🗯️ Pressure Relief Valves

Recently, we had to replace the fill valve in our toilet. We went to our local plumbing supply store and got the replacement part, but called a plumber to install it as neither of us have the mobility to get in the tight area required to install it. That plumber, after going outside to “examine” the pressure regulator, later proclaimed that the pressure regulator had failed and our water pressure was too high. That could result in all sorts of damage if we didn’t repair it. He, of course, could do so for around $500.

We suspected he had played with the regulator and broken it. But our pressure was too high. So we called the plumber we should have called in the first place. He examined it, and noted that once installed, if you adjust it you break it. It was broken, and he replaced it and the pressure relief valve as well. Out the door, just over $300. The pressure in our house is lower, damage averted (hopefully).


Recently, I went to the doctor because my legs were swelling. He took my blood pressure: 159/119. Although I had been fighting high blood pressure for years, this scared him. We adjusted meds, added walking, and I’m the winner of compression stockings. But the meds are working. For the last three weeks, my lower number hasn’t gone above 80; my higher number tops at around 140. This morning at work, I was 98/58. I’m now getting to deal with the impacts of lower blood pressure: a bit more fatigue, a bit less energy. I’m told my body will get used to it. More importantly, however, the lower blood pressure will reduce the stress on my systems. I’ve already seen a significant reduction in my migraine frequency.


Lowering the pressure in your house, and in you, is a good thing. Society these days, however, is also showing signs of being under too much pressure. Systems are failing from the pressure, and the mechanisms we have in place to serve as pressure regulators also appear to be failing. And so the pressure keeps building and building, to what appears to be an inevitable explosion that won’t be pretty. In fact, just like your plumbing, it could leave shit everywhere.

Luckily, however, you have the power to fix that regulator, and it doesn’t cost all that much. All that it needs is: your vote. By mailing in your ballot, or going to your polling place and voting, you can fix the pressure regulator. You can ensure that our regulation mechanisms that are in the system can start working again. You can hold our leaders responsible, in the same way (and with the same scrutiny) that the previous administrations had been held accountable.

But accountability isn’t the only way voting brings pressure relief. Our government gains its authority by the acceptance of its authority by the people as a whole. When our leadership is elected by a mere 20% of those eligible to vote, can it really be called a government of the people? We need voting numbers in the 80% to 100% of legal, eligible voters. Show that this administration is accepted by the people, or demonstrate that it does not (and needs to be replaced). That alone is your power, and you gain it by understanding and studying everything on your ballot, and voting with your brain (and not doing what social media tells you).

You have the new pressure regulator and relief valve in your little hands. Tuesday, you can install it. Together, we can reduce the pressure in our nation, and make our systems healthy again.


Pissed at Water, In General

Today (well, this week) has been a day where I’ve been pissed at water, and no, this isn’t a Donald Trump “golden shower” joke. The only glimmer of a rainbow is that things are better than this morning, when I was majorly pissed.

I should point that that water and houses are a particularly problematic area for me. In our last house, we had a continual leak problem from our roofing heating/air conditioning unit, which wasn’t properly flashed during a reroof. We had continual sewer problems due to roots, and constant problems with caulking around a bathtub.

In our current house, we’ve had different sorts of water problem. There were continual sewer problems, eventually resulting in a collapse of the Orangeberg line and having to do a complete retrench and resewer a few years ago. There was the continual caulking problem around a tub, which was eventually replaced. The new shower has also had leak problems around the door (I think I’ve got that under control), as well as leak problems with its outside window that was installed upside down, and not sealed properly. Again, I think I’ve fixed that. We had a leak in our pool (also fixed), and I still suspect there could be one more, but it could also be evaporation.

So what got me upset today.

First, our reroofing has started in preparation for the solar install. Yes, right in the break in the atmospheric river. The roof was ripped off yesterday, and the rain starts Wednesday night. This had me all worried that they wouldn’t get the watertight layer installed in time, but they got that done today and should have the roof done tomorrow. Before the rain. But the gutters won’t be there for two weeks. Additionally, the DirecTV dish came down today, and thanks to the DirecTV schedule and the upcoming storm, won’t be back up until Saturday (my birthday). About the only bright side there is that I’ll have to miss the inauguration. Damn.

Then, of course, is the hot water leak under the slab in the center of the house that started three weeks ago. We just confirmed where it was, and the answer to the problem is…. a whole house repipe. In the middle of reroofing. The bids have ranged from $7.2K to $10K. Ouch. This morning I was worried that we would have to be out of the house the first night of the rain due to the water being turned off. … and thus not there to find any leaks from the new roof. Luckily, it turns out they will keep one bathroom up and running that night. Then it looked this evening like the start of the repipe would be delayed until Monday due to crew illness. Again, our contractor saved us (actually, one of his customers did) by allowing projects to be shifted so he could start tomorrow. Needless to say, I’m thankful for that, although these are very unexpected bills.

(I should also note that our shower door has slipped, meaning we can’t close it completely. They’re coming next week to fix that)

So keep your fingers crossed, or whatever is your equivalent, that we make it through to next week dry.

(Perhaps I should run away and join the circus. Oh, right.)


What They Don’t Tell You

userpic=plumbingI hate water. Well, to be more specific, I hate dealing with water problems in a house. What’s the latest? Ah, there’s a story….

