How we came to purchase our home.

WPA Photo

A Works Progress Administration photo offers a glimpse of our home's past.

Reproduction Windsor Chair

Finally, a dining room set.

No Power, No Heat.

Our first snow storm and it's aftermath, October, 2011.

Lead Poisoning

Updates to our son's lead levels.

Bit By Bit

My wife's blog on being pregnant, giving birth and raising our first child with all the complications, hardships and joys that life throws our way.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Getting Cold...

We've been spoiled.  October, November and most of December were a delight.  The outdoor temperatures kept peaking at near 60 degree highs.  Recently, however, the night time temperatures have been falling.  We're now close to 20 degrees at night and gradually dropping.  For a "normal home" this wouldn't be much of an issue, besides, what's "normal" anyway?  

Normal is what everyone else's home is like and your's is not.  That is, insulated.

 I came home from work today to find that the first floor was relatively warm, and the heating was off.  My wife had closed the doors leading to the upper floor as well as closed off our bedroom and bathroom.  Going inside our bedroom was a shock to the system, like the Polar Bear Club... 

The temperatures in our bedroom and bathroom were dramatically colder than any other part of our home.  Where it was a decent 60+ on the first floor, our bedroom was hovering in the upper 30's.  Our walls are thin, yes, but what is much worse are our windows.  They do not align correctly where the upper sash and lower sash have anywhere from 1/8" to a 1/2" gap between them.  The outside air circulates quite well with this setup and lowers the temperature rapidly.

We purchased two boxes of Frost King's Window Insulation Kit from our local big name hardware store costing us $10.98 (plus tax) each.  The kit comes with nine clear plastic sheets and double sided tape.  The concept is simple enough.  Clean off the area around the window along the molding.  Apply the tape along the perimeter and stick on the clear plastic sheet.  You don't have to be very neat as this last part hides most of the sloppiness.  Take your wife's hairdryer and starting at one corner, work your way around the window.  Just watch that plastic film shrink and become as tight as a drum!

My wife is a great helper, by the way.  While I setup the next couple of windows, she heat shrank the plastic.  When taught, the plastic is barely noticeable, especial with the curtains back up.

I also grabbed two bottles of paint-able white caulk and went at it in the bathroom.  I caulked every seam and nail hole in our bead board wall. The wall divides the bathroom from the stair well, which leads to the attic... the Icicle Queen herself wouldn't stay up there....talk about a draft when you get out of the shower... We'll see how it is in the morning, if there is any effect.  I hope for the best, our latest heating bill came in :(

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chimney and Stoves, Part I

My wife and I are looking on spending between $5,000 and $6,000 year heating our home with oil.  Our furnace is approximately 60 years old, and in fact on 12/2/2011, I had the oil tank filled costing us $694.33 for 185.7 gallons.  Last time we had the tank filled was on October 12.

On the weekend of 12/3/2011, I had the chimney inspected.  I was a little disappointed with the inspection.  I had to wait a month for the appointment and when the two man crew came in, they spent 15 minutes walking around as I took them to each fireplace.  After the walk through, the attic was seen, then the basement.  Finally, one man climbed to the roof and looked down the chimney.  That's it.  I was charged $150 for a visual inspection (Level 1) and all they told me was what I already knew.  That my chimney is unlined.  Yey, thanks for wasting my money...  Not only did I waste a month, waste $150 for information I already knew, I also received a citation from the chimney sweep that I have a code violation.  Now that's a WTF moment if anything.

I was also given an estimate for repair.  The oil furnace has a 7" diameter exhaust that is ducted to the chimney, but is also unlined.  For $2,500, the Sweep will install a liner for that exhaust.  It's important since the exhaust, like an automobile's exhaust, contains carbon monoxide.  Being un-lined allows the gases to potentially leak through cracks in the chimney.

The sweep also noted moss growing on the chimney cap's exterior bricks.  For $475, the cap can be cleaned and sealed.

Also, for $1,200 to $1,400, they will install a stove that I buy separately whose price includes a liner.

With this knowledge, my wife and I went stove shopping.  We ended up at a large showroom with several different styles, sizes and brands.  I found out that stove makers make exclusive contracts with distributors who are the only ones allowed to sell that brand within a set radius forcing a price point that is hard to beat.  No real competition...

