bad luck with a drill
Friday, November 21 2003
Most of my day was spent interacting with the installation of a massive water æration system to purify our household tap water. This guy John came over to do the installation this afternoon immediately we had to figure out the solution to a difficult puzzle. The æration system needs to purge accumulated rust from its collection tank every twelve days, but to do so it needs to shoot 80 gallons of water into a drain, and there is no drain in our house's boiler room. I've been puzzled by the lack of a drain for some time, particularly with all the water circulating through that room and all the taps on all those hydronic water circuits. When the boiler needs to dispense with excess pressure, it vents it directly onto the boiler room floor, where it quickly evaporates. But the quantity of water in such cases is never as much as a pint. 80 gallons, on the other hand, would create a wall of water washing down the carpeted hallway.
Pondering what to do, John and I looked at the complex geometry by which the boiler room abuts the garage, the garage abuts the laboratory, the laboratory abuts the map/television room, and the presence in the map/television room of a partially-accessible PVC drainage stack. The æration device shoots its purged water through a flexible hose that can snake just about anywhere, and it drives it with the force of household water pressure. Our first plan was to route the purge hose through the garage and up to the stack in the map/television room, but while John was out buying the special masonry bit he was going to need to get through to the garage, I decided that I didn't want to risk the possibility of the purge hose freezing and breaking in the unheated garage.
So Gretchen and I figured out a better route. It ran up through the downstairs office, over to the laboratory (the levels in this part of the house are staggered, and the upstairs laboratory abuts the downstairs office for two vertical feet of shared wall). From the laboratory the tube would re-enter the first floor in the laundry room near the ceiling, cross high along the wall, and ultimately discharge into the washing machine drain. There were no options that didn't involve a certain amount of ugliness, since the house is entirely finished on all floors and there is no way to hide new utilities. But some utilities are already exposed in the laboratory, and Gretchen and I don't care too much about exposed utilities in the laundry room and first floor office, which still has the ugly green wall-to-wall carpet the house came with.
The installation went well for awhile, with occasional smoke detector complaints about soldering fumes. I involved myself intently when the purge pipe was routed, doing my best to make sure the geometries worked out with a minimum of damage. Then, in a freak accident, a drillbit cutting through the wall from the laundry room ran into one of the hydronic pipes dead-on. It was such a perfect hit that I didn't even see it until water came spurting out of the pipe. Actually, it wasn't the worst kind of accident to befall this sort of work, but we couldn't believe our bad luck. What were the chances? I volunteered myself to do the repair, since (having built it) I understood the system intimately. It took me only about twenty minutes to set things right again.
After he was done with the installation, John shared a beer with us while we ate dinner (he had to save his appetite for his wife's burritos). John is not your typical classic-rock-loving red white and blue collar plumbing guy; he seems well-educated, and (based on what he told us) he spent his young adulthood in the crazy New Paltz demimonde, which is easily as impressive as similar subcultures I've encountered in places such as Charlottesville, Virginia.
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