Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lessons Learned

Life is full of little lessons. Some are painful, some inconvenient and some life changing. This lesson was inconvenient and chilly. About 6 weeks ago Dena smelled gas in our house and had figured out that it was our gas fireplace. She shut off the valve and the smell dissipated, problem alleviated. I called the gas company to come out and check it and also adjust the pilot lights on our 1940's vintage O'Keefe and Merritt stove This is a free service that they do.

The gas company came out and it turns out the old valve that we don't really use to turn on the fireplace was leaking even in the off position. It was leaking at 0.3 cubic feet per hour. For the record, a pilot light can use up to 1 c'/hour. So, the leak was very, very small. There was more than enough air circulation both above and below our house to disipate the gas. We couldn't smell it and a gas leak detector was required to even know there was a leak. Now for the lesson. If you suspect a leak and it is not an emergency, call your plumber, not the gas company. Obviouisly, if you smell gas, shut it off and call the gas company. That's my disclaimer. But if you've shut off the gas and wish to call your plumber, that would be best.

The Gas Company, when detecting any sort of leak, is required for safety reasons to shut off the gas. I understand that but they also lock the shut off valve so that only they can turn the gas back on. So how are you supposed to get it fixed? Their answer to that is to have your plumber shoot compressed air through all the lines to test it. This can be damaging to the pipes and the pilot light mechanisms and is usually expensive. The gas company doesn't care, they are just covering their collective asses.

We spent the night with no heat on a very chilly night in Los Angeles. We managed to survive and get our plumber out on Saturday to fix the faulty valve. The gas company responded within an half hour to turn on the gas but we were cited again for another safety violation. This time for not having our fireplace flue permanently blocked open. Doesn't that sound silly? Why would I leave it open and let the cold air in when I'm not using the fireplace?

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