It took two years from the time I bought Monkey Valley until there was hot running water to fill the beautiful claw foot bathtub in the upstairs bathroom. The bathtub was the first purchase I made after getting Monkey Valley. It weighs hundreds of pounds! Hugh and I brought it up in the ice blue Volvo station wagon I had at the time. With another friend helping, three of us managed to carry it up the stairs. Then it took two years for Hugh and I to install the solar power, the water pump, and get all systems going so that hot water was flowing through the veins of the house.
Plumbing has been one of the biggest challenges here, because it seems to be impossible to totally drain the house. I have a routine that takes about 1 ½ hours to do, to shut down the house when leaving it in winter time, which I have refined after various expensive mishaps involving small leaks, huge gushing leaks, expensive repairs, and even more expensive service calls:
- turn off the power to the pump
- open all the taps to drain the water
- drain the line down at the pump house
- open the screw under the Bosch flow-through propane hot water heater to drain the water in its pipes (failure to do this led to two very expensive repairs)
- drain the water filter system (forgot to do this once and the whole thing busted)
- drain the lowest line in the house
- attach a hose and drain the line to the outside tap, which is even lower
- drain the tap from the cold water tank
- drain the washing machine, which has a tiny little tube at the bottom for this purpose
- scoop remaining water out of toilet bowls (two)
- put salt or environmentally-friendly anti-freeze in the p-traps (basically, down each drain), toilet bowls, and toilet tanks
Now that there is a solar hot water heating system added on to the original plumbing, Russ Hughes of Active Mechanical in Merritt (who installed the solar heating system, and is sadly now deceased—may your spirit be at peace, Russ) advised that I shut off the line to the new propane-heatable hot water tank, and leave the pilot burning. On sunny days, this gives the solar boiler a large body of water to use for heat exchange. Leaving the pilot burning is supposed to prevent the water in the tank from freezing during spells where there is no sun. This is a new element in the system, so I am not sure how well it will work, but this time around it worked fine.
Anyway, as you can see, the whole thing is a goddam pain in the ass, and sometimes it makes me wonder why I bother living out here! This time coming home there were no leaks. But before I could turn on the water system I needed to:
- close all taps (remembering the cold water tank tap, which I have forgotten to close in the past, resulting in a gushing flow when I turned the water back on)
- put the screw back in the Bosch flow-through
- open the valve in the line from the hot water tank
- turn on the power to the pump, which uses a step-up transformer to convert the 110 volt house power to 220 for the well pump
- light the pilot on the flow-through tank
Plus, always, light the pilots on the stove and fridge to get those running again.
This time around, it only took an hour to make the fire, get all systems going, and unload the car. Plus another half hour to unpack food, clothes, laptops, and so on…
And then it was time for a nice hot bath!