Service Calls

Sorry it’s blurry; I thought I might get crushed at any moment. Despite the dramatic look, however, this turned out to be the least of the house problems.

Today is filled with certain uncertainty, so if you tuned in exclusively to hear a tale of medical incompetence at the presidential level — well, you will need to wait for another day, or possibly tune into current events.

No, Life has evolved at a rapid rate of speed here at a “new” house, so today, while already booked with a dental cleaning delayed from March and the annual work bonding experience of group flu shots at our county “drive by shooting,” there may also be visits from service professionals. Visits that could easily interrupt this blog, which is always very easy to interrupt.

Sunday afternoon, while dithering in the garage, I looked up to note large cracks in the ceiling on either side of the recently-installed hoist that allows my new garage loft to go up and down. Large cracks. Cracks so large I immediately backed my car out from under them, took a picture and sent it to Branden at my makers’ space.

Now, it could be that the cracks had been there for much longer, or they grew incrementally . . . I don’t spend as much time examining the garage ceiling as perhaps I ought to. But once noticed, they were difficult to overlook, and when Branden didn’t text me back in 30 seconds, I got into my car, determined to see if I could find him, even though it was Sunday, at the makers’ space.

Before I could even back up, there were Branden and Travis, the college intern who I think gets fed better hanging around the shop than he otherwise would, pulling into my driveway. That is serious service, coming on the run on a Sunday afternoon.

Branden fairly quickly determined the issue was largely cosmetic, since the hoist is bolted into ceiling joists and additional bracing. But the winch was digging into the drywall, which Branden noted is a relatively soft surface, sounding like he’s put body parts through this substance once, possibly twice, in his life.

He and Travis dropped their car-engine replacement project I had interrupted and spent the next three hours replacing drywall with plywood. And I ended up getting much more done than I otherwise would have, giving the “lawn” (to use a term as loosely as it possibly could be) one final watering, draining hoses, finally — finally! — installing hose hangers and putting hoses away, stowing hummingbird feeders.

Branden came back yesterday morning to tape and mud the plywood so that it will look like the surrounding drywall, and while he was on the ladder I used the time to sort some more stuff in the garage. He needs to stop coming over here — it’s making me far too productive.

But while he was here I heard some weird mechanical noise coming from the hot water tank, a clicking noise I didn’t think I’d ever heard before. Branden listened. “It’s your pump,” he said, and we went about our business, although I still didn’t recall the entire boiler system making any sort of sound.

[I’m actually kind of surprised Branden isn’t here right now to paint. Usually he shows up just as I’ve put a bagel in the toaster.]

I reported the noise to Lynn at lunchtime, and she thought maybe she’d heard it making noise before — but it turned out she hadn’t. Not until I drove into a darkening garage after work did I notice the boiler light, which normally fluctuates among gray, blue and pink, flashing red. Danger, Will Robinson!

I found the manual; red means “lockout.” I typed out an e-mail to Alpha Mechanical, the plumbing company owned by our neighbors Fred and Lisa, even though Lisa had noted a couple weeks back that they’re so busy they’re not taking on new customers. (If it had been up to me they would have plumbed this house; since it was up to Dusty someone else, that someone no longer in town, did it, but Alpha has sent someone to install flow meters, sediment filters and provide boiler service in the intervening year.)

Lynn assured me no one would see the e-mail and I would need to call in the morning, which is when I assumed someone would read my e-mail. It turns out, though, that Fred checks his company e-mail like Kara does ours: compulsively, obsessively, at all hours of the day and night.

Ten minutes after I sent my e-mil, at 7:30 on a Monday night, there was Fred on our doorstep, ready to look at the boiler.

What are the odds of lightning striking twice in the same spot? Probably astronomically less than the odds of two separate service people arriving within minutes of calls for assistance made out of work hours. Either I should go buy a lottery ticket right now, or never ask the universe for another favor again.

So that was the good news: Fred took time out of his evening to come look at our boiler. Here is the bad news: the pump is non-functional, and while sometimes jiggling it around knocks the problem free, that did not fix ours. Our year-old pump that may or may not come with a manufacturer’s warranty but definitely won’t come with a service warranty because the person who installed it now lives in California may already need to be replaced.

And while I know my mother will suggest I call my contractor, I did do that in regards to my solar tube, which he said he would come fix “in the fall.” I would have to say we are firmly into fall now, and no sign of Dusty. So when I call someone to ask why none of our year-old windows will close tight enough to lock, and why most of them look canted, top to bottom, it seems like that would be a waste to make that person Dusty as well.

As long as I’m complaining about the failure of expensive parts one year into this new-house experience, I went two months without one of my solar panels functioning before I checked my read-outs and was told there was some sort of error. I reported it to the local company that installed the system, and it turned out to be a blown micro-inverter.

Like a hot-water pump, I expected this to have a much longer life span than one year. If I hadn’t monitored my solar readings, I could have gone years without realizing there was a problem, just wondering why my high-end brand solar panels were producing less than the other brand on my array at work.

The micro-inverter got replaced, albeit not on the instant service schedule I am now accustomed to, after two days of living in such luxury, while still under warranty. But why do you suppose so many expensive, long-lasting parts are failing so quickly? Windows, pump, micro-inverter . . . don’t forget the solar tubes, both of which came apart in the attic.

The good news is that the new loft is working, holding all kinds of stuff and not in danger of causing any structural damage to the garage. Solar tubes and inverters all back on track, but windows cracked open, and no hot water (although the floor heat is still functional).

The important thing to remember, though, and to never, ever forget — and to never, ever expect again — is that when I hit panic buttons, Braden and Fred both came on the run. You can’t put a price on service like that.

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