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Jeremy's journal

Even now, I persist in believing that these black marks on white paper bear the greatest significance, that if I keep writing I might be able to catch the rainbow of consciousness in a jar.

Jeffrey Eugenides


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Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

Pssst, steam heat

The sounds my house makes during the winter time are many. This was really brought home to me over the last week or so when we have been fighting a losing battle to keep our boiler from calling it quits. I would stand quiet, tense, listening to the peeps and gurgles of our pipes and trying to divine from them how much longer we had. Lately -- yesterday morning -- the plumber (Tom O'Neill of West Orange, whom I recommend highly) put a sealer compound into the boiler's tank which seems to be holding up, and victory may yet be ours; though I think in any case, we will need to buy a boiler in the spring time. Now I sit quiet, relaxed, listening to the peeps and gurgles of our pipes and to the house's frame creaking, and marvel at the degree of personality which I hear -- I believe I have come to know the house's voice a lot better in this interval.

One thing about steam pipes and radiators -- the verb "hiss" is used generically to describe the sound they make. But I think of the several sounds I hear the steam making, "hiss" accurately describes only two, both of which are sounds indicative of a problem -- these are the hiss of steam escaping from a broken air vent, and the distinct hiss of steam escaping from a cracked pipe. When steam remains inside the pipes where it belongs, it does not hiss. It sighs, pants, whooshes... and a couple of others that I have not yet come up with words to describe.

posted evening of January 13th, 2004: Respond
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Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Plumbing trouble

Aargh... Some water is dripping out of a pipe next to the combination boiler/water heater in our basement. It is not dripping out super-fast, but probably a few cups every hour, which is a lot in the scheme of things that is our plumbing. The pipe appears to be the output of the water heater portion of the mechanism; as near as I can tell it is a pressure relief valve, described in detail on this page; the likely candidates for causing the leak are

  • That the valve itself is broken (but this seems unlikely since a new valve was probably put in when the boiler was replaced a few years ago);
  • that the water pressure regulator* attached to the main water line coming into our house is broken (this seems more plausible);
  • that the main water supply pressure for our block has really unusually high pressure today (possible I guess?); or
  • that something done during our bathroom renovation broke the system somehow (seems likely and unnerving, except I can't see any logical way that would work -- the water pressure is an input to the system not at all dependent on the devices attached to the system when they are all shut off.)

It is definitely pressure -- if I turn on a hot water tap upstairs, the leak stops. (Should check whether a cold water tap has this effect, but I think it will.) Of course we cannot get a plumber on Easter Sunday; I guess I will shut off the water coming into the house this evening before we go to bed, and turn it back on in the morning.

... Yes, the cold water tap has the same effect. The leak seems to be getting faster, too! Hopefully it will be a simple repair; we'll find out tomorrow, I guess. I'm glad we're doing a lot in the basement these days; I think there have been periods like late last year, where this would have gone undetected for a couple of days.

*(The next day: we don't actually have a water pressure regulator, which is the source of the problem, in combination with the third bullet point above. I was assuming there was one since the linked article made it look like this was standard.)

posted evening of March 23rd, 2008: Respond
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Monday, March 24th, 2008

The leak

Hm. Well, I turned the main water supply off last night. Turned it on this morning, and the pressure relief valve is not leaking. I'm not sure what to make of that -- it could mean the problem was a transitory surplus of pressure in the main line; or it could (more likely, I think) mean giving the valve a chance to rest made it stop leaking, which probably means the leak will come back after a little while. I don't want to call a plumber and have him come over here while there is no leak, I don't think that would be useful. So, deputizing Ellen to check on the pipe through the day (assuming it is still not leaking at 8:30, when I go to work -- otherwise I will take a personal day and interact with plumbers.)

...Aaand, we're dripping! A very slow drip right now, I'm assuming it will get worse as the day goes on. I have called the heating company and the plumber should be here later this morning.

posted morning of March 24th, 2008: Respond

The Leak, resolved

So the plumber (from the heating company) came and let us know, the pressure relief valve is leaking because the water main pressure is too high -- 120psi*, when the house wants it to be between 80 - 100psi. We called Donald (at the water company) and he was like "Oh, well of course you need to have a pressure regulation valve on your main." Turns out we don't have any such thing. So, another plumber (from the plumbing company) is coming (hopefully this afternoon), to install the valve. In the meantime, this guy adjusted the relief valve so that it will hold 120psi without leaking.

(Later on:) The second plumber came, installed the valve, everything's fine.

*psi is a lovely acronym in that it could also be spelled ψ.

posted afternoon of March 24th, 2008: Respond

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