Thursday, June 27, 2013

Let there be light! (and also hot water)

Warning: wordy post ahead. And the pictures I DID take for it, I forgot to take until it was dark out, so they suck. Sorry. oh! But then I put WORDS on the pictures to at least make them hilarious for you. HI-larious.

Perhaps the times when I wish the most for unlimited wealth is when something important is broken. Broken things make me panic. They make me want to go hide in my bedroom and throw money at them until someone else fixes them. It's not really rational. It's not even a little bit rational, really; I feel like things must be put completely on hold and that nothing good can happen to me until the broken thing is fixed.

But actually, I can also err in the other direction when it comes to broken things. Sometimes broken things are unessential enough that I cope with them by pretending they don't exist for, say, a year. The light in my sunroom was one of those kinds of broken things. Back to that later.

But the hot water heater is a full on panic sort of broken thing. And ours stopped working last week. That's right: we had TWO broken things in the house at the same time.

The timing was suspicious. It happened the very same day the HVAC guy came out to inspect our furnaces, one of which is right next to the hot water heater in the basement. And then, a few hours later, Ari asked, "why does the water just run and run and not get warm?"

Why indeed? Because the pilot light was out, we discovered. Dave called the HVAC place and they assured us that their guy would never, ever have done anything to the pilot light, but....yeah. Suspicious timing. Dave tried to light the pilot luck. This very same thing had happened before we moved in. The pilot light would come on but not stay on for any length of time. We assumed this had something to do with the gas having been turned off for months or years. Someone or other finally managed to light it, but we couldn't remember if they'd used some special trick or if it had just happened.

In my panic, I pretty much was ready to immediately get a new hot water heater. There was no time to try to fix this one! We needed showers! We needed to wash diapers! We needed to run the dishwasher! RIGHT NOW!

Fortunately, Dave is able to hold himself together in these situations better than I am. He took the following steps:

1. try following the instructions for lighting the pilot light approximately 300 times.
2. call suspicious HVAC people to schedule a service call to calm wife's panic
3. google
4. decide what we need is a new thermocouple; call to cancel service call
5. buy said thermocouple
6. attempt to install thermocouple, only to be thwarted by a stripped screw holding on the panel that hides the old thermocouple (Dave tells me this panel is called the "manifold" and I have no reason to doubt him)
7. get very frustrated
8. try lighting pilot one more works this time!

Kind of an anti-climactic ending. If the pilot ever goes out again, we might not be so lucky. We think it really needs a new thermocouple. But we can't get that screw out to get to it. The hot water heater's eight years old, though, so we're just hoping the pilot stays lit until it dies completely.

And then there was the light in the sunroom.

I've mentioned this light a few times, but I've never told the whole fascinating story.

When we moved in, the fan and light worked just fine. But then, not longer after, the fan kept on working, but the light stopped coming on. More precisely, it would flash on for a split second when we flipped the switch, then go back off.

This wasn't a huge problem back when the room was Gable the shaggy sheepdog's hangout room, but once we started using it, we wanted some light.

We had an electrician out a few months ago to look at several things, this ceiling fan included. We wound up paying the electrician a hefty service fee and having him do nothing of value, because everything was WAY more than we expected. For this fan, for example, he told us the problem was that it was missing the remote and that he'd be happy to get us a new one....for $180. Umm. No.

Instead, what we did was, every once in awhile, usually when someone was visiting who expressed some interest in electrical troubleshooting (once my father in law; more recently my brother), we climbed up there and tried to figure out what the problem was. Oddly, this never made the light start working again. It all looked fine.

Now, at this point, what with my love for throwing money at broken stuff whenever possible, you'd think we'd just go get a new fan, right? Had this been a hideously ugly fan or a super dated fan or a boring builder grade fan, we probably would have done that a long time ago. Perfect excuse to pick out a fun fan!

But I liked this fan, and I suspected it was relatively pricey, as far as fans go. And, you'll recall, we just gave all of our money to Disney World.

With my brother's troubleshooting assistance, we decided that a new remote was, indeed, the right thing to try, and a quick online search revealed that, as I'd suspected, $180 was an INSANE amount to try to charge us for this remote.

The top of the fan listed a model number, which helped us track it down online:

It's a "Hampton Bay Ponte Vecchio 52 inch natural iron" ceiling fan. See? It's Italian; I was so right about how fancy it is. Italian things are automatically 40% fancier than their American equivalents. It's still for sale on Home Depot's website for $229. So not, like, a ceiling fan a movie star might buy or anything, but on the expensive side for a fan you pick up at Home Depot. And I like it. 

The new remote and receiver (which, on this fan, goes up in the very top, in that part that attaches to the ceiling, rather inconveniently. If the ceiling were any higher, we'd have needed the expensive electrician who probably has a really tall ladder after all) cost not $180, but $30. We got a generic Hampton Bay one; they had a couple of different ones to choose from. Installing it was easy and self-explanatory. We should have done it a long time ago! 


  1. Oh, Gretchen, you are too funny...

  2. It's Italian. hahahahaha you are so funny!! Love it.
    I think you were right to escort that Electrician out right away. I can't believe he tried to charge you that much. And I agree. The HVAC dude... very suspicious...

    1. yes, we seem to be having a run of bad luck with repair type people!

  3. BTDT! Fan remotes get lost a lot faster than TV remotes - and sometimes a phantom radiowave will do strange things to the fan settings. We disable the remotes on ours. For your stripped screw, try vice grtips and pull while you turn. Often works on sheetmetal stuff.

    1. already tried the vice grip trick :( (there was much googling about how to deal with stripped screws). The remote came with a wall mount, so it's in there with everyone under strict instructions not to move it. (we didn't lose the other one, was missing when we moved. not my fault! ;))

  4. I laughed so hard. Cold showers, not wonderful. But I'm glad you and Dave are so smart :) Thank goodness you got it working. And your light is lovely!

    1. My mom lives 15 minutes away, and we have friends right down the street...I'm willing to bet SOMEONE would have let us take showers if we hadn't gotten it fixed so fast ;). Although they might not have wanted our poopy diapers in their washers!

  5. "Italian things are automatically 40% fancier than their American equivalents."
    Hahahaha!! I really loughed out loud when I read that!
    You're too funny! :)

    Okay, that was all I wanted to say. I don't get the thing with these ceiling fans… We don't have them here anywhere except in Italian ice cream shop (I see a correlation here!), so I don't feel nothing about ceiling fans……

    Love, Midsommarflicka

    1. no ceiling fans?! they're everywhere here. I usually don't love them, but it is nice to have something moving the hot air around in the sunroom.

  6. I never know whether to be happy when it's a "cheap and easy fix" or upset at ourselves for putting it off for so long.

    1. right?! at least I didn't put it off until we HAD to fix it to sell the house someday like we often do with annoying little things like that.

  7. Teehee - well done for fixing your fancy Italian fan. Are you going to name it something like Giomarco now? Because you should.... "Dave, Sheila; come out to the sun room and see how beautiful Giomarco is- he lights up the room!".

    That HVAC guy definitely did it. A curse on his house. xx


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