The last week has been a crazy week of house problems. In the end we wound up with this:
A new water heater. An unnecessary and expensive new water heater. What does this have to do with squirrels? Well, it’s a long story.
About a week ago, the smoke detector in the basement, near the furnace and water heater, started to go off when both the furnace and water heater were on. Weird, we thought. No visible smoke but I know those devices can be sensitive. I called the company that services our furnace to have them come and check it out.
The furnace guy came out, cleaned the furnace and he noticed that we had low gas pressure coming into the house. His take was the low pressure was causing issues when both appliances ran — they weren’t running efficiently and causing particulate matter to set off the alarm. While his explanation didn’t make much sense to me, I figured, well, he’s the expert. Shrug. “Call the gas company,” he said.
So, I did. And, yes, we did have low pressure which took an entire day to resolve, including ripping out chunks of drywall in the basement bathroom to reach some pipes. Every guy that traipsed through the basement, pointed at this pipe or that pipe and said “That’s not right. That shouldn’t be there. This isn’t up to code. You’re meter shouldn’t be here.” and stuff like that. I am puzzled because we finished our basement about 8 years ago and everything passed inspection at the time and we had a p-i-c-k-y inspector. Do codes change that much, that quickly? Anyways, the clogged pipe was found — it was in an outside pipe that leads to the house. Hooray, I thought, problem solved. Then, the last guy that came through said the smoke alarm problem was not due to low pressure but rather the water heater not venting properly. He said it was spewing carbon monoxide into the basement and slapped a warning on the water heater and shut the gas off to it. The water heater has been in the house, venting that way, for 16 years!
OK, we thought. Guess it’s reaching the end of it’s life cycle. And we do NOT want CO in the house. So, we called a plumber, next, to get a new water heater.
Turns out we needed a special sized, hard-to-find water heater in order for the vent pipe to be at the correct angle and resolve our venting issue. It took days of waiting (without hot water) to get it. Friday night, it was installed. And, as soon as it was fired on, the smoke alarm went off. “That’s weird,” the plumber said. And he promptly turned off the gas to the water heater. “Call the furnace guy,” he said.
Late on Friday, found the furnace guy back out here. He shut off the gas to the furnace. We were left without heat or hot water with a big ice storm moving in the next day. At that point, I became an hysterical shrew — this problem had been going on for a week! Shouldn’t the furnace guy have found a venting problem the first time out? Isn’t that what the V in HVAC stand for? Ventilation? He promised to come back in the morning and check it out further. Before the storm.
Early Saturday morning, two guys were climbing all over the roof, trying to figure what the problem is. They discovered a squirrel problem. Squirrels had invaded the chimney (they chewed a hole in the wire grate around it), made a nest, destroyed parts of the flue liner and were clogging up the vent to both the furnace and water heater. The furnace guys cleared the problem and told me that we couldn’t run the furnace or hot water heater until the flue liner was replaced — after the ice storm. I started to cry. One of the guys said “Wait, wait, wait, we can fix this up.” And he spent more time on the roof and, who knows what he did, but the furnace is now running. I can’t run both appliances at the same time until the flue liner is replaced — hopefully this week. You can bet I have carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of the house and am very happy they are there.
So, the mystery of smoke alarm is solved. A week later. We do have heat and hot water (sort of…). And now, in addition to a new (unneeded) water heater, we will be adding a new flue liner to the house. Oh, and some drywall to repair the basement bathroom.
I’m hoping for an uneventful week.