Regardless of the above, we saw and liked a particular stove called a Lopi Leyden.  From the salesperson we found out that the unit is made in America, cast iron and a higher quality than average.  Reviews online show a 50/50 opinion in regards to quality of build.  You can fill the stove either from the front double doors or from the top.  It's roughly 500 lbs in weight and since it burns wood, requires a 6" liner.  The larger the liner, the more expensive.

We got a quote of $1999 for the stove itself and another $1000 for the liner plus $600 for basic installation.  I tried my best to explain to the salesman that we don't have your typical setup.  We have an antique home.... somehow, when I explain this to people, they don't seem to understand.  Photos are the only way to express a thousand words:

 I sent all these photos to make sure that the salesman knew exactly what it was that he was dealing with so that there were no surprises during the installation.  I also included a photo of the exterior of our home showing the chimney.  I wanted to get an appropriate estimate for the installation of the stove as well as the cost to install the liner for the oil boiler.  With all this information, he waited a week saying that he's trying to get information...
Hi Steve, spoke with Matt my installer. He's thinking by looking at the pics and doing a quick drive by that your chimney opening is 48 x 48. Let me know if you have any questions.
Sent from my Samsung Captivate
 That's nice, but this was emailed a week after the photos were submitted.  I replied with:
Great, so where does that leave us with an estimate for the installation of a 7" diameter liner for the oil furnace AND updated installation costs for the wood burning stove? 
A couple days pass and no response:
I hate to pester, but I am still waiting to hear from you regarding the installation costs.
I also apologize for using your personal email, as I do not have your work email.
Thanks, Steve 
A response, finally:
Its no bother at all Steve. Monday i was playing phone tag with (name) a couple times. Either he was in the middle of an install or I was unavailable. Yesterday i was off. Im going to ask him if he could leave a approx figure should i miss his call again. Take care. I'll talk to you soon with an update. 
Ok, so I'll wait for him to get in touch with his installer......
Good morning Steve
I wanted to give you an update. I spoke with (name) briefly yesterday. He advised me that he wouldn't be able to do the job for you because he's so backed up with installs on stoves. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
This salesman is just wasting my time...
This is really disappointing.  Waiting for information for two weeks only to read that your installer's opinion on cost is that he's too busy?  That's F'd up, to be blunt.
I suppose I should take my business else where, if this is the level of service I am to expect from Dean's Stove and Spa.  We like the stove but putting a serious buyer on the back burner and showing nothing for it is ridiculous.  You could have been more professional about it and gave us a proper quote but added, "unfortunately, our installer is not available until...". No, instead you blew us off for two weeks, then had the balls to say, in essence, that your installer is too lazy to figure out a quote.  I put great effort in creating a detailed plan with photographs, I can see I only wasted my time.
A review of this business will be made.
Quite disappointing.  Good luck with your future endeavors.
I am still planing on installing a wood stove, but not from Dean's Stove and Spa.  Perhaps I will buy one from them and have the chimney sweep install it.  After emailing the above, still annoyed, I wouldn't want to give a commission to this salesman.

There is a tax rebate of 10% for wood stoves of over 75% efficiency for the 2011 tax year.  Hence, why my time is being wasted by this salesman.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Water in my electrical panel

My wife and I are getting ready for a trip back to our parents homes' for Thanksgiving.  After packing the car, I wanted to secure our home for our extended leave.  I locked the back door, then went into the basement to check the basement door.  We previously worked on the breaker box which was left uncovered from when we were installing the vent fan in our bathroom.  I wanted to re-attach the cover, so as I was re-attaching it, I am supporting the panel with my left hand, screwing in the second of six screws when all of a sudden water started to squirt out from the breakers!  I quickly unscrewed the two screws, pulled off the panel and was quite surprised to see most of the breakers covered in water.  First things first, the main was switched off.

"Honey, what happened to the power!" calls my wife.

