The Maine Home Furnace Had Plenty Of Oil But …
Winter in Maine is a time of fun on the down hill ski slopes, hockey games, ice fishing and snow sledding.
And many Mainers heat with wood. The kind cut, split and stored in the cellar for a furnace. The pellet stove version with stoves and fireplace inserts. The outdoor boiler kind where longer sticks of Maine wood can heat a home.
But when you own a Maine home heated with oil, and are not here to check on it, accidents happen. Had a call late yesterday afternoon from Dead River, the oil supplier for a home in Houlton Maine.
Voicing concern that the home we had sold a Connecticut buyer years ago for his Dad to live in had only taken sixty gallons of oil in yesterday’s delivery.
I was on my way up by to watch a Blackhawks hockey game at the Millar Civic Center ice arena so I told the owner I would stop on my way by and report back what was what from an inside peek.
It has been pretty mild Maine winter, over all, temperature wise.Pretty slim pickings for snow fall amounts, low levels this year on the ground for accumulation too.
The Houlton Maine home owner was hopeful that at the 45 degrees he had left the furnace thermostat set on, that maybe that accounted for the low furnace heating oil usage.
When I unlocked the door from the glass side porch to the Houlton Maine home, I could instantly tell the inside house temperature was not what the furnace thermostat had been left set at….
It was not a see your breath temperature in the home, but still colder than it should have been. The first worry when a Maine home furnace goes out in the winter is not just lack of heat to keep it toasty warm for visits from its owner. It’s if a freeze up happens then a thaw that causes thewater plumbing inside to run and run undetected. For awhile.
If a two story or more home has bathroom plumbing, baseboard radiator heating piping freeze completely, the damage to the home’s structure is less. But if the temperature after the freeze goes up so water starts running outagain, but out of the breaks in the piping from the ice expansion in them, this is where the not much fun part starts.
Where the Maine home owner goes beyond just worry about soldering a few pipes, replacing a couple plumbing and heating copper elbows and pretty much calling it good.
Water running down through a a first floor radiation loop, zone and any kitchen or bathroom, laundry plumbing is serious bad. But when it is ditto from the second or third floor, it becomes milk and corn flakes time. Soggy city. Or like a soaking, swelling the yellow eye solider or jacob’s cattle dry beans for Saturday night’s Maine home town bean supper situation.
The water running unattended ruins the rugs, flooring, the ceiling tiles, gets in to the walls, the electrical system. You have a Titanic water situation as the home gets ruined the longer the damage from the initial freeze up goes unattended, unnoticed. Wet, sopping floors, walls, heavy sopping ceilings and a cellar more like a pond happens. When the bugle sounds and the oil burner technician journeyman rolls in, when heat help does arrive it is not just get the oil furnace running and we’re back in business.
With a hot water baseboard system, the loop, zone to push the heated water around has been broken, plugged and can not deliver the BTU’s.
So salamanders, blaster silent glow heaters or bombers have to be set up on each level of the home to begin the thaw, drying out. I’m glad the Houlton Maine home did not have the water damage from the freeze up and it could have been much worse. As I approached the cellar of the Houlton Maine home I could hear water running. Lots of it.
Full tank of fuel but furnace stopped drinking it. Went on a home heating hunger stike for some reason that the technician I called last night will figure out. And report back to the home owner with a strategy to fix, correct, repair. I zipped around the water spray, turned off the main supply line from the street. Then made the sobering calls to the property home owner, the heating oil company.
But how to avoid the need for heating technicians, plumbers from a Maine home winter freeze up?
You could drain the place but geesh. That is not good for the wallpaper, the foundation and everything deep freezes. At a Maine lake camp it is simple and easy. With a home with all your belongings, pulling the plug on home heating may cause more damage than it is for oil or however you heat fuel savings.
If you are not living there, you might consider a quality renter. More as a house sitter, caretaker. A Mr Green Jeans and who lives like Mr Rogers. No wild parties. No meth labs or calls to that address late at night on the police band scanner chatter. Someone living in the home would figure out the day it happens that gee, look Mom. No heat. And make the investigation down in the cellar to figure out how come.
Or there are monitors you can hook up to a phone line that are keyed to trigger, make the calls if the interior temperature in the Maine home drops below the certain temperature you program in to the device. Winter watchmen are another safety option. The small square, flat unit plugs in an outside wall electrical plug in, has a knob to dial in the 45, 50 or whatever degree setting you feel keeps you from worrying. Laying away nights out of state or on vacation someplace where daily visits to the Maine home are not possible.
You plug in a lamp with a party bightly colored blinking light bulb to the side of the “watchman”.
Same principle, temperature drops from lack of heat and bingo, light starts doing its SOS, May Day signalling. For the neighbor you have alerted to please call me collect if you see a light that is the signal that something bad is up.
Maybe the oil furnace in the Maine home is modern. Was just cleaned, all tuned up. Plenty of oil and on automatic delivery calculated on the heating degree days to guarantee it would never run out. Or the Maine oil company is on the expense hook for the mess up. For forgetting to make the stop, drop for an oil tank fill up. So you figure you are all set for the Maine winter. Wrong.
If the furnace transformer burns out, stops working because automatic devices do fail, how would you know the day it happens if nothing is set up to start the air raid warning sirens? If no one is home and away for days.
Until the call from the oil company that says the Maine home should have taken more oil then it did and something is up. Have someone like the buddy system in beginner swimming lessons know the base is vacant, heats supposed to be on and could you keep an eye out for the blinking light. Or better yet make a pass through while you are gone from the Maine home.