multiple antifreeze spills
Wednesday, December 19 2012
The guy from Carpet One showed up at around nine this morning and started installing the bamboo floor in our first floor office. For some reason I'd assumed it would be the kind of floor that is nailed into the subfloor (that was the impression the samples gave me when I'd seen them at Carpet One), but no, it was yet another "floating floor" to be floated on a thin pad of foam. I really don't like the way a floating floor feels underfoot, but in the end this particular floor ended up feeling more solid than the one installed upstairs, so I will probably learn to live with it. But, seriously, note to myself in the future: always demand to walk on an example of the installed floor (or a similar floor) before pulling the trigger on a flooring purchase. Ultimately, for me, the way a floor feels as I walk on it is more important than what it looks like.
The guy who did the floor today was one of the two guys who had installed the upstairs floor in the summer of 2011. That had been a much bigger job. Today's job would require half the manpower and be done by the early afternoon. And I'd already done the work of removing the old carpet. Ramona, who was more curious about the progress than I was, kept going into the first floor office to check in (and perhaps nibble on the installer's ear). He insisted he didn't mind.
Yesterday evening I'd gone into the boiler room for some reason and noticed substantial flooding by antifreeze. I couldn't find the origin of the leak, but it appeared to have come from the vicinity of the solar loop's expansion tank (the tank into which heating fluid can expand as it gets heated by the sun). In any case, it was no longer leaking. Today I decided to keep tabs on the situation down there as the sun came out and the circulator pump switched on. At first there was no leak at all except for a trivial amount spurting from the air release valve. Perhaps all the flooding had come from that; either it was defective or some combination of unusual circumstances had caused it to vent a substantial amount of hydronic fluid. So I went back to whatever else I was doing and didn't check in for awhile.
When I next went into the basement, it was flooded exactly as it had been yesterday evening, though this time it was in the process of flooding. I ran and got a five gallon bucket to catch the flow, which was dribbling off the expansion tank. After a close inspection, I finally found the source of the leak: a tiny crack, as thin as a hair and only about four millimeters long, near the equatorial weld on the expansion tank. A constant trickle from that leak had dumped several gallons of fluid on the floor (which would cost 20 or 30 dollars to replace, in addition to the 20 or 30 dollars' worth lost yesterday). This constituted something of an emergency, so I immediately drove out to Lowes and bought a little two gallon expansion tank ($26), which would probably be more than sufficient. I also bought a gallon of antifreeze ($13), whose replacement is the main expense of my solar hot water system.
You can imagine my horror when I got home and unpacked the Subaru only to find that half the antifreeze I'd just bought ($7 worth!) had spilled into the way back. The foil seal on the bottle had been torn ruptured and the cap put on loosely, allowing it to glug out at perhaps the same rate as the leak in the expansion tank. Even if none had leaked, I wouldn't want to be putting that fluid into my hydronic system. With the seal broken, it could be anything. So now, not only did I have a huge cleanup job down in the boiler room, I had one in the back of the Subaru as well. Fortunately, most of the spill in the car had been contained by a rubber mat, but the the syrupy fluid had gotten onto three cartons of Red Rose tea, a six pack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo, my jumper cables, and a car battery I've been having to bring with me due to the flakiness of the one under the hood. I managed to sublimate my foul mood enough to say nice things to the installer about the new bamboo floor, but when Ramona insinuated herself in my path as I ran about with buckets of water and contaminated objects, I hollered "Leave me alone!" She's been getting better at reading my emotional states, and I only had to tell her this once; she immediately went off somewhere to mope (and eventually take a nap).
The old expansion tank was 4.4 gallon in size and must have had a ruptured diaphram, because it was almost entirely full of fluid. When I disconnected it from its attachment point on the plumbing, it was too heavy for me to hold up, so I had to drop it into the catchment bucket below, letting the precious fluid in the system pour forth. I tried plugging the hole where the tank had been with my finger like a little Dutch boy, but eventually, if I wanted to do anything else with the rest of my day, I had to give up and let the fluid glurg out. Only a couple cups were left to drain; I have no idea what fraction of the system was lost, but it was definitely a considerable one. I tried to recoup some of the fluid in the old expansion tank, but it was full of a rust-colored slush that seemed best just to throw away.
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