08 January, 2018

Now What?

Saturday night, I'm sound asleep.
Nelson Surveying His Domain
Nelson, our boy cat, frequently wakes me up about this time, about eleven o'clock, when I've developed a really good snooze.

In his mind, his food is not correct. Not necessarily that he's out of food. The level of food could be low. Or, in the case of his wet canned food, it might just need my 'fluffing' it up to make it more appealing to him. Or, as it often is, he's just looking for reassurance that there is adequate food in the bowl.

He seems to rely heavily on my judgment in these matters, especially late at night. Just sort of a casual consultation, you might say. And, it wasn't like I was doing anything anyway.

That was the situation Saturday night. He comes into bed and sits beside my head, meowing softly until I wake up. Sometimes, he just wants to say hi. My waking up and scratching his head is enough to make him happy and he goes off somewhere to sleep.

Other nights, he's awakened me and lets me know that it requires my attention by gently putting his paw on my forehead, cheek, or nose until I tell him that I'm awake and actually begin throwing off the covers and getting out of bed.

Such was the case Saturday. I had to get up and go check the food. So, off we went to the kitchen. Me in my starkers and he in his extremely soft fur coat. He was right. The wet food supply was low and could definitely use topping up. So that's what I did. I added about a half can to his bowl and got some on my fingers in the process.

Nelson, of course, disappeared sometime while I was topping up his bowl. He went off to find a comfy place to sleep, his mission being completed.

I turned to the kitchen sink to rinse off my fingers so that I could head back to bed. Only one thing. When I turned on the faucet, no water. Not even a sigh of receding water in the pipes. Nothing. Uh oh.

We've had things like this happen before. Once, I went out to our parking area and the hose faucet there had snapped off, PVC piping being PVC, it had degraded because of constant exposure to UV light. Fifty-some pounds of water pressure became too much and it just snapped apart, shooting water straight up about eight feet into the air. That was an easy fix and resulted in my new policy of trying to paint every piece of exposed PVC piping we have, and there's a lot of PVC piping around here.

The other time, very similar scenario with no apparent cause, and after an hour or so, the well-pump decided to start working again. We never found anything that pointed to a cause or even an effect.

Back to Saturday night. I woke Dianna and told her what was going on and that I was going to go and check it out. I put on my cargo shorts and Crocs, and grabbed my flashlight, and went out to survey all our outside piping, expecting the worst. I looked around the pool, checked inside the pool pump house, all around our house, followed the main line along and into the raised planting bed, all around the Mennonite house, over to the new storage shed, which has a utility deep sink, and finally over to the well pump house beside the main gate. Nothing.

I listened at the door of the well-house. No sound. By now, I'm accompanied by all three dogs (they're sensing an adventure beginning), and by Nelson and Noel, two of the three cats, who, by the way, frequently accompany me when I head up to the gate. Whether its to take trash to the bin, which is just on the other side of the well-house, or to greet whoever might be at the gate. So they thought something entertaining might be happening too. I had forgotten to bring my keys with me, so I headed back to the house to retrieve them, accompanied by my retinue. 

After grabbing the keys and opening the well-house door, I looked inside, always being careful not to step on the odd gecko, frog, toad, or snake that might be hiding inside. No such visitors tonight. But, no activity in the well-house either. Not a sound. I tapped the pump a couple of times with my flashlight. I hadn't realized how much it looked just like my pool pump. I also tapped the pressure switch. Nothing. I flipped the two circuit breakers that control the gate motor and lights, the well-pump, and the lighting inside the well-house. The gate motor and lighting all worked as normal.

Nothing for it at this time of night. I headed back to the house and got back to sleep. I thought about calling the plumber, but it wasn't anything that couldn't wait until morning.

In the morning, I used some bottled water from the fridge to make coffee, and I retrieved a bucket of water from the pool to use for flushing toilets.

At about 7:30 AM, I called Eddie the Plumber. He's the most knowledgeable plumber I've found down here. He's definitely the go-to guy for anything plumbing emergency related. He said he could reach our place about 9:00 AM. I thought that was outstanding, and for a Sunday too.

Meanwhile, Vivien had come down to say good morning. She and her husband, Denis are visiting, staying in the Mennonite house. They too are affected by the water problem. In fact, they actually noticed it about 7:00 PM, Saturday evening when Denis went to take a shower before going to bed. They figured we'd notice it too and so didn't panic and went to bed. Denis helped me supervise Eddie during the repairs.

When Eddie showed up I showed him the well-house. He looked over the pump and zeroed in on the pressure switch. Eddie took the cover off of it and immediately found the problem. Half of the switch contacts had disintegrated.
Pressure Switch Broken Contact

You can see, from the photo at left, that all is not quite symmetrical inside the pressure switch. The contacts on the right side, where the pointer is pointing, are missing. They weren't missing when Eddie first removed the switch cover, but they had separated into about four or five tiny pieces and when he removed the switch, they fell out and disappeared in the driveway gravel.

The broken contact brought the whole water operation to a complete and total standstill. I didn't think to check the pressure switch, as I wrongly assumed that there couldn't be anything wrong in there. I had assumed the problem had to be with the water piping, or the pump itself, probably because of just recently having rebuilt the pool pump. Well, live and learn.
Corrosion on Contacts
This is something to keep in mind that will more than likely occur every few years, because of corrosion, like at left with the contact points, but more likely, material degradation due to plastic becoming fragile and brittle in this environment.

Everything breaks down here. Metal, wood, plastic. It doesn't matter what the material is. It all breaks and breaks down eventually. This switch lasted about seven years. I'll know what to look for next time.

While Eddie was disconnecting and removing the defective pressure switch, I headed up to Lano's Hardware and got a new switch. I was glad they open for half-days on Sundays. Being without running water definitely changes your lifestyle.

You might think it would be prudent to have a spare pressure switch on hand just for such a contingency. What you can't forget about is the environment here. Even though something is in storage, even if it's protected from exposure by boxes, wrappings, etc., it's still going to be affected by the environment. The high humidity and high summertime heat will conspire to destroy even the most well-protected piece of equipment.

Right after Eddie finished hooking up the switch, he turned the circuit breaker back on and immediately we were treated to the familiar humming of the well-pump. Life was quickly returning to normal.

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