Live-blogging the plumber

Drain has been blocked for a while. Sometimes it clears itself. Not this time.

I couldn’t find the plumber’s details from last time, and ended up ringing Drains Direct. (How could I blog the plumber’s visit, yet not keep track of his contact details? How stupid of me.)

8am. Plumber arrives. Wants to look at sewerage plan. Fair enough too. Why did I not think to have this on hand?

Plan shows drains go under my rear neighbour’s property, then to a boundary trap out there. We go knock on the door and ask her to have a look. Graciously for an unexpected visit at this time of the morning, she lets us know her drains aren’t blocked, but she has heard gurgling noises, and she shows us to the back garden where the plumber needs to check where everything joins up.

So… it’s gonna be a bunch of dosh for the first 90 minutes of work. And by the way, no guarantees if the blockage is so far down the pipe it can’t be reached.

Her drain joins the communal pipe near the top; mine is at the bottom.

8:20am. First step is trying a jet thingy from that rear connection, up my drain to see if it unblocks anything. It doesn’t.

The plumber's tree root machine

8:40am. Tree rooter device. Not as ancient as the last plumber. In via the gully trap in my back garden. But it won’t go down around the bend. Bugger.

He tries a couple of times. No dice.

9:00am. The second plan: in via another drain which has no trap at the bottom. But this is going to involve cutting an existing pipe, and knocking away some concrete to do it. It sounds involved, and expensive. On the upside, he will leave a much improved access point for if this ever happens again… which no doubt it will.

This is going to take more time, and more money — another block of time, probably taking until lunchtime. I have to think carefully about this. The last plumber didn’t need to do this. But is it a different problem this time? Who knows.

Sigh. It’s hard enough these days getting time off work and arranging this kind of thing. I might as well just go ahead and do it.

Now he’s cutting and chopping and making a helluva lot of noise out there. It’s doubly unfortunate that he’s working just outside Isaac’s window… and for the first time this year, Isaac is sick in bed trying to sleep. Blargh, I wonder if this was a good idea.

10:00am. Tree rooter thingy back down the new hole. 5 metres… 10… 15… 20… Ah, breakthrough! The blockage is cleared!

10:20am. Ran lots of water and flushed the toilet a few times to verify it’s draining properly. It is. Thank goodness for that.

Tried to work out which tree it might be. Possibly one in the neighbour’s back yard. As the last plumber said, not much you can really do about it without digging the whole lot up, which would cost many thousands. If it’s only going to happen this bad once every 5-6 years, then hopefully it won’t take too long to resolve in future.

Interestingly, the sewerage plan notes the pipe used to go direct, but was diverted so it doesn’t go under the neighbour’s house — when that house was built in the 90s. Sensible.

11:40am. After going off to get parts, he came back and replaced the pipe that had been cut away with a new inlet thingy. Looks rather good… for a pipe. Should make this saga a lot quicker/easier next time.

11:50am. All done. And the final cost? The basic callout and first 90 minutes is $385. The extra work (including parts, thankfully) was another $385. So, $770, plus GST of $77 is a whopping $847. Sigh.

Here’s hoping it’s at least another 6 years before this happens again.

The central heating stopped working

As you can see, I just love getting up in the roof and having to try and get the heater working.

Delighted as always to be up in the roof messing with the heater

Not that it happens often, but yesterday the heater stopped going. Following the relighting instructions, the pilot will light, but after waiting the specified minute to switch it to full On mode, goes out again.

Argh.

Waking this morning, the house had cooled to 11 degrees overnight. Some people on the Interwebs with this problem suggested trying again after it’d been off for a few hours, but doing so this morning was not successful.

So I’ll be calling in the service people.

The heater is the wonderfully named Brivis Wombat 92. I assume that means it’s a 1992 model, probably installed in the house when it was renovated around 1995. Hopefully it’s just a minor issue for a service person to get it going again. Would rather not be without it for too long.

Update: via Service Central (a suggestion from Kev on Twitter) I found a repair bloke who could come out today. They replaced the injector and the thermo-whatsit, and the beast works again. Total cost including parts about $320 – which sounds like a lot, but apparently it would have cost even more to call out Brivis to do it.

The week in house maintenance

It was house maintenance week this week. I took a couple of days off to do some de-cluttering and get some people in.

