I have a Friend…
...who just loves to call me when there is some strange hot water problem to troubleshoot. Fortunately, we always seem to find answers. Sometimes troubleshooting involves finding what isn’t there, because simply noting what is there doesn’t really give you enough clues about what’s wrong. Sherlock would be proud!
That’s sort of what one of his jobs was like a while back. Sometimes the pump moved water. Other times it didn’t. Was it in the controls, or out in the piping, or? It looked like an air trap, so we fixed the piping to eliminate that… no luck. We tried bypassing controls… no change. We took things apart and flushed out all the piping, one piece at a time. It seemed to work and then it didn’t! The final bit of work gave us a useful clue. It worked fine with cold water, but when it got hot, it quit. Ahhh! It must be a thermostatic element in the piping. Close, but not quite right. It turned out the wrong type of element had been installed for this particular use.
They didn’t even have all these different types of thermostatic elements when I was out there every day, putting this stuff in. But things change. That’s a given. What was demonstrated on this job was when you eliminate all other possibilities, the problem is left there alone in the lineup, staring back at you. It had looked like some soft rubber had gotten into the line because when the pump didn’t work, water could still flow under street pressure, but the small pressure the pump created couldn’t move water. Flushing the pipes was the only way to be sure that wasn’t the case, or if it was, the rubber or whatever would have been flushed out.
This story reminds me why I’m a fan of simplicity, who is our friend. Complexity is not our friend when it comes to plumbing or buildings! It confounds and confuses us. It uses its tricks to deceive, and we don’t know what all of those tricks are. It seems to take pleasure in doing these things at the worst possible times, so they’ll cause the greatest disruption.
Just to be clear, the number of possible interactions increases as the square of the number of parts. One part = one action. Two parts = four. Three parts = nine interactions and so on. Then throw in time for corrosion and wear to happen, water hardness, user mistreatment or neglect, someone turning a wrench who should have been in a completely different line of work, and you begin to get a picture of why I like simple. Elegant simplicity is even better, but harder to reach.
My friend keeps me on my toes, and I’m grateful for that, even if I have to get out the oilcan and lube my brain occasionally.
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Looking back over my working life of 50+ years, it seems clear that self sufficiency has always been the best way for me to be useful. Now, mix in a strong interest in water in its many forms and the wide world of animals and you'll know what's important to me.