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[personal profile] viverra
Yesterday was day from Hell. Very cold. Like 10 or 15 below zero. But that was just the start.

My car - a VW diesel - was frozen. I've had it since 1999 and this is the first time it needed a block heater, so I guess the dealer wasn't completely wrong when he said I didn't need one. I noticed this at about noon when I was intending to go over to Jamie's house to work.

Phoned a friend, who suggested I set up a heater under the car. He said the ceramic heat cubes work well. I have one, but couldn't find it anywhere. I finally thought to use a heat gun. I called my mechanic to make sure that was OK, and asked him what else I could do. He said get some anti-gel, and it would be be good to have a battery charger handy. But of course, the car was frozen so I wasn't going anywhere. The heat gun wasn't doing a whole lot. I'd periodically go out and try starting the car; no go.

Meanwhile.... the pellet stove was going at a roar. I noticed that the flames were issuing not only from the burn pan, as was normal, but also from behind the burn pan and out the sides. It was still in the stove and contained, but it was not normal. I especially worried that the flame could somehow moveup the feeder into the fuel bin. So I brought the fire extinguisher in to where it was handy, and removed most of the pellets with a shovel. I also removed the large bank of ash from in front of the flame.

I tried to get some information as to whether this was normal. The manual was not helpful. The manufacturer's website was also not helpful, but it gave a customer support number, which I called. I ended up being on hold for maybe an hour. The really annoying part was the inane and seeming random recitations of the number of minutes it would be until I could talk to a real person. Finally gave up. Wrote an urgent email on the website. No answer.

The stove shuts itself off when it runs out of pellets. I let it do so (took a long time!) and watched. Looked to me that the flame was going back instead of forward because the air orifaces might be clogged. I built a fire in the wood stove (ha! to anyone who thought it odd that I left the wood stove in place when I installed the pellet stove!) and waited for the pellet stove to cool enough to clean it.

Back to the car. Tried again to start it; still frozen. About 5, I called my friend Barb and asked if I could borrow her car. Unfortunately, she'd have to drive over to get me. She said it would work if I could drive her right home, since she and Howard were leaving for a gig at 6. I'd have to be ready to go. So I fed the woodstove, put on my coat, hat, and gloves, and started to dismantle the heat gun arrangement (since I couldn't leave that going if I left the house). And tried one final time to start the car. It caught!

I called Barb immediately to let her know, but Howard said she had already left. So she drove over and back, needlessly, as it happens, but that she was willing to do so speaks volumes for her generosity and kind heart. Thank you, Barb.

I drove to AutoZone, taking the long route so the car could warm up and recharge the poor cold battery, and got some diesel anti-gel. I also bought a battery charger with money I don't have. I hate putting anything else on the credit card; I'm trying to get it paid off, and a charger is one of those things you can do without.. mostly. Many times over the years I've needed one and I've always managed to borrow one. It's about time I get one of my own, so I can be on the lending side of that equation. Besides, we have more cold weather ahead...

The pellet stove was still way too hot to clean. There were a lot of active hot coals in the ash bin. I fed the wood stove and went to Jamie's to work on the sound files for his movie.

When I got home, the cats were complaining that their water bowl was empty, so I went to fill it -- no water. Pipes were frozen. I went to the basement to check on the basement heater; it was functioning fine. While not exactly toasty, the basement was above freezing - which is why I have the heater there. So...? Turns out there is a vent about three feet over the main water inlet. It was blocked off for the winter, but there was a distinct freezing draft right on the main water pipe inlet. I stuffed a bunch of old fiberglass insulation between the pipes and the vent, braced it with some sticks, and placed an inspection light right next to the pipes. This was both for the heat of the incandescent bulb and for the outlet on the inspection light, into which I plugged heat tape. Haven't used the heat tape since before the basement heater was installed, but it was still there. Upstairs, I opened a couple of spigots a tiny bit so if the water started to thaw, it could move.

Firmly into the wee hours at this point, I went to bed.

I awoke to the blessed sound of dripping water, but the house down to 51 degrees. The wood stove didn't quite get through the night. The ashes in the pellet stove still contained live coals. I checked the basement -- no water leaks, thank goodness. But I left the tape and light on, since this was scheduled to be another frigid, though somewhat warmer, day. Brought in more wood, stoked the fire.

I still hoped to get down to NYC to my cousin's birthday party and for a visit with ndozo, but the car was frozen again and the woodstove not up to a long absence. At about 10:30, I realized there was no reasonable chance of getting to NY, so I dedicated myself to getting the pellet stove working again. The ash bin finally cooled enough that I moved the ashes (and some coals) into an enclosed ash bin. I found directions online that were much better than the manufacturer's directions, and discovered a number of ports and orifaces that needed cleaning. The process was very dirty. Afterwards, I showered, and did some computer work for awhile. Finally, about 4 pm, I filled the hopper and fired the stove up again. Eureka! Seems to be happy. So far so good. Somehow I feel like I've accomplished something.

There were other components to my day in hell -- I discovered my payment to a new Best Buy card had not been credited, leaving me with a 39 dollar late fee and worse, a supposedly no-interest purchase being charged nearly 21%interest. Nan tells me this is a not-uncommon pattern with them. But I'll save that for my next diatribe.

Right now, the house is warm, the cats are happy, and I'm getting to bed early for a change.

Date: 2009-01-18 06:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ndozo.livejournal.com
What a draggy day! Sorry it all happened, but maybe it was like a kind of bad-luck dump-out and now everything will go smoothly. I really hope so. And as usual, it could have been worse. I'm just sorry we didn't get together, but now I'm more determined than ever to meet up in Putney or Humarock or somewhere. Meanwhile, I've always liked this Robert Frost poem.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

-- Robert Frost

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