Monday, December 2, 2013

NEST is coming!

So last Winter, my utilities bills were a little bit of a pain.  Given that we now had a functioning furnace, we were definitely living in a warm(er) house.  It was literally a difference of night and day!  Because the thermostat was programmable, though, when we were home off schedule, we would switch it to "On."  Inevitably, we'd forget to turn it off when we left. 

I've been thinking of getting the NEST thermostat for a while now, and Amazon just published this deal today: Get a $40 Gift Card with Purchase of a Nest Learning Thermostat.  BOOM!  How could I not have one of these beauties?!  
It probably won't be sitting at 72 degrees, but it is my hope that it pays for itself in its energy savings thanks to my own forgetfulness. 

I checked the NEST website, and it says that my wiring should be compatible with this.  I'll update once I get it, and post the installation. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Heat, Heat, Heat...

So the cold season is upon us once again, and I am still grateful for Rudy on the installation of the furnaces.  It's amazing how much of a difference a warm house can make.  One thing I may upgrade soon is the thermostat.  We currently have a programmable thermostat from Honeywell, but I often put it on, "Hold," to turn it on and forget to turn it off when we leave the house.  Depending on what this next PG&E bill looks like, I may be replacing it with a smart thermostat, like the NEST,  VERY soon. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Windows... Anderson... UGH

The crew from Renewal by Anderson came to fix everything.  I missed the appointment back in March due to illness, so we rescheduled.  This is was first Saturday they had available.  Well, actually, I had it in my notes as October 12, but they arrived today.  :-/  Anthony and "Earnest" (not his real name) replaced the picture window's glass with privacy glass.  It was relatively painless.  A bulk of the work was just cutting the seal between the frame and the glass.  I just hope the silicon seal doesn't leak now that it's been re done. 

Anthony looked at the dual hung windows and said that he doesn't have any felt strips that can be placed anywhere to seal it better.  He looked at the lower sash and said that he thinks it was made incorrectly, and that's why it's not sealing properly!  I don't know why Rich didn't mention this.  Anthony said that the way the window was now, when it closed, because a piece was upside down, the window wasn't sealing.  He looked at the others in the room and one in the living room, and they were all like this.  He said he'd recommend that the lower sashes be replaced. 

They also redid the caulking in the bathroom around the window. 

Anthony said I should get a call in a week or two to schedule another visit to fix the front windows. 

I'm frustrated by the fact that these windows cost about 3 times what another contractor quoted me.  The reason I went with Renewal by Anderson was because my sister used them, and they seemed to have done good work at her place.  I can't believe it's been three service calls, and almost a year, and the issues I called about have still not been corrected.  I spoke to another contractor about the back wall, too, and he said that if they (Anderson) used an electric saw to cut out the old door (they did), it could have rattle the wall enough to break the seal, allowing water to get into the wall!  Whatever.  It's hard enough to get them to fix the mistakes that are completely clear they made.  Looks like this is another contractor mess that I'll have to clean up. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Leaky Wall?

Who knows where the water's coming in from.  According to another contractor, when Michelle's old door was cut out with an electric saw, the vibrating in the wall could have broke the seal of the caulk inside the wall, and that's why water is coming in now.  He recommended that I just buy a can of water sealer and seal all the seams along the exterior of the wall.  I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought two cans of spray on water seal (Flex Seal).  I sprayed three coats along the bottom and top of the wall where there were cracks along the course of the day.  There's still some more left in the can, so I'll probably use up the rest of it later today by applying another coat.  What sucks is the only way to see if this works is to either hose it down myself (in which case if it fails, I'm going to have a ton of water in my kitchen), or wait for it to rain (and if it fails, same thing).  Either way, there's no sense in opening up the wall in my kitchen to fix anything until I know this is water tight.   

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Washer...