Hard rubbish got rid of two old mattresses, three former recycle bins, a big plank of wood, an old fan and two disused old bicycles. Amusingly, between putting stuff out/booking the collection and having it picked up, one bike disappeared, then came back, then the second went.

On Tuesday I got my ducts cleaned. (Note: This is not a euphemism.)

On Wednesday it was the pest controllers, as part of my self-declared War On Cockroaches. The guy sprayed inside and out, and we evacuated for a while to let the fumes dissipate — into the city for some lunch, a walk around, and some photography.

Princes Bridge and the Southbank footbridge, Yarra River, Melbourne

Of course, the most exciting news this week in the ‘hood has been the opening of the new Aldi store in downtown Bentleigh (in the old IGA site). Wednesday was opening day, and it was packed with people hunting down $10 kettles and toasters, and $89 Android tablets.

$89 at Aldi. Should I or shouldn't I?I must admit I was tempted by the latter. But in the end I decided not to buy it, for three reasons: [1] the check-out queues were really long, [2] although it’s cheap, a review reckoned this model of tablet has poor Wifi reception (and in fact the reviewer ended up returning it due to poor battery life), and perhaps most importantly, [3] I’d just spent days de-cluttering the house, and buying something I didn’t really need would be a backward step,

And after all, there’ll be other cheap tablets. Wait a few months and there’ll be a better one for the same price.

Going solar – when should I jump, and how many panels?

Pondering adding to the solar hot water on my roof with PV panels for electricity generation.

My last electricity bill says I used up 659 kWh in 92 days, costing $187.61 (only including the cost for power and the 100% GreenPower surcharge; excluding the $76.41 service charge which I’d incur no matter how much power used)… that adds up to 2614 kWh in a year costing $744.32, or about 28.5 cents per kWh.

According to Origin Energy’s online quote (which I’m using as a rough measure, because I use them at the moment and they have a 2-years interest-free deal — obviously other companies may have better offers):

  • a 1.5 kW system costing $2315 will generate about 1971 kWh in a year
  • a 2.07 kW system costing $4315 (which includes a $250 discount because I got the solar hot water through them) will generate 2628 kWh in a year
  • a 2.76 kW system costing $5815 (ditto on the $250 discount) will generate 3626 kWh in a year

Leaving aside feed-in tariffs, and assuming for a moment that every kWh generated I actually use (which wouldn’t be the case), theoretically the 1.5 system would save me $562 per year, taking about 4 years to pay off.

The 2.07 system would pretty much save me the full cost of power every year, but take almost 6 years to pay off.

The 2.76 system would give me an excess of about 1000 kWh of power each year. The feed-in tariff is only 8 cents per kWh these days, so I’d be saving $744 plus another $80 or so, so it’d take about 7 years to pay off.

Some factors to consider:

If I cave and get some kind of cooling system, then my energy consumption will of course go up.

From what I understand, PV panels are dropping in price pretty fast. The longer I wait, the cheaper they’ll be (which is why I’m a little cynical about the ads you see on the telly implying if you don’t get in and order quickly, you’ll end up paying more).

Meanwhile, electricity prices are expected to rise only moderately in the next few years.

The bigger the system, once paid off, the greater potential in future years to make more money back from the feed-in tariff.

But I also need to check how much space I actually have left on the north and northwest-facing sides of my roof, given the solar water panel already up there.

And of course, once I jump in and switch to solar, I’ll be markedly reducing my personal emissions, which will be good!

A record 9 days above 30 degrees

Thank goodness that scientists aren’t warning of any kind of permanent warming of the climate that might prove, y’know, dangerous — otherwise a record-breaking run of hot days might be a tad alarming.

Thank goodness scientists aren't warning the climate might get so hot it'd be dangerous.... oh, wait.

One shouldn’t jump to conclusions of course. As Jon Stewart quipped:

“Global warming is a total hoax. And I’ll tell you how I know. Because it’s cold, today, where I live. That’s jus’ science.”

…and the opposite applies.

I don’t know if this record run of hot days is some freak weather event caused by something else, or a demonstration of how climate change manifests itself. But at the very least this record being broken should be a warning of what’s likely to keep happening into the future as temperatures rise.