May 13, 2011

Saga of the Heater

This is the harrowing tale that so ends the saga of the heater. At least I hope so. Heat has once again been restored, and all is happy. I got home from work this afternoon to find a nice note that the heater has been replaced. Turned on the heater and basked in the warmth. For about three minutes. Is that a smokey smell? Then next thing I know, the fire alarm went off. I quickly turned off the heater, threw open a window and fanned the air away from the smoke alarm. Lather, rinse, repeat. When the smoke alarm went off again for the second time, I called the building maintenance. This time, the maintenance man was close by and had an idea what the problem was. The smoke detector had an old battery, and apparently one of the signs of an ageing battery is an extremely sensitive alarm. Sensitive enough to be triggered by a new heater turning on for the very first time. A new battery, heater on, and all was good.

I took advantage of the fact that I had the maintenance man in my apartment (he always comes during the day when I am out) to bring up all the issues I have been having. Turns out they had had some layover in terms of management as well as maintenance personal, and in particular the last guy took a “what ever makes the problem go away” kind of approach which led to a lot of band aid solutions that didn’t really fix the problems. My previous heater that was reinstalled just 5 weeks ago was installed facing the wall, ie backwards. Rather than blow air into the apartment, it was trying to blow air into the wall.

I’ll digress from the story for just a moment to talk about one of my housemates from freshman year at college. She had called me into her dorm, panicked because her printer wouldn’t work and her essay was due. After poking around for a few minutes, I found she had plugged the printer in upside down. Printer cables in those days had male and female connectors.

Male connectors have little spokes, where female connectors have little holes that the plugs fit nicely into. These devices are usually just slightly not symmetrical by design. That way the wide part of the male plug fits the wide part of the female plug to prevent these kinds of silly mistakes. It turns out with enough force you can jam the things together.

That’s effectively what the previous maintenance man had done, chipping away the drywall to make a big enough opening for a device in that was never supposed to fit that way. The fan that circulates the air and keeps the unit from over heating kept hitting the drywall, and eventually wore out. As a result the unit burned out and here we are.

All’s well that ends well. The heater is fixed and I find myself enjoying a toasty apartment once again. Just in time to make the jump to summer!

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