Friday night, Sandra put a small load of laundry into the washer.  I was in the kitchen cooking when I heard what sounded like the motor going into overdrive.  "Nuts," I thought, "the pulley fell off again."  I unplugged the washer, opened the bottom panel, and took a look.  The pulley was nowhere to be found. Strange, when it falls off, it's usually sitting right underneath... Then I noticed something else: a whole lot of little, black, plastic shards, and all the way toward the back of the washer was what was left of the pulley!  Or at least what I thought was the entire pulley.  I looked at the belt, and it took was a bit ragged and cracked.  I figured both would need to be replaced, and I also figured I could do it myself.  Yes, I know, dangerous last words. 

Saturday morning, I looked up the washer information.  It was an Amana NAV3330EWW.  The website was good enough to list local parts suppliers, so I started calling them.  Everyone was closed on the weekends, and for some reason they all transferred to their cell phones ... so they could tell me they were closed till Monday.  One woman, though, was at home with access to the store's inventory!  I gave her the make and model of the washer, she gave me the part numbers for the pulley and the belt, and was able to verify that it was in stock!  Monday, during lunch, I walked the 3 blocks to pick up the two parts.  At roughly $50, the parts were non-returnable once opened.  :-/  They better work.

We went to the Giants game after work, so I didn't get started on the washer till a little after 10 PM.  I looked at the motor, the pulley lever, and the belt, and thought how nice it'd be if it could all just come out.  It turned out that's what I needed to do to replace either the pulley or the belt!  Four bolts held the motor in.  They were easy to remove (bad sign), then the motor took a little finesse to take out.  I left the electrical cords connected, since I had unplugged the washer from the wall.  I also had to disconnect the two hoses (get a towel because water will come out even if the water is shut off).  I had to remove the top part of the motor - three screws - to replace the belt.  If you're doing this, make sure you make a mental note of how the belt is run.  I didn't, so I did it twice. 

The new pulley, I noticed, had a brass interior.  The one that kept falling out of my washer didn't.  I thought it was an improvement - false.  It was that the plastic disconnected from the brass, and that's why it kept falling off!  Removing the brass fitting form the pulley lever was a pain.  It has a clip very similar to the clip that holds the chain to the speed bag in the garage, but much smaller and harder to remove.  I used a set of needle nosed pliers to slowly and forcefully open the clip then slide it over the pulley lever.  It took me about 9 attempts to get this right.  In the process, I once pushed a little too hard, resulting in the pliers pinching my finger.  What's a little DIY without blood, right?  Once it was off, I noticed how stiff it all was.  I put lithium grease inside the new pulley, and greased the washers.  This assembly was really easy to put back together. 

The plastic cover went back on smoothly.  Getting everything back into the washer was a little harder.  I ended up lifting the bucket from inside the machine to make more room on the bottom.  This allowed me to put the motor back easily.  Getting the holes to line back up to bolt it back - not so easy.  I think this literally took me about 45 minutes, all the while I thought this was due to the time I moved it from upstairs, and it hare-goshi'ed me.  I was so frustrated that I thought about calling a repairman, just to rebolt the motor.  What I ended up doing was putting a 45 pound Olympic weight on the bucket to hold it down, then lifting the motor and manually screwing in the top two bolts as much as I could.  The bottom still didn't align!  I could forcibly lift the motor and get the right side in, but the left side was about 1/2 an inch off!  I kept thinking I bent it when I removed it.  I needed a lever or jack of some sort to hold this dang thing up just to get a good angle!  What I ended up using was a hammer head!  It was pretty much perfect to bracing the bracket and leveraging the motor up.  With all the bolts in, I grabbed a wrench and tightened them even more - as much as I could.  I reconnected the hoses, closed it all up, plugged it in, then made a note of the time: 12:18 AM.  Great, roughly two hours had gone by.  This better work.  To test it, I put the bloodied towel and laundry room rug in.  IT WORKED!  Not only did it work, but the spin cycle worked so well that both items were damn near dry!  Not bad for my first time!  I should moonlight as a repairman!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hot Water Heater

Saturday night, I noticed that the hot water was lukewarm.  I figured the pilot went out on the hot water heater, so I went downstairs and re-lit it.  Since we had no hot water, I figured Robert's bath will have to wait till Sunday morning. 

