskets (which ironically allow the softener to suck), sometimes the symptoms we were seeing are caused by a blocked drain plug or blocked rotor.  I pull out the drain plug and sure enough – it’s blocked.  But even after I clear the blockage it still doesn’t suck – but in an entirely different failure mode.  I clean the rotor – now it works.  I still had some issues with leaks, but reseating the rotor and the whole valve has fixed those. I think we’re back in business.

On a related note, skvidal sent me a link to an old bicycle catalog which included a short piece on building items so that they can be worked on and repaired.  It’s fairly interesting and in a sense covers the problems I have with this softener.  Part of me wants to junk it and get something not broken.  This is actually fairly common.  I think that the average lifespan of a name brand water softener is 5-10 years.  Ours is seven.  Online, I’ve seen discussions from plumbers about customers that just replace instead of fix their softeners.  At this point, I have a fairly complete understanding of how ours works and a reasonable confidence that I can repair anything that goes wrong with it (assuming the parts are still available).  So why should I still want to replace it?  Because it’s a cheap piece of garbage.  The valve is designed to break after 3 years or so.  The rotor gets eaten away and can only be replaced.  On the plus side, it’s also designed to be easily repaired – not from any sense of reduced consumption, but because if a Sears/GE/etc. repair guy can come out, easily diagnose the problem and quickly replace an expensive part, it’s a big win for the service department.  They spend a short amount of time onsite, charge an X hour, minimum trip fee and then get to pass along a marked up price for the expensive part.  They win all the way around.

So, I figure that by giving it some love every few years, I could keep it going indefinitely (20+ years), on the other hand, a better designed softener could last 20+ years without all the attention and specialized parts.  I’ll probably keep repairing the water softener, but I wish that when the former owners had bought the thing, that they had spent a bit more and gotten something that was better built in the first place.

October 15, 2008

Too good to last

Filed under: Plumbing — cec @ 2:00 pm

It’s been a while since we’ve had plumbing issues.  Okay, sure, we replaced the RO faucet in the kitchen six months ago, but other than that…

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that yet another water oriented appliance has broken down.  This time it’s the water softener, again.  When we first moved into the house, five years ago, the water softener didn’t seem to work.  The first problem was a salt bridge that kept it from operating correctly.  Once we figured that one out, it was easy enough to fix.  Then a year or so later, the tank filled up and wouldn’t drain.  That one turned out to be the venturi gasket – part of a clever device that uses pressure differentials to move water around.  That one was a bit more annoying since you can’t just order the 1.5″ gasket, you have to replace both the nozzle and gasket which costs about $20 + shipping.

This time, the softener is again not draining.  I’m guessing it’s the venturi gasket – if not, then it’s another gasket in the system.  Part of my hopes it’s the venturi since that seems most likely, is the easiest to replace and will therefore be the first thing I try.  But another part of me is annoyed that the thing hasn’t lasted 4 years.  Am I going to have to replace the gasket every four years?  The softener isn’t that old – maybe seven years?  Of course, if it is that old then the first gasket only lasted 3, maybe 3.5, years.  So I guess get almost 4 years out of the new one wouldn’t be that surprising.

Hopefully the gasket will fix it.  I


December 16, 2007

New faucet

Filed under: Plumbing — cec @ 6:11 pm

I picked up a new kitchen faucet at Lowe’s today.  As usual with this sort of thing, removing the old faucet was the worst part.  The nuts holding the old faucet on to the sink were standard plastic nuts – attached to badly rusted screws.  After 30 minutes of trying: first by hand, then with a towel by hand, then with a wrench, then oiling the screw and trying the wrench, I gave up.  Thinking about it for a few minutes I realized that I have a 1″ drill bit for putting holes into a sink.  I got the drill and just drilled through the plastic nuts.  Victory!

Of course, in taking off the old faucet, I put a little pressure on the spigot and it completely broke off.  I’m just glad it held off until now 🙂

Once the old faucet was out, installing the new one was pretty easy.  I had remembered to buy new faucet connection lines which was good since I needed ’em.  I also remembered to pick up some more teflon tape which was helpful.  The only real mistake I made was testing the cold water tap after connecting it.  Unfortunately, the hot water tape was open so all of the water headed that way and down under the sink.  But at least I wasn’t under it. 🙂

Hopefully we’ll be set now.