With the main off, in the dark, I remembered that I had the business card in my wallet of the electrician that came to our home that day of the power outage in October.  I called him up.  I explained the situation, and he said, "If this were any other day, I would be right over, but unfortunately, I am with family and have a bird to take care of."  I understood, but he did a repeat of our first encounter.  He described to me how to correct the water issue:
  1. Turn off the main and each individual breaker.
  2. Take out each breaker by pulling it out from the center of the box towards the side it is on.
  3. Unscrew the wire leading into each breaker so that now the breaker is completely free.
  4. Get a can of WD-40 and saturate the breaker.
  5. Wrap the breaker in a thick towel and gently beat it.  The oil in the WD-40 will disperse the water in the breaker bringing it out of the casing.
  6. Get a can of compressed air and spray off any residual water/oil left.
  7. Repeat the towel beating and compressed air cleaning until there is no more water.
  8. The WD-40 will dry in about 30 minutes.  Re-attach the wire and plug the breaker back into its location on the panel.
  9. Repeat for all the wet breakers.
Took me a couple hours, but I completed the task and with my hands shaking, I turned on the main, then breakers 1... 2... 3........23.  Power was up and running.  We waited about half an hour to make sure everything was stable, then packed up the last of our belongings and left for the weekend.

The electrician said that water can get into the electrical box through the main conduit leading from the outside line.  It would trickle down the conduit into the home and directly into the panel.

A week later, before the next rain event, I took a look at the main power feed entering our home. The line attaches to the exterior wall at the roof line. It enters a conduit that then travels down the exterior wall to the meter.  From there, the conduit leaves the meter and goes further down the wall to the basement level where a bracket is installed.  Looking closely at the bracket, it is loose, rather unattached to the wall.  I found the source of my water leak.

Just of note, this is the same location where investigative work was undertaken several weeks prior by the structural company working in the basement.  They did such lousy finishing work on the exterior. Not only is that bracket not secured but there is also a lack of caulking.  I purchased a box of paint-able white exterior caulk from Lowes and went at that bracket. This could have been disastrous!  Imagine if my wife and I left and water continued to leak onto live breakers.  A fire erupts after a spark is created and my 250 year old wooden home burns up like a Thanksgiving bonfire.  I may sound like a "drama queen" to any contractor, but when it comes to my family and my investment, it's nothing to blow over. I have to watch future contractors like a hawk. I have to scrutinize their work as we'll be the ones living with their oversights.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Structural Repairs, Part I

As I sit here writing, I am torn between being brutally honest and abiding by my word.  You see, I made an agreement with the contractor who completed the structural repairs on our home.  My original idea was to document all the work being done with photos depicting the staged repairs.  I always believe in being honest with people and explained to the owner that I have a blog and would like to have his permission to post pictures of his equipment, etc.  My thoughts were, well, it's my home, I am vicariously paying for it and it's absolutely free advertising for their company.  I was a bit shocked to hear his response.  I'll paraphrase:

1.  Anything on the internet is there forever.
2.  We don't know how you'll depict our work.
3.  Our methods are proprietary.
4.  ...so is our fee schedule.

These are all valid points (I guess).  I responded to the owner saying that I agree with them 100% on the proprietary part.  They worked for 'X' number of years "perfecting" their methods, who am I to post pictures of their secret ways?  It was quite understandable, however, my goal with this blog is to be honest with all costs involved with the work on this antique home.  So, I made a compromise.  I countered saying that I will not post the name of the company or pictures depicting their means and methods.  The owner grudgingly agreed, with the exception of wanting to review my post as a courtesy on my part, which I can only gather for editing purposes. Like I said, I want to be honest about everything that occurred, but for reasons which are to follow, I will forfeit that courtesy and post away with my first amendment rights.  Mind you I will stick to my word.  The name of the company, the crew and their methods will NOT be discussed.  Regardless, brace yourself, this will be a long post.  I will try to break it up over a couple of posts.

On July 24, 2011, I came into contact with this contractor through a quasi government related group listing (really advertising) contractors working to rebuild and repair historic structures.  In the initial post, I described the issues with the seller; how she was unwilling to hire a proficient contractor specializing in post and beam repair.  When she finally caved in to hiring a qualified contractor, we split the cost for this particular contractor to come in costing us a combined $345. The contractor came in to produce an estimate of structural repairs in the basement.  This estimate would be used to negotiate with the seller.

The contractor was on site for a couple of hours where they and I went over the basement pointing out the locations indicated in the report from our inspector.  The support structure in the basement was covered with insulation but the contractor viewed what he could and took measurements.  I took him to the attic as I wanted him to produce a secondary estimate for vents to be installed (that I asked to be kept separate from the sellers estimate).

