Sunday, January 03, 2010

Avoiding frozen pipes without setting fire to the house

Okay, I had three different Facebook friends mention they had frozen bathroom pipes this weekend. I think it's high time I share my discovery with the world regarding a great way to avoid frozen pipes forever.

When we renovated the house we made a really dumb decision and located the new master bathroom sink not only on an outside wall, but in sort of a "bumpout" that looks like this:

I know, I know...kind of looks like the side of an RV, right? Well, not the brightest idea, in retrospect. The pipes froze twice in the first winter. The solution we came up with was to install a Watts Water Circulating Pump on the hot water tank.

The concept is simple. On the "hot water out" pipe atop your water heater, you install the pump. under the sink with the problem pipes, you install a special mixing valve (that tubular thing in the foreground) that connects the hot and cold water pipes together before the water runs to the faucet. The gadget on the hot water tank has a 24-hour timer on it, on which you can set intervals of 15 minutes each for it to run at various times throughout the day. When it kicks on, it sends hot water up the hot water pipe, to the mixing valve under the sink, and back down the cold water pipe to the water tank, thus filling your entire system with hot (or at least warmer) water. Voila, no more frozen pipes. During the coldest time of year (!) I have it run once every two hours.

Installation is simple, and if you're lucky no soldering is necessary. By "lucky" I mean that if the hot water pipe coming out of the top of your hot water tank is flexible, then all you have to do (after properly turning off and emptying the tank) is unscrew the hose, put this gadget on in between it and the tank, and reconnect. If the pipes are straight copper, you'll need to cut the pipe. I helped a friend install one in his house and, to avoid soldering, we used a pipe fitting called a "sharkbite" fitting. Ask the guy at Home Depot about it.

Another advantage to this thing is you no longer have to wait ten minutes for warm water to reach the shower. The only disadvantage (other than the relatively minor electrical usage) is that you, ironically, must wait a bit for COLD water to come out of the tap. But really, which is worse, rinsing your teeth in warm water or crawling under the sink and setting fire to your house with a blow torch?

Friday, January 01, 2010

A pink kink in my think

Why pink? Why, why I ask you?

This New Years weekend will be spent painting my daughter's room pink. Why? Because after months and months of hounding and hounding me that she didn't like the washed-out green walls, I finally relented, made the mistake of handing her the Sherwin-Williams paint book, let her pick her three favorite colors, and thanked heaven she didn't pick obnoxious orange like she originally requested for the bathroom renovation. Then I made her promise that if she did most of the work emptying out her giant scrap heap of a room I'd paint her walls with her. So, pink it is. Never mind that it's a dark pink that will make the room feel like the inside of a Hello Kitty clock on a cloudy day. Never mind that her room currently has the cleanest and most not-in-need-of-repainting walls in the whole house. Never mind that I hate pink.

My hatred for pink goes back quite a ways. The first girl I ever dated wore nothing but pink. Everything, absolutely EVERYTHING, she wore, day in and day out, was pink. It would stun anyone to see her mix it up a little with a red scarf or a purple sash. Luckily she dumped me before I truly couldn't take it anymore.

A while back, researchers did a study that seemed to suggest women are genetically programmed to prefer shades of pink. One possible reason for this was that while men hunted, women gatherered, and they had to be able to spot ripe berries and fruits. I'm not buying this. My daughter hates berries.