Entry: One thing leads to another Monday, July 19, 2004

There's an old Fixx song with the line "One thing - one thing leads to another..."

Life is kind of like that lately.

We had the electrical service on our house upgraded a couple of weeks ago. This was kind of a major undertaking and meant we had no power for a day while everything was unhooked.

I thought we were going to be done with major household expenses for at least a bit (other than getting our driveway paved to make the city happy!) but luck did not hold -- or maybe it did given the way things have gone with the house lately.

Within a couple of days after the service upgrade we realized that our electric dryer wasn't running hot anymore. It's a pretty old dryer that was in the house when we bought it. Judging by the amount of chrome I'm guessing 15 years old or more.

There are several possibilities at this juncture the first of which I ruled out by going to Menards and buying an electric circuit tester. The 240 volt outlet that our dryer is plugged into is working at the full 240 volts. The wiring does this by combining two 120 volt circuits -- it was possible that one of them wasn't connect up correctly when our wiring was redone. No such easy luck.

That means that the problem was either the element had given out or someother piece of wiring or circuitry had died. I could have started to try to track down which one but it would have been a lot of work and I don't know how much success I'd have had. I could also have hired an appliance repairman to come out and look at it. But it's a 15+ year old dryer.

When we moved in we knew that the washing machine was old, and the dryer was really old. We figured we would buy a new set, maybe, before we eventually sold the house again. We decided that this was fate giving us a kick in the pants to just go ahead and do it now. It's not the ideal time monetarily, but you don't get to pick that sort of thing. And at least we'd get the benefit of a new washer and dryer.

So we went to Home Depot after checking some prices online and seeing that they were pretty reasonable. We found a nice, not-quite-bottom-of-the-line set of washer and dryer that wouldn't totally blow our credit card out of the water and ordered them for delivery.

Saturday was the day that they were supposed to show up, and they came right on time, bright and early.

Ah, yes... except... (And this meant that the delivery people could not do the installation for us.)

The dryer outlet is not a dryer outlet. It's a range outlet. The difference is that one of the pins on a dryer plug is L-shaped. The do-it-yourself former home owner without a clue strikes again. Fortunately the voltages are the same, and the number of pins are the same so it was just a matter of buying a range cord instead of a dryer cord. You have to buy one or the other anyway -- electric dryers don't come with cords. But there's more...

Our existing dryer vent turned out to be another miscombobulatory on-the-cheap bit of half-assery by some previous owner. It runs through an opening in the wall that separates our laundry closet from our bathtub then out the wall of the house behind the bathtub. But at some point in time someone had replaced the middle part of it with a piece of metal tubing - except that the dryer vent is 4", and the metal tubing was 6"... So, instead of going and buying a $2 piece of 4" tubing, they squeezed the 6" tubing in on itself to get it down to 4" and squeezed some kind of glue all over it to try to hold it together. Then they bent the crap out of it to get it into the space beneath the bathtub, poking a hole in it's side in the process, and thus defeating the purpose of keeping the hot dryer exhaust enclosed on it's way out of the house. The area beneath the bathtub and behind the dryer was covered in lint.

After removing this piece of foo-barritry, I discovered that a normal sized section of insulated flexible dryer vent hose would reach from the back of our dryer through the wall and back to the vent on the outside wall of the house pretty easily...

I have no idea why they didn't do this in the first place, unless it was because it originally had been done with one long flexi-hose which then broke in the middle, and rather than spend $10 on a new piece of modern insulated hose, they'd taken a piece of 6" (again - too big) metal tubing they happened to have lying about, and tried to jury-rig it into place.

It has to be that or they were just insane, and for avoiding buying a $10 part they must have been so cheap as to be a bit insane anyway.

Alas, dear reader, our troubles do not end there. The hot and cold water valves for the washing machine also came to be trouble. The intrepid former-homeowner had cut the copper pipes in the wall between the laundry closet and our bathroom sink and soldered in t-joints and copper lines to connect the valves for the washing machine.

One of the valves is so corroded that the old washing machine hose can't be removed from it. The other valve is both leaky and appears to perhaps be (originally) a gas line valve or something. It doesn't go from off to on... You can turn it as much as you like and it goes from off to on to off to on ... ad infinitum in the same direction.

To make matters more interesting, an elbow soldered into the copper pipe below one of the valves has now started a very slow drip. And the old washing machine hose which is serving temporary duty until the valve it's corroded to can be removed has a very slow leak where it connects to the washing machine.

For an temporary fix I've slathered silicon sealant on the leaks and have them under control (sort of), but iI fear there's a plumber in our future, and my wallet quakes with dread.

And I got to spend my Saturday tweaking and tinkering and slathering, wobbling heavy appliances into a closet, and fiddling with the feet to get them level. We hadn't had a working dryer for a week so getting them running, no matter how much trouble, was a great relief.

Oddly enough, the new washer and dryer are physically smaller than the old ones and lighter, but they have a bigger capacity. That, at least, worked out very nicely. The old machines left on the delivery truck so we also didn't have to deal with having to get rid of them. (And from the grunts and groans of the two big guys maneuvering them out the door, I'm quite happy we didn't have to do that!)


June 27, 2005   06:48 AM PDT
It sounds like you moved into my house- I habve the dryer outlet also. I was just checking to see if cords are the same- We've used the outlet for 30 years...new cords, but I always forget it is a range cord that I need! And Lowe's will be here today with the new w& d- have to run over to Home Depot for a range cord. I kust know they won't have one!!!!
July 19, 2004   10:57 AM PDT
My God.....can anyone say "money pit?" Geez Tim, my life seems almost sane compared to this insanity of yours. Those former homeowners had better have a huge karmic payback coming to them. I recommend to future home buyers, get one of those "warranty" type agreements where if you find serious problems within so many months of ownership, you can get some kind of compensation. It's been years since I bought a house, but it seemed smart at the time.

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