On August 13, 2011, the evening after the visit, the following was submitted:
1.      Remove and replace up to 12 linear feet of front left sill.
2.      Remove and replace up to 14 linear feet of left side front sill.
3.      Remove and replace two joists in this area that run parallel with the street (6x6x~12’).
4.      Remove and replace up to 9 linear feet of beam in this area (running perpendicular to the street).  Install footing and vertical where the new beam joins the old one.
5.      Set up supports and remove two existing screw jacks in the cellar near chimney. Dig new footings and install concrete filled lally columns.
6.      The beam on the back side of the chimney has sagged and there is separation between it and the beam it intersects with. Install 2x6 oak underneath it.  Dig two footings and install concrete filled lallys.
7.      The chimney beam on the right side is rotted and broken over the opening. We will attempt to replace but if it becomes apparent that this will cause damage, we will put a horizontal and verticals underneath it. 
8.      The diagonal members supporting the hearths have damage. Either sister or install verticals as needed.

The cost of labor for the above work is $10,680.00.  Materials and supplies are extra and should be about $2,640.00.  A deposit of $1,100.00 is required to be scheduled.  Payment is to be in two parts with final payment due in full upon completion.  See conditions.  Any damage to the chimney/hearths is not included and is the responsibility of the homeowner.
This work totaled $13,320.  A second estimate was given for the work in the attic:

1.      Install square gable end vent on each gable end of the house as discussed.
2.      Sister two tie beams in the attic. 
The cost of labor for the above work is $835.00.  Materials and supplies are extra.  Payment is due in full upon completion.  This estimate is only valid if done in conjunction with the structural work. 
Since we were dealing with the seller's money, I was unable to personally provide the full $1,100 deposit.  I suggested that instead, we use the labor cost of $835 for the attic work as the deposit since that work is coming out of our pockets.  They agreed and we were scheduled for an October start date.  Since we sent in our deposit before a set date, we were given a $250 coupon.

A couple weeks passed and I hadn't heard much from the contractor.  I took a couple photos of the home's exterior and emailed it asking if they wanted me to trim back the bushes or tree allowing them more working area.  Their response was simply that if we did not want to, they don't mind.  And only that the EPA requires a 10 foot plastic ground cover around all areas exposed to construction for lead protection.

By this point, however, I still haven't heard anything about a start date.  I was beginning to get worried that their schedule wasn't keeping in mind that I have checks made out in their company's name that have an expiration date.


I may be mistaken but I don't think you told me when (company name) plans on starting.

Due to the negotiations and to make the bank happy, as well as to allow you full access to the property, (company name) has priority. And because of that, we'll have two other contractors waiting to start after you finish. All contractors are being paid via checks issued by our lawyer. Checks expire... So, please kindly advise me as to your anticipated start date.

Thank you,

I relayed this to them on October 12 and I did not hear back until October 17, when they wrote:

We will be there Thursday morning. We will be bringing our trailer which will be staying there for the duration of the project. Please leave room for us to back it into the driveway. Thank you. (name)

I guess money talks...

Here are photos of the condition of the beams in the basement prior to the contractor's work:

1.  Overall view of the floor structure below the future library, viewing southeast.

2.  Overall view of the floor structure below the future library, viewing south.

3.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing east.

4.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing northeast.

5.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing east.

6.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing northeast.

7.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joist connecting to the sill, viewing northeast.

8.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged joists, viewing southeast.

9.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged sill, viewing east.

10.  Closeup of rotten and insect damaged sill, viewing south.  Notice the rat poison white bag peaking out by the wire, behind the brick.

11.  Closeup of a prior repair showing the lally column supporting a hearth support beam and joist with the mortise and tenon visible, viewing east.

12.  Diagonal support for the old kitchen fireplace above, viewing south.

13.  Overview of chimney foundation showing existing lally columns, viewing northeast.  The black columns to the right are temporary supports.  Temporary really means non-existent.

14.  Overall view of the old kitchen fireplace supports, viewing northeast.

15.  An old exhaust flue or perhaps even a makeshift fireplace.  The wood beam above it runs through the brick/stone foundation as one solid piece of wood.  The beam is weakened and is sagging.  Viewing south.