Sunday morning comes, and after breakfast I notice there water isn't even warm.  I went to the garage to relight to pilot then ran back upstairs.  I thought we'd have hot water in a couple hours.  I heard a noise that sounded like a door slamming and wondered - was that the water heater?  I went back downstairs and the pilot was out.  I re-lit it, then waited to see what happens.  In less than 3 minutes, pfffffllllloooOOOOM!  A flame about 12 inches long, 4 or 5 inches wide shoots out from the bottom of the water heater!  And of course, the pilot went out.  Not thinking clearly, I press the ignition button, and ppppffflllloom! Another flame shoots out.  "OK," I thought, "I'm done with this."  I shut the gas and water off to the tank and went back upstairs.  No hot water till this is fixed!

Monday morning comes, and I start calling around to either get this repaired or replaced.  Over the phone, most people ask for the make, model, and build date.  Of course, I had none of this.  Isn't a hot water heater just a hot water heater?!  Apparently, it's not.  Baron from Excalibur Water Heaters was one of the guys who told me he couldn't really advise me of any course of action without that information, so I did my research, and in the home inspection report, where the inspector is supposed to list the hot water heaters' brand, age, and condition, he included a picture.  A picture... that didn't show the age of the hot water heaters or the condition, but it did show the brand.  Great report.  It seems like every time I have an issue with something that this inspector was paid to inspect, the report falls short. 

Anywho, I did get the brand of the heater, so I continued in my quest.  One guy told me he couldn't really do anything for me until I figured this out.  I realized that was a good thing after many, many more calls.  Things I was told ranged from, "It'll cost you [me] a base fee of $200 to get me [the plumber] out there, then $200 an hour if I can fix it.  But, if I need to go get parts, the return visit is another $200 base fee."  Uh, no.  I'm not paying you anything just to come look at something that you don't know you can fix!  Another said something similar: $125 to come out and look at the problem, then give an estimate as to how much it will cost to do the job, if it can be done.  Again, pass. 

In all, I called about 9 different plumbers.  Of those 9, 6 came out to look at it free of charge.  Of those 6, 4 said I should get a new water heater.  Of the other two, one said he could probably fix this, with the parts being covered under warranty since it was installed in 2010, but he doesn't know for sure that he can fix it.  I asked if he'd ever seen something like this before, and evasively, he basically said no.  He responded that he'd been doing repairs on hot water heaters for over 20 years, and over 20 years, he's seen a lot of things.  He never specifically said yes, he's seen a hot water heater shoot flames like a dragon before, so I asked again, "In 20 years, have you seen a hot water heater shoot flames?"  Again, he dodged the question and replied, "It could be caused by any number of things.  I'd suggest replacing different parts one by one, until it stops."  Yeah, if you can't give me a yes or no answer about your experience, I'm not paying you a cent. 

Next, I called A.O. Smith, since I found out the parts were covered under warranty.  The operator gave me 3 companies who service their warranty repairs.  I called all three.  One said he was really busy, and not in San Francisco, so he couldn't make it out till the end of the week.  Pass.  The next one said they couldn't make it until tomorrow, so I scheduled an appointment.  The third one said it sounded like the hot water heater was improperly installed, and it may not be covered by the warranty - F'ING GREAT.  He said he could come by to take a look at it later in the day. 

I left work early, and was surprised to find my 1 pm appointment already there.  The guy looked at the water heater, then said he recommended replacing it.  Literally, he looked at the water heater wrapped in insulation, bent down and looked at the bottom where I said flames shot from, then said I should replace it.  He didn't even touch it!  He said he could replace it right away.  Yeah, sure, of course he'd want me to replace it!  He'd get paid for the sale of the new heater, and the labor to replace it, but I felt like he didn't even look at the old heater! 

