Thursday, June 28, 2012

Life as a sponge.

I don't know what it is about me that attracts water. I'm not even a great fan of Spongebob Squarepants. But  dammit if the water doesn't find me where ever I may be.

A couple of months ago I noticed an unusually wet spot in the middle of the yard. We had no rain in the previous couple of months and this spot was not at a low point in the lawn. A couple of days after I noticed this spot, the lawn guys cut the grass. I'm surprised that they didn't raise hell, because judging from the size of the hole they fell into the mower had to be stuck. 

Upon investigation I discovered that it wasn't a sinkhole, but a "junction box" for the septic system drain field piping. And of course, in typical contractor fashion the freakin' box was ABS (soft) PLASTIC. It's a wonder someone didn't put a foot through the damned thing.

So I dug all around it, framed it up and poured a concrete box around the junction. I then bought a cement stepping stone large enough to cover the opening and laid it on top. Now I have access to the drain pipes so that I can snake them out when necessary and keep the system working as it should. And I don't have to worry about the riding mower falling through again.

Ok, let's take a look at what we've had so far:

Solenoid on fridge- check.
Busted pipe in wall- check.
Leaking roof- check
Septic drain issues- check

What else could go wrong?  Hah!

After several months of no rain whatsoever, tropical storm Debbie decided to grace us with 6 or 7 days straight rain, rain and more rain. Heavy rain. During a lull in one of the downpours I went out to the shed (my workshop) and discovered that the many of the screws holding the tin on the roof had worked loose and water was pouring in onto everything. So what did I have to do? I got on the roof with a bucket of tar and took out each screw, tarred the hole, and put the screw back in tight. An hour or so later (and 20 pounds heavier from my clothes being soaked) I had everything water-tight once again.

Only to have my wife inform me that we had some water spots forming on the ceiling in the bedroom. *sigh* Due to the fact that it was now rather late in the evening, I told her I'd check it the next day after work, which I did. I found that the AC drain line was stopped up, and the switch that's supposed to shut off the compressor when the water backs up in the drain was not working. So the water was dripping through the insulation and eventually to the sheetrock of the ceiling.

Now one wouldn't think that this is much of an issue, right? Just unstop the line and everything is fine you say. But the idiots that installed the drain line on the AC did it the same way that all of the AC people seem to do it.... without any concern for the person who has to unstop the drain. The way things are set up looks like this:

You have the AC unit with a drain line and a "T" installed on it. The "T" has a removable plug so that you can "clean out" the line. Yeah, right. There is no good way to get anything into that tiny hole at a 90' angle which would be effective in removing the slime clog. And you can't really blow it out because the slime builds up in the drain line past the "T" and not so much between the "T" and the AC Unit. So if you try to blow it out, the air goes down the path of least resistance, which is back to the AC Unit, effectively negating the effort to blow the slime out of the drain.

After having to do this once before, I decided to make it user friendly so that next time I was in the attic sweating and trying not to fall through the ceiling I would be able to get the drain blown clean and get out quickly. I went to the local hardware and picked up the fittings I needed, came home, and put together the ideal junction for doing this sort of thing:

I made an "H" junction using two "T" fittings (bottom image). On the end of each "T" not connected to the main line I put a 45' elbow, which gives plenty of angle to insert an air hose or even a clean-out fish (top image).  With a plug in each elbow the air integrity is maintained as well. So now I can clean out the line between the unit and the junction, and from the junction to the outside. Both can be accessed with ease. Disconnecting them at the point shown allows me to insert a plug so that compressed air can be used to clean out either section of line without having the air take the path of least resistance, but instead pushing out the blockage.

Now, instead of running hose from the air compressor through the house and into the attic to blow out the drain I can simply take a small air tank with a ball valve (for a blast of air) and a hose that fits snugly into the 45' elbows that I installed up into the attic to take care of the problem. 

Total spent in parts- $4. Why the HELL can't they do this kind of thing in the first place? I'll tell you why- so that they can charge you $95 to come out and clear the line for you. Now all I have to do is replace the defective switch and the ceiling shouldn't get any further spots :)

*Edit- I put plywood in the attic this morning so that I'm not balancing on the rafters when I have to work in the attic. While I was up there I took a pic of the new fitting that shows it better than my primitive drawings :)