Click HERE for Structural Repairs, Part II.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Curious Electrical Issue

I just received my new bathroom vent fan!  I cut open the box and studiously read the manual.  The directions said that I needed a "dedicated 20 amp breaker".  I have no idea what breaker is assigned to the bathroom.  Ok, a trip down into the basement is needed.  I open the electrical box and behold:

No lables?!  That just makes things a bit complicated. My wife and I spend the next hour going over switch by switch.  I delegated her to turn on all the lights and carry around an old plug in alarm clock for the rooms that have no hard wired lighting.  We each had an iPhone that we used in Facetime mode.  As I flipped each breaker to off, she would go room to room to find what was still on and what was out.  This method solved several of the unknown labels (especially when I kept accidentally turning off Breaker No. 4, turning off our WIFI, no WIFI = no Facetime) but a few of the breakers are still unknown.  And more alarming is that with all the breakers off, half of the lights in the kitchen were still on.

Here is what was figured out:

1.  20 Amps - Unknown.
2.  15 Amps - Unknown.
3.  20 Amps - Unknown.
4.  15 Amps - Second Floor: South Two 
5.  20 Amps - First Floor, Library.
6.  15 Amps - Oil Furnace.
7.  15 Amps - First Floor: Rear Stairs, 
              Dining Room, Living Room.
8.  15 Amps - First Floor: Half Bath, 
              Kitchen Addition, Porch; 
              Basement: Lights.
9.  15 Amps - Second Floor:  Full Bath.
10. 20 Amps - First Floor:  Kitchen Light 
              Over Sink & Dishwasher?
11. 15 Amps - Unknown.
12. 20 Amps - Unknown.
13/15.  80 Amps - Cloths Dryer.
17/19.  60 Amps - Oven and Range.
14. 20 Amps - Microwave.
16. 20 Amps - Radon Pump.
18. 15 Amps - Attic.
20. 15 Amps - Master Bedroom.
21. 15 Amps - Unknown.
22. 20 Amps - Main Entry Lighting and 
              Exterior Front Lights.
23. 15 Amps - Basement: Electrical 
              Socket (Dehumidifier).

I guess I have to figure out a solution for the bathroom vent.  I wonder if I can use one of the "Unknown" 20 Amp breakers?  Since they do not control anything (assuming that is) then perhaps I can just feed a wire down from the attic and plug it into the breaker box.  I'll have to look into that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No Power, No Heat.

As I've mentioned in the November 5th post, getting a generator required it's own entry.

The first snow storm of the season hit on Saturday, October 29, while most trees still had their leaves causing numerous branches to break and fall on whatever was beneath them.  Your home, your car... the power lines.

The last one created the most inconvenient issue for many folks in our state.  Power went out on Saturday around 1:00 PM.  My wife planned ahead and boiled water making raviolis for dinner that night.  Not thinking that the power would be out for much longer than a day.  Sunday came, I went outside to assess the damage (see the previous post here).  Monday came.. then Tuesday (obviously), still no power.  With no power comes no heat and no hot water.  We can't cook or clean.  Temperatures outside were in the low 40's, not so cold, but inside the house, it was 10 degrees colder without heating.  Our breaths could be seen as we used our iPhones as lanterns.  We used the bathroom via candle light and placed candles within our fireplace to provide just enough light for the morning and night activities.  The mornings were the toughest to wake up to.  The coldness in the home was quite apparent while in the dark, cozy with our bodies heating each others' under six or seven (lost count) layers, getting out of bed was torture.  Even our cat, Oliver, snuggled under the blankets to keep warm.  

We couldn't use any of our five fireplaces due to the possibility of our chimney catching on fire.  The prior owner claims that she had the chimneys inspected and cleaned very two years, yet they are filled with cobwebs, soot and potentially creosote.  Using them would have been VERY risky.

Now for a more serious note.  My wife has a "condition" making her extremely sensitive to the cold.  As a husband, I had to make things better.  We went out to Home Depot and Lowes on Sunday, searching for the Holy Grail (aka Generator) and having no luck.  We called up several stores around the state with no success.  We then changed plans.  We started looking for alternative sources of heat but there were no camping equipment kits available.  Butane powered stoves were all sold out, electric powered items were out of the question.  

At the local Stop and Shop grocery store, on the bottom shelf, hidden like those little gnomes in crazy ladies' gardens, was a small batch of Sternos.  Eureka!  I grabbed all that I could (giving one to a passerby-er).  Came home and we had our first hot meal since the power outage.  Was it good, no, actually, it made my wife sick.  The idea worked well for re-heating food, but cooking from scratch, that was a bit challenging.

