Friday, April 7, 2006

House Project: Learning to Debug System Problems

I am beginning to get a little frustrated with my builder. He put in our mailbox a couple of weeks back--great! Then the mail carrier asked us to move it back so it was lined up with all the other mailboxes on our rural road. This way, he can just drive along, one box right after the other.

Okay, the builder moved our mailbox--but didn't fix the self-closing doors in the house while he was up there. (He forgot his hammer--any mechanic's most important tool. "If it doesn't work it, hit it. If it breaks, it needed replacing, anyway.")

There's been some settling of the house, and a few minor cosmetic matters need repair--a few places where some sealant and some paint are required. Not big, but he's a little too busy on new subdivisions, so we are waiting.

The big stuff, however, is all water related. The pressurization pump in the garage is what takes water from the water tank (gravity fed) and pushes it up to normal house water pressure. The pump has been dripping some water the last few weeks, however--enough to be a concern. Finally, today, after I was able to describe the symptoms (pressure spiking from 65 psi to over 100 psi after running water in the house), the pump guy was able to identify and fix the problem for the second time. (The first time was a recall from the manufacturer.)

So we go up to the house this evening to put in some more curtains, and I notice that there is no water. The pump is trying--but even the faucet that is gravity-fed has no water.

I call the builder. He has me call the pump guy. The pump guy at least is able to tell me what to check. Now I know where the switch and breaker that feed the well pump that feeds the water tank are.

I also looked into the water tank--the float that controls whether the well pump should be running either droops down, and starts the well pump, or is horizontal (as the water fills the tank), and that shuts off the well pump. The float was horizontal because it was stuck in a corner of the water tank. I reached in, pulled it loose--and about five seconds later, there was a whooshing sound from the pipe that leads to the water tank, followed about 30 seconds later by water. This is frustrating, but at least I am learning how to debug these problems myself.

I have been a little concerned about the water color. It is perfectly safe to drink, and actually tastes pretty good--but it is yellowish to brownish--far too much to want to use for a bath. When I looked in the tank, I noticed that there is a good bit of dirt and mud that has fallen when the lid was off at various times. The builder was supposed to get someone up there to pump the tank out, let it dry, and then vacuum out all the loose dirt. But that was weeks ago, and he just hasn't gotten to it. I suppose that I could do this myself, and perhaps I will. Fortunately, I could use a siphon to get all but a small amount of water out, and then use a shopvac to finish the cleaning process. It might help to have a small child that I could lower down into the tank to finish the cleaning process, but I'm fresh out of small children at this point in life.

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