December 13, 2007

Time for a new kitchen faucet

Filed under: Plumbing — cec @ 8:28 pm

It’s been 7 months since we’ve done plumbing renovations, so we’re apparently due.  This time I have to replace the kitchen faucet.  It’s started leaking badly.  “But wait,” you say, “a leaking faucet doesn’t require replacement, you can just replace the gaskets.”  Unfortunately no.

I’ve mentioned before that our water is acidic with a pH of about 5.5.   We’ve got the acid neutralizer in place, but many things have corroded over the years.  In the case of this faucet, the weld/join between the base of the faucet and the spigot itself has developed pinhole leaks.  You turn on the faucet and you get shot in the eye with water.  🙁

I’m just hoping it can wait until Saturday.

October 25, 2007

Drought update

Filed under: Personal,Plumbing — cec @ 9:30 am

(odd: i thought i had submitted this last night.  i guess i just saved it in draft)

It’s been raining today which is good. The forecasters are predicting rain tomorrow and Friday which is even better. However, I’m still worried. It’s been over a month since the last real rain and close to six months since we’ve had normal rainfall. Raleigh i s down to about 3 months worth of water supply in the reservoirs – Atlanta’s not any better. What happens when cities actually run out of water? Do they evacuate?

In some sense’s, K and I are better and worse off. We’ve got a well, so unfortunately, we don’t have a clue as to how much water remains. For that matter, I don’t even know how deep the well is. The down side is that we could run out of water any day. The only positive is that we could always pay to have the well dug deeper. Talking to some neighbors, we’ve heard the rate is about $9/foot.

We’ve done a number of things over the past year or so (predating the drought) to reduce water usage. A year ago, our water softener recorded an average usage of ~150 gallons per day. We replaced our old toilets with newer low flow (current standard 1.6 gal) toilets and that got us down to around 100 gallons per day. We’ve started being more careful when washing dishes in the sink and I’ve started turning off the shower while soaping up or washing my hair. That gets us to a little over 80 gallons per day. I think my next trick might be to turn down the water pressure in our house – that would probably get us another 5-10 or so. After that, I start to think about low use appliances. I love this 2 drawer low water use dishwasher – each drawer takes ~2.4 gallons. Our washing machine is at least 14 years old, that could probably be replaced. I suppose we could also install a hot water recirculator to avoid wasting water letting faucets or showers heat up.

Hopefully, we’ll be okay. We sit near Jordan lake which is one of the collection points in the almost 10,000 sq mile Cape Fear River Basin. Hey, you may call it runoff, I call it ground water.

Y’all enjoy the rain.

April 29, 2007

Weekend update (updated)

Filed under: Personal,Photography,Plumbing — cec @ 4:49 pm

Not a whole lot going on this weekend. A little shopping, a little work around the house, etc. Saturday, Bryn’s husband, Adam, came by and took a look at some trees that were worrying me. Having a master arborist tell you that, while they are dying, they won’t come down immediately was reassuring. I had this fear that they were going to come down any minute. We’ll probably still want to take them down this fall, but at least we get to pick the times 🙂

After that, I went out to the Lowe’s and picked up the makings for a few new projects, including toilet replacement. Our toilets came with the house and are as old. So I’m guessing we’re talking somewhere between 5 and 6 gallons a flush, as opposed to modern toilets that only require 1.6 gallons. Since we’re on a well, I dislike wasting that much extra water, salt, etc. So, I picked up two new toilets and installed one last night. I’ll put the other one in tonight. Hopefully, we’ll save a good 50 gallons a day.


Here is the installed, new toilet. I’ll spare you the old removed toilet.
Oh, we also saw our friend the red-phase southern hog nosed snake in the yard. A few pictures of her while I’m at it:

dsc_0597_m.JPG dsc_0630_m.JPG

Update: 9:15pm finished the second toilet.  The second install took only about 45 minutes – I’m getting faster 🙂 .  I’m now the proud owner of two old-style, wasteful toilets.  Before I haul them off to the Habitat for Humanity Home Store, does anyone want/need one?  You’ll have to install it yourself.

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