I had to do more.  I began to feel helpless for the first time as a married man.  My wife is suffering in the cold, she's hungry and there was nothing I could do.  My heart sank, depression became an everyday event and my mind began filling with anger. Jealousy was apparent as well.  The sounds of generators echoed everywhere but here.  There has to be something, must be, that I can do!

On Monday night, I was able to attempt an icy shower once since the storm (gross... I know I know) whereas my wife was able to shower at her job (the only shining light at this stage).  

You know that everyone is in the same boat when the normal greeting at work becomes "Hey, do you have power yet?"  

On Tuesday, a colleague and I were discussing our own issues regarding the storm, telling each other of how we're coping.  That same day I was able to find a store selling generators.  Well, that is to say, taking names and deposits for generators arriving later that week.  They were asking $2,550 for a Honda 5000 Watt generator and $2,750 for a Honda 6500 Watt.  Almost seems like a scalping.  I relayed my findings to my colleague and we joked about it.

Roughly thirty minutes later, my colleague motions me over.  He's a tall man, but cowers down a little, trying to keep his voice low (I work in a construction field so a low voice is a matter of perspective).  He says, "I know a guy who knows a guy..."  Now doesn't that sound shady!  It turns out that his brother-in-law is a lawyer who's client is about to return two generator's to Home Depot as he got his power back on.  So, through the grapevine, we jumped onto the chance.   I led the way with my GPS and we arrived at the lawyer's office.  In drove the client with two BRAND NEW and SHINNY generators in the back of his pickup.  We paid $640 cash for each, like an illegal trafficking operation in the back parking lot of a shady lawyer (but it wasn't).  My colleague spotted me the cash since I could not get to the ATM in time.  

So there we were, like two kids with the biggest "bestest" toys in the whole world on Christmas morning!  It was so exciting.  I bring my car around, pop the trunk... oh... ?  Damn thing is too big to fit in the trunk.  We take it out of the box and this 'bad boy' rides shot gun all the way home.

I get home and did not have a chance to take it out of the car when my lovely wife comes out with a blanket wrapped around her saying, "I'm hungry."  God, it breaks my heart.  But, there's a mildly pleasing bit of good news.  She tells me that a local restaurant is using a 125,000 volt generator with a refi-trailer keeping raw food cold.  They are open for business and are a couple blocks away.  That night, we spent $40.01 for two dishes of Chicken Marsala and we didn't care.  It was delicious, warm and filling.  And the wait was only 20 minutes.

Getting back to the generator, it sat hidden at the entrance to my rear porch awaiting it's first breath of pure power.  Looking at it, I noticed that I need parts.  I needed what looks like a twist plug for the 240 volt source.  My plan, like many, was to back feed the generator through the 240 volt plug for the dryer, turning off the main fuse switch on the electrical panel so as to thwart any current feed back into the street.  It may not be 100% legal or completely safe but with a wife in her current condition, I was willing to risk it.  Well, I did not have the appropriate connection, so the generator sat in the cold as we likewise slept, yet again, in the cold.

Wednesday after work, I went to Home Depot to find the required plug.  I arrive at the electrical section and a sign hung from the plug accessories shelf reading "Twist Plug for Generator - SOLD OUT."  You have got to be kidding me!  I drove to the nearest electrical supply store, same thing.  In fact, the warehouse has been sold out since Hurricane Irene.  Now, WTF do I do?!  

I get home around 4:15 PM, with desperation.  I have a generator and fuel (which by itself is liquid gold during a power outage) but no freaking way to connect it to my oil burner.  I bit the bullet.  I decided to call an electrician, wary of the costs on short notice in an emergency situation.  The first two electricians did not answer but the third picked up and I simply asked, "I already know the answer, but is there anyway that I can have a transfer switch installed today?"  (For those that do not know, a transfer switch is the legal way to connect a generator to your fuse panel to power the bare essentials in the home).  He answered with a question of his own, "Why, do you have one?!"  Seems like I wasn't the only one not being able to get parts.