Way back in 2004, in our old house, we bought one of the first top-loading high efficiency washers. It was a Kenmore Elite, that Sears-branded Whirlpool Calypso system. These were problematic machines, but somehow we figured out how to keep it running and together. After a recent incident where my daughter washed a sandy towel without shaking it out first, the Sears repaircritter told us that if it acted up again, given that parts were no longer made, we should replace it. Last week, that happened. We were getting an “LD” indication — long drain — on the rinse cycle. This likely meant that one of the boards was dying, as the wash drained just fine (if it was the pump, it would have shown up on the first drain).

Pulling out the latest Consumers, we decided on an LG model that was a best buy. I toddled over to Lowes last week, ordered it, and it was delivered on Sunday. We start it up… and on the first drain, water back up the drain pipe. Thinking it might be a clog, we snake the line… but no luck. We got a plumber out here today. The problem isn’t the washer. The problem isn’t a clog in the line.

The problem, dear friends, is the pipe. We have a 1″ standpipe drain. The old washer had a 1/2″ drain line that fit in the pipe, allowing air flow. The new washer drain hose fits snugly in the pipe, allowing no airflow. Further, the new high-efficiency washer pushes water down the narrow standpipe so fast it backs up. Our house was built in 1962 with a 1″ standpipe. Post 1990 construction has a 2″ standpipe.

Thus, our $700 washer has just gotten more expensive — we’re going to need to open the wall and replace the standpipe with something larger. This is something they don’t tell you when you buy a new high-efficiency machine. It is just one of the reasons that I’m pissed at pipes today.

(Another reason: Time Warner’s Internet service was also down most of the day. Grrrr. Pipes.)


I Hate Orangeburg

userpic=plumbingI hate Orangeburg. I hate plumbing. Today has been a day from hell.

OK, perhaps I should explain that outburst. Backspace. Rewind.

How come the plumbing always goes out when you have friends coming over? Tonight, a family we’ve met through Livejournal is coming to spend the night while they visit colleges in the area. This is a good thing — these are good folks who I’d like to get to know better. So, in preparation, last night I was cleaning the guest bathroom. I noticed the toilet was a bit sluggish, but was working. Later I was working at my desk when I hear “gurgle gurgle”. I investigated, and discovered that the toilet in my daughter’s bathroom was bubbling as she was taking a shower. Bad news. I was seeing similar bubbling from our toilet. What this meant was that the line was almost clogged, and pressure was pushing back air. We found a coupon for a rooter special, and made an appointment for this morning.

This morning the plumber came out and investigated. We had a major backup — so major that rooting could no longer fix the problem. Why? It turns out that most of the piping in our front yard is a product called “Orangeburg“. Orangeburg is fiber-conduit with walls made of ground cellulose (wood) fibres bound together with a special water resistant adhesive, and, thereafter, impregnated with liquefied coal tar pitch. It was used between 1860 and 1970. It is not great under pressure situations (e.g., as water pipes), but is great for gravity drainage (e.g., sewer pipes). It was made in inside diameters from 2 inches to 18 inches, and due to the materials involved, was able to be sealed without the usage of adhesives. It was lightweight, albeit brittle, and soft enough to be cut with a handsaw.

That’s the good news. The bad news is lack of strength causes pipes made of Orangeburg to fail more frequently than pipes made with other materials. The useful life for an Orangeburg pipe is about 50 years under ideal conditions. Our house was built in 1962, and has been through two major earthquakes. Do the math. You can see a picture of Orangeburg pipe here.

The plumbers suggestion was to repipe the master bath side of the house with polyethylene pipe from the cleanout installed a few years ago to the connection with the street.  The cost for that was $4,800. We agreed it had to be done, but insisted on it being done to code with proper permits. That adds $160.

But it doesn’t end there folks. Working on this, they discovered that the work we had done to install cleanouts had only done that — install cleanouts. We still had Orangeburg crap from the cleanout to the connection under the house. That all needed to be replaced as well. Reluctantly… add $1,800.

Of course, that still left the line to the guest bathroom and kitchen. That line is almost completely infused with roots. They cannot root it clear because… you guessed it… it is Orangeburg. They are temporarily fixing that and tomorrow… will replace that segment of line. Cost… you guessed it… another $1,800.

All told, we’re having an approximately (gulp) $10,000 repair. We have to do it, because to do anything else might mean full-on trenching if the Orangeburg collapse. Of course, this doesn’t solve all the problems, as the (city-owned) tree in the parkway has created problems for the (city-owned) piping under the street. We’re going to talk to the inspector to see what the city can do about it. If we eventually have to replace that, that’s probably another $5K. [ETA: It turns out it is less expensive to fix the line to the street since they’ve already dug the hole. We’re taking advantage of that — only $3,800 — for a grand total of $12,360 (possibly a bit more, if we decide to replace two toilets at the same time — what the hell, right?]

We’ll figure out how to pay for it somehow — no other choice. That’s why you have emergency savings. But that’s also why I hate plumbing. Sigh. I guess it could be worse.



Saturday Miscellany: Money, Food, Plumbing, and Body Acceptance

userpic=angry-dogIt’s Saturday. Time to clear out the bookmarks from the week that didn’t form into otherwise coherent themes. As always, these are news articles or other items that came across my RSS feed during the week:

Music: If Not Now When? (Debbie Friedman): “Kumi Lach”