Another plumber came, he turned on the gas, lit the pilot, then waited.  I advised him to step away, he obliged.  PPPFFFLLLLOOOOM!  "Holy shit! I've never seen that!"  Hhhhmmm, there goes your credibility.  "Honestly, I wouldn't know where to start.  Good luck!"  Well at least he didn't charge me, but I realized I should've charged him for the show. 

Another plumber came, this time it was one who serviced AO Smiths.  He lit the pilot, stepped back, PPFFLLLOOOM!  No grand exclamation, no cursing, just a real somber look.  I asked him, "What's the verdict?"  He tells me, "I've seen this before.  What probably happened when they installed it was they dropped the tank.  My guess is there's a dent in the bottom, and gas is building up.  When there's enough gas in there, it ignites.  To fix it, I'd have to completely drain the heater and push out the dent, then put it back together.  You're better off getting a new water heater.  It'll be cheaper, and you'll know it won't have any issues."  I asked if he sells them, and he said he just services them.  He did recommend a brand other than Rheem, but said Rheems are good, too. 

I scheduled an appointment with Baron from Excalibur Water Heaters for 11:30 - Noon the next day.  Around 11 AM, I got a call from his son saying they finished a job in my area and were heading to my house.  I told him to call me when they got there, if they got there before me.  About 5 minutes later, he called and said he was standing by the garage door.  I gave him the code and told him it was the 40 gallon heater on the left hand side.  He said there was plenty of working room, and they'd probably be done in about 20 minutes.  When I arrived 10 minutes later, the old water heater was draining in the middle of the garage, and the new water heater was connected.  It took them about 20 more minutes to clean up and double check everything.  Overall, it was a very fast, clean install.  I'm very happy with the timeliness and cleanliness of their work.  And, we finally had hot water again!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


So Michelle had some guys from Anderson doing repairs upstairs at her place.  One of her double hung windows was leaking and it stained the wall.  Her kitchen french doors were leaking, too, so they re-sealed it.  They came down to look at the damage to my kitchen wall, and they said they don't think it's due to the water leaking from her door.  What?!  I don't understand how if it was fine before her new door went in, and it started to leak after her new doors were installed, how is it NOT due to the work they did?  Rich decided that he wanted to come back with a long hose and test it out to see where it may be leaking from.  The contractor, Juan, said that I try to see if I can find where it's leaking from before they fix anything. 

They looked at the picture window - yes, it's not privacy glass.  Yes, the old one was privacy glass. yes, it should have been privacy glass.  Rich said he'll order a new one that's privacy glass to replace it. 

He looked at the double hung windows, slid his finger along the edge, opened and closed it a few times, then asked if the cloth diapers stopped the whistling.  Yes, they did.  He said there's a long piece of felt that he can have placed along the seam of the window that would effectively do the same thing, so that's what he'll have done. 

He looked at the caulking in the bathroom around the window.  Yes, it's cracking almost all the way around now.  He said they used the wrong type of caulking, and it'll have to be removed and re-done. 

He said someone from his office would contact me to schedule a time to have the work done. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Let There be HEAT!

We're about to begin the process of replacing the heater.  As usual, nothing's ever easy.  Luckily, a friend's husband does HVAC (Airflow Pros in SF), so we have some assistance with making the right decisions.

We're going with a Trane machine, based on his recommendation over Bryant's.  He said he has more service calls for Bryant's and finds the Tranes to be more reliable.

To get things up to code (gotta love SF), we need to put the furnaces on their own breakers (so we need an electrician), we have to T off the gas line to the water heater and furnace (it currently daisy chains from the main to the water heater to the furnace), we have to vent out into an open area (roof top), and we need to find somewhere for the condensation to possibly drip.  The biggest thing is that we also have to abate the asbestos lined ducts that are currently in place.

Another decision that we had to make was whether or not we wanted acoustic lined air base.  Make it quieter?  For sure!  Hopefully it doesn't get too overcomplicated. 

By the end of next week, we could have a functioning heater!