I explained the situation to the gentleman and boy was he kind.  He told me that I could remove the male end of my extension cord and connect it to my emergency shut off switch for the boiler.  Then, connect the 120 volt generator to it.  Walla!  Simple, eh?  I expressed some concern, having a bit of fear with electrical components.  The electrician understood and simply asked where I lived.  Turns out he was just five minutes away.  I feared a huge price tag coming, sucking it up, I asked him how much it will cost me.  He said $70.  For what I needed to get done, and the joy it would bring to my wife, $70 was absolutely nothing.  I accepted and he said that he would be right over.  Smiling happily, I thanked him and hung up the phone.

Less than 30 seconds later, the f-ing power comes on!  I turned on the heating immediately and went outside to wait for my untimely savor.

As promised, he arrived.  I told him that the power just came on and apologized for his inconvenience.  He did not once bring up the $70 but gave me his business card.  You can be sure that when I need an electrician, he WILL BE the first person I call! 

After he left, I went back inside our home, boiler burning away, went to the kitchen and I broke down.  I cried.  I mean I balled my eyes out uncontrollably.  Since Saturday afternoon until Wednesday at 4:45 PM, my stress level was pretty high.  And now, with that boiler rocking our home, nothing up until that point seemed to make things any better.

As I write this, I can truly appreciate our modern convinces, yet at the same time, be absolutely fearful of loosing them again.  As mentioned in the November 5th post, it is time for an alternative solution to heating our home.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Snow in October?

At work, it was rumored that there may be snow coming the following weekend.  Well, it was getting colder and there was rain that same week, but snow, in October?  I guess it's happened before, it is New England after all.  

Saturday, the 29th of October, comes and the snow was expected to start at 1:00 PM.  I figured I had enough time to make it to a local plumbing supply store to see the latest bathroom vent models for our master bath.  Driving home, empty-handed (out of stock), it started to snow.  As I pulled into our driveway I saw the left over mounds of leaves that I lazily did not finish raking the previous night.  So, in the snow I raked.  My wife thought I was insane and took a photo of me raking snow with some leaves. 

I honestly do not mind the snow.  I like it actually; however, this snow came at the wrong time.  The trees haven't leaved entirely and the snow was quite sticky.  With so much surface area to cling to, the snow just overloaded many trees in our area.  With the overloading comes "snap...krackle... and POP!".  It was a disaster.  Our property was hit with several broken limbs, toppled tree, sagging branches, but other areas had greater problems.  Huge mature trees lost massive branches cutting powerlines in two.  We personally lost power that Saturday afternoon around 1:00 PM.  Power was not restored until Wednesday at 4:45 PM.  As long as we were without power, we were lucky.  Others in this state are still without power as of this blog posting!


During the night of the snow storm and the following morning, a constant crackling sound could be heard echoing throughout the valley.  The video above is a quick 13 second clip of what it sounds like.  This was one large branch falling just feet from our rear porch.  The sound heard was repeated thousands of times everywhere in the state.  This was mother nature at her best (worst?).  It was her way of pruning her deciduous trees. 

Take a look at the photos of our property, and believe me, we fared better than others...

All plans are on hold now.  I was going to get the bathroom vent installed as well as trim back some trees and rake some more leaves.  But when you have no power (which means no hot water) and no food (all rotten), your priorities change.  My wife has a short term medical condition and a lack of heating and food compounded it.  We couldn't get food.  Well, we could, but it all required prepartation.  With no power for our electric stove, that was rather pointless.  So, I got some Sternos.  I used them to make ourselves a quick pasta dinner, that my wife hated yet ate.  Now, the thought of pasta makes her cringe. 

Not to be gross, but I could not shower for three days.  Freezing cold water in a drafty home is not a good combination for a cleansing shower.  Luckily, my wife was able to shower at her work where they were not hit as hard and had showers for the employees.  I, unfortunately, do not have that luxury at my place of employment.  I sucked it up on Monday night and showered by candle light... in a cold bathroom, with a drafty window, with no heat and COLD water.  They say that when you get really, really cold, your body numbs itself and the brain starts to make you feel warm... "so cold that you get warm."  I believe it's true.

Speaking of priorities, what does one do when the heating system is out?  When you have plenty of oil, but no power to start it up?  Well, the only alternative is to get a generator, which escapades I'll save for another post.  Imagine trying to get something that is worth so much in times of need, but worthless the rest of the year.  Stores never stock enough of them and desperate people do desperate things during trying times. 

This event makes you think of how the original owners lived in this home back in the 18th century.  My wife and I can truly appreciate the modern conveniences that we all have today.