Friday, January 8, 2010

Keep on Dripping

The steady tap of water drops hitting the sink reminds me of a simple joy I admit to completely taking for granted -- running water.

I've decided that perhaps the number one thing one doesn't want to hear her husband say as she attempts to sleep in on a snow day is, "Dear, you'd better get up. We've got a problem." It turns out that we had no running water in the all. Paul went out to check the heat tape and found it functioning, but no water was running. We called the water company to see if there had been a water main break anywhere, and they filled out a work order and promised to be at our place as quickly as possible (which turned out to be around 3 hours later). We discovered that the water to the outside spigot (the one which was frozen earlier this week, but now has a comfy styrofoam hat to where in cold weather) was working. So, obviously no problems with the water main; the issue had to be in the crawl space under the house.

After the nice men from the water company came and looked at Paul sympathetically while telling him that they weren't allowed to touch our pipes since the problem was on "our end" and not "their end," we decided to take our radiant heater and plug it in under the house. Paul was confounded by the labyrinth of pipes and not sure which pipe was actually frozen, so he just aimed the heater at all of them. He came back in the house, and we turned the faucets on and waited.

About 25 minutes later, water came gushing out -- hooray! But wait, our adventures weren't over for the day. We only had cold water -- nothing came out of the hot water tap at all. The hot water heater was full, as water sprayed out of the pressure valve when Paul checked it. I hopped on the internet to see if I could find any information on this, but the only thing I came up with was "air lock," which didn't seem to be our problem at all. So, I called a plumber (you can tell that I was very instrumental in helping with this situation -- I managed to read an entire book and watch a rerun of The West Wing while Paul crawled under the house multiple times and paced back and forth between the various water faucets throughout the house, muttering to himself repeatedly that he was getting damned tired of this weather), and found out that it was likely that our pipes were still frozen -- and, that hot water freezes faster and harder than cold water (who'd have thought?). So, back on went the heater, and we waited...and waited...and waited. After about 45 minutes, we discovered that weirdness was afoot -- we could turn on the hot water tap in one room, and if we turned on the cold water tap in another, water would come out of the hot water tap (but it wasn't hot water). This was truly a conundrum, but it made us suspect an air or water pressure issue. About 90 minutes later, Paul went down to check on the pipes under the hosue. As he was pounding up the stairs to get the snow off his boots before coming in the house, I heard a tremendous clang, and hot water started pouring out of the taps. Yeah! Paul came in to verify that, in fact, we had hot water (and to run his hands underneath it for a while -- it is below zero today). He then went back under the house and found a tremendously long icicle that had fallen out of the pressure release hose from the water heater that goes through the floor and just drips on the ground beneath the house. We are thinking that perhaps that hose froze, and that's why we had weird pressure issues. Of course, it could just have been that it was too damned cold and the pipes just froze.

So, we are leaving a faucet dripping and all the cupboard doors under faucets open. I won't let the temperature in the house tonight get down to the usual frigid temperature I allow it to (can't wait to see this month's electric and water bills), and hopefully, we'll make it through this cold snap with all our pipes and tempers intact.

As for me, now that I've spent the afternoon lazing about (with a period of being outside playing with the horses, filling their water tank from the outside spigot, and letting the dogs run in the snow), I think I'm going to go enjoy a nice, steamy shower.

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