Solar Power Struggles

My brother had solar panels installed on his house by SolarCity about 3 or 4 years ago now, right near the beginning of the new leased solar panel trend. In the past, you had to buy a solar panel setup outright, often at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars outlay. Even with tax credits and electric savings, you wouldn’t see a return on your investment for years. But the new solar panel leasing allows you to get panels on your roof for a low monthly fee. You don’t own the panels, but maintenance is taken care of by the vendor and, in our case, we’d save about half off our utility bill.

This seemed like a good deal so we contacted my brother’s salesman, but because of a number of distractions we never followed through. Earlier this year, I saw something from Google about going solar where I could enter my information and several different solar companies would contact me about their services. I did and heard from one, Vivint. They gave me their pitch, which outlined what’s involved and how much we would pay.

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The $500 Drip

Last week, we started hearing a constant drip, drip, drip from the bathroom faucet.1 It wasn’t even a slow drip, but a quick one that I knew was wasting a lot of water.

So on Saturday, I wanted to go to Home Depot to get some replacement parts, but first I needed to determine whether it was the hot faucet or the cold one and what kind of faucet it is (compression, ball, cartridge, etc.). So I tried turning off first the cold water supply valve and then the hot one to see which one caused the drip to stop.

The cold water faucet was the culprit, but I couldn’t turn off the the hot water supply. I put as much torque into it as I dared, but it wouldn’t completely close. That would be bad if I ever had a real leak, but it wasn’t of immediate concern, so I left a message by email with our plumber. Then I put that aside and I took out the old cartridge from the cold faucet and headed to the Home Depot…

…where I was confronted with the wall of faucet parts. I need to let you in on one important detail: Before we bought our home it was renovated by a flipper, which means they used the least expensive “contractor special” parts available for everything, faucet included. So as I stared at all the replacement parts, I had no clue which to choose. I stood there for 20 minutes, comparing the original cartridge in my hand to every possible one I could find that looked similar. Finally, I just picked the one that looked the closest, although they weren’t identical, and prayed for the best.

I got home and put the new cartridge into the faucet, put everything back together and it fit!

Except the faucet was backwards. By which I mean when you turned it to the “on” position, the water stopped and when you turned it “off” the water flowed. It turns out I’d purchased the cartridge for the hot water faucet, which of course is reversed. But the drip had stopped! At this point, I wasn’t making another trip back to the Depot of Homes and so I just ordered the cold water version on Amazon.2 We could survive with a backward faucet until Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the plumber got back to me and said he’d come by on Monday. That morning, as I cleaned out the cabinet under the sink for him, I noticed some of the items were wet. That was my next bad omen, but I was willing to take a trip up “de Nile” and pretend it was condensation or something. When he showed up, I explained why the faucet was backward and he had the professionalism not to laugh at me outright or shake his head at my idiocy. He did have a few choice words for the renovator/flipper’s PVC pipework under the sink, but he assured me he’d sweat the broken valve off quickly and put a new one in its place.

I went off to my office to work until he came to find me a bit later. It turns out that the drain stop was the source of the leak under the sink and while he was trying to fix it, the thing broke off. Normally, he’d have some bits and bobs of old faucet sets in his truck and he’d just pop one of those in there, but his less-than-brilliant assistant had cleaned out the truck. So now we’d need to buy a whole new faucet because you can’t just buy the drain stopper bit, and off he went to the plumber’s supply store.

Which means that the leaky faucet I’d fixed and whose (second) replacement cartridge was still on the way from Amazon was going away anyway. Meanwhile, after the plumber got back getting the new faucet in and dealing with the original Franken-plumbing took a couple more billable hours.

So here I am with a shiny new faucet, a replacement cartridge fresh from Amazon ($10), the other replacement cartridge the Lord knows where in the trash somewhere, and a bill for plumbing work for $450.

But no drip!

  1. Yes the bathroom. We are seven people in a small ranch-style, single-bathroom house.
  2. Because now I had a part number and manufacturer, which I didn’t have before.

Dyeing Easter Eggs, 2016 Edition

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We had our traditional Holy Saturday activity of dyeing Easter eggs. As the family has grown it has become a bigger and bigger production. Apparently, waiting for the eggs to dye sufficiently is too much for them to do at the table, so in between they would go outside and literally run around. Thankfully, it was a decent day. Not exactly warm out, but they went in shirtsleeves and long pants.

Snow Days

Snow piles up
Snow piles up
The February 2013 blizzard

When I was a child, lo those many years ago, a snow day was a big deal. It still is, I suppose. I don’t ever recall school being called off before the snow started falling though.

In anticipation of the storm coming today and tomorrow, nearly every school district in eastern Massachusetts has called off school for both days. It’s not supposed to be bad today, but the thinking is probably that the schools have been stone cold since before Christmas and if the storm is bad enough to cancel school on Friday, why fire up the boilers for one day, only to leave them grow cold over the three days until next Monday?

Another big difference these days is the way the closings are announced. I remember sitting breathlessly by the radio as soon as we got up, waiting for the long list of school closings to be rattled off: “Abington, Acton, no school. … Brockton, Burlington …” CANTON, YAY!!!! Now, you go to a web page or read a Tweet or see a Facebook update. It lacks a bit of the anticipation. Of course, for us homeschoolers, there’s none of that. I sometimes wonder what cultural touchstones I had that my children will miss.

So, yes, we’re expecting a big storm over the next couple of days. I’ve surveyed all the local forecasts and the consensus generally is that we’ll have at least 10 to 12 inchces by the end on Friday. Not the biggest storm every, but the biggest so far this year and one that will put a crimp in all plans. Luckily, the radio show is still in re-runs and I won’t have to worry about getting to the studio to broadcast a show. I’m dreading the day when I have to deal with that.