Listen to Your House

Alice and I usually finish up our days by resting upstairs with a laptop or tablet scrolling through facebook, watching youtubes, reading, or watching netflix content. In order not to bother each other, if there is audio, we often have headphones on.

Last night I had my ‘phones on and was listening to something or the other, when I sat bolt upright, took them off, and stared intently straight ahead. There was a sound, ever so faint, but one that did not belong, coming from somewhere in the house.

I got up and did a short investigation, and discovered that the pressure relief valve on the upstairs how water tank was running. This happens a couple of times each winter, as a direct result of the hybrid hot water system in our house. In the summer, a homemade solar collector heats our water on sunny days. In the winter, a water jacket inside the firebox of our Monarch Wood/Electric Stove does the trick. In-between a small electric hot water heater does the job.

Several days ago the Monarch started to smoke, so I rolled up my sleeves and cleaned it out. This project takes me a couple of hours, and is not a job I enjoy doing. The advantage is the stove doesn’t smoke anymore. The disadvantage is until a little soot accumulates in the stove’s innards, the wood in the firebox burns very fast. Couple that with the high 20s weather we’ve been having, which means we’ve been primarily heating the house with the woodstove, and you have a recipe for the domestic hot water supply to become hot enough to blow the pressure relief valve.

I approached Alice with a proposal. “Would you be willing to take your nightly shower now instead of later?” Since she doesn’t listen to the house, she had no idea why I’d make such a request. But when I explained the situation to her, she agreed to help (what a trooper!) With our hot water system, the only way to turn off the pressure relief once it pops is to cool down the tank significantly. While she showered, I filled the sink up with hot water. Between the two of us, we were able to lower the temperature of the tank enough to turn off the relief valve. Calamity averted!

I suppose there is something primal about this sixth sense I seem to have; when something just doesn’t “feel” right in the house. Our ancestors probably heard dangerous critters stalking outside the domicile, and didn’t live to procreate unless they dealt decisively with these dangers. I’m downright amazed at myself actually. Alice can suggest in a loud voice that the clothes I’m putting on look like they came out of a dung heap, and I can’t hear a word she is saying. But let a valve release some pressure at a few decibels, and I’ll hear it even though “Thunderstruck” is booming in my headphones.

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