Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mrs. Fixit

Two years ago, Dad cut a hole in our ceiling and exposed the swamp cooler vent. Then he spent several hours getting it working. The way it was set up, you pulled a plug down through the vent and plugged it in in the hall, leaving the wire draped across the hall, and it went on. There was no way to turn just the pump on, and it was always on low cool. Dad rearranged it so that we could walk down the hall by plugging it in outside. Awkward, but it worked and I was happy.

The next summer, it was hotter, and I was "following the rules" more closely and only opened the windows 2-3 inches, which doesn't work with our cooler. You have to open them all the way to make it work. I didn't know this, so I was always hot. So I went up to the cooler and replaced the pads and the float, and I noticed a wiring diagram inside. So I dug in and discovered the thing was jury-rigged. Someone had wired the "low cool" and "pump" wires right into the hot wire of the power cord. So I took them all apart and wired the "high cool" and "pump" wires into the power cord. It worked okay. I also found a heater intake vent that was the right size and had the screws in the right places. I used it to replace the vent cover we had on (which Dad had made from two heater vent covers--the stores don't carry 14 x 15" cooler vents), so the air blew right toward my chair. It worked, but it was noisy in the house because the front windows, facing the busy street, had to be open, and the cooler was always on high. I also had to replace the motor belt--it was broken.

This year, Dad again serviced the cooler and replaced the float again. He also discovered that you could open just the kitchen window, but all the way, instead of just opening the windows a crack, and the house got downright cold. The trouble was, the thing was noisy, and there are times, especially in the evening, when high cool was way too cold, but no cooler on was way too hot.

I finally got frustrated and started thinking. I realized I could wire the thing properly, to a cooler switch, and plug it in in the hall still, but have the wires all hidden (mostly) in the vent, ceiling, and wall. So yesterday I spent all day (I had the car and Tim had the kids for the first time in weeks) working on it. As with all fixit projects, the parts were not so easy to get. I had to go to more than one store more than one time. (Home Depot only carries $40 thermostats for coolers, not the usual under-$10 cooler switches most people use. Just so you know). I learned that when you buy a length of cable (that's what they call wires that have several smaller wires inside), it has a certain number of wires inside. But if you ask for a cable with five wires, you get one with six inside--five wires and the ground. I had a fairly humorous conversation with the wiring lady at Home Depot as I tried to sort this all out. So up and down on and off the roof, I got rained on, I finally got the right parts, and I then had to take the hall apart, make holes in the drywall, get Tim's help because I was too short, and discover that I hadn't bought a "cut-in" box but I need one because you can't screw the switch plate into drywall. I managed to cut the main power wire by accident twice. I spliced bunches of things. And then I stepped back and said, "It's done!" And then a few minutes later I decided I was brave enough to try it.

It worked.

It's not real pretty. When I get the cut-in box it will look a lot nicer, but you still have to plug the thing into the wall, so there's a long black power cord hanging from the switch to the outlet (I'm not brave enough to hardwire it into the outlet yet, although I did to the dishwasher...). But it works. I had a delightful night with the cooler on low vent. I like that I can turn it on and off without getting bit by mosquitoes. I like that when it rains I don't have to worry that the power cord and extension cord connection is possibly sitting in a puddle on the roof.

I like that I can fix things.

Unfortunately, today all my muscles are sore--especially my thighs. Going up and down ladders, climbing up and down off chairs, crouching and standing repeatedly all get my unused muscles moving. And that hurts.

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