sometimes you have to rip it apart
Sunday, December 18 2005
Last night I'd stayed up late adding a new set of ball valves and T-fittings to the return pipes that come back from the slab on their way to the boiler. This particular path hasn't been used at all this year, since I've been doing all the slab heating with solar energy. But I've only been able to keep the slab at a temperature between 53 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit this way, and if we ever get guests I'm going to want to hit it with some boiler-heated water. In the past the pipes ran directly from the boiler to the slab, but as I've written, this is an inefficient system that I've been hoping to fix with the help of a homemade heat exchanger (which is still in the works). These ball valves and T-fittings were to provide a method for attaching the heat exchanger while still allowing me to revert back to the old system while the new one is in development (and even after it is completed). Everything looked fine when I went to bed last night, but by this morning one of the solder joints had developed a leak, which was dripping regularly. At this point I'm hardly surprised to see my solder joints fail whenever I'm working with fittings that are either big or made of brass. These had both strikes against them.
Fixing that leak proved impossible. I'd resolder the joint and it would seem to hold, but an hour later I'd go down to check on it and the damn thing would be leaking again! I finally had to give up and head out to a set of housecalls in Woodstock.
When I returned, I ripped the leaking joint apart and completely redid it. In the course of all this soldering, resoldering, and desoldering, I'd managed to ruin one of the ball valves. Its vinyl gasket (which surrounds the stainless steel valve) had melted and prolapsed out into the place where water was supposed to flow.
This evening Gretchen and I watched the classic movie Brother from Another Planet. For a space alien movie made on a tight budget, it wasn't too bad, especially throughout its middle half, though both its beginning and ending were slow, and it was plagued by seemingly-irrelevant moralizing about the evils of drug dealers. The best thing about it was the dialogue, which was intelligent, funny, and often unexpected.
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