Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gonna get myself connected

(Apologies to Facebook friends, and especially Okham, who have already heard this story. And apologies to everyone for the length. I'm just ranting, really, you don't have to read it).

At the time of writing, we have had full power in all circuits of our house for 42 hours straight. This is the first time in a loooong time that this has happened, and I am crossing my fingers and toes that it holds...

The problem started a few months ago with a *blip*. The TV went off, then came straight back on.

Weird, eh?

And then it happened again. And again. And again. Not just the TV, but the computer and various lights too. It's an old house by Vancouver standards (1912), so we assumed that the fault lay in our own wiring.

Just as suddenly as the problem started, it stopped, and we had a few days of blip-free bliss.

But... Blip. Then a longer blip. Then... blipping hell, the blipping lights have been off for a few minutes now. What the blip's going on?

Everything always came back on by itself; none of our breakers were tripping. And we'd have the occasional day or two with no problems at all. It was all very strange, and beyond our experience as new (and grossly incompetent) home owners. So Mr E Man asked one of the electricians on his current movie to come and have a look after work one day. Unfortunately this guy turned out to be a major flake, and never actually showed up when he said he was going to. This wasted a couple of weeks.

The blips were getting longer.

We gave up on the first guy, and Mr E Man asked another electrician friend to come over. The day before he was due to come, he hurt his back and had to stay home.

The blips were now stretching into hours at a time, although the power always came back on eventually. Approximately half of our lights and outlets were now under part-time employment, while the other half were steady and reliable.

Electrician #3 (a colleague of our brother-in-law, also in the movie industry) did show up a week or two later, but couldn't find anything wrong with our wiring.

We called the injured electrician friend again, and he talked Mr E Man through some voltage and outlet checking over the phone. It turned out that we were losing one of the two live phases of electricity coming into the house, which explains why some circuits were always fine and others were always blipping blipped. The injured electrician speculatively diagnosed a problem with the external connection rather than with our internal wiring, a huge relief since the external stuff is BC Hydro's responsibility, whereas anything within our own house is ours, and therefore potentially super expensive.

However, there was another problem. We'd neglected to trim our fruit trees over the winter, and now they were touching the overhead wires. This was a possible (albeit unlikely) cause of the problem1, but we were under professional advice NOT to call BC Hydro until the trees were trimmed. Apparently they would have automatically blamed the problem on the trees and charged us a fortune.

Yet another problem emerged. Another friend is married to a landscaper, who said that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES were we to trim the trees in the summer, while they were bearing fruit. Apparently this would waste all the energy and other goodies stored in the leaves and fruit, and we'd risk losing the trees over the winter. We had to wait for the fruit to finish and for the trees to start withdrawing all their goodness back towards their centres.

Cue longer and longer outages, the TV going off and then switching back on at 3 am, the near destruction of our computer's hard drive, and us using candles in the living room and bathroom more often than not. But at least the fridge-freezer and stove were still working!

We were finally able to trim the trees on Wednesday of last week. The power was on continuously from when the guy finished until we were just about to go to bed and we were thrilled, thinking that the problem was solved.

Blip. Blip. Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. We went to bed in the dark, and the TV came back on at 2 am.

Mr E Man called BC Hydro the next day, and they sent someone out that evening. He declared our connections to the main Hydro pole in the back alley to be fine, but found a corroded connector on the outside of the house. He replaced it, as well as the two other connectors (one other live phase and one ground) that go into the house.

Woo Hoo! The TV and lights were on, and all was well. Problem solved! I changed my Facebook status to "Cath loves BC Hydro. No, really, I do".

Mr E Man went to bed, and announced that the light bulb in the bedroom (previously reliable) had blown, probably when the power got reconnected. I wandered into the kitchen to grab a glass of water and heard...


Complete silence.

This didn't register as a problem until I was walking back out of the room and thought, doesn't the fridge usually hum?

Amazingly enough, replacing this connector turned out not to fix the problem. I should point out that this thing was poked and prodded and generally taken apart by three different guys, so it didn't look quite this bad when it was attached to the house.

Yup, the phase that had been blipping was now fine, and the phase that had been fine, was now blipping BLIPPED, for blip's sake.

Unable to face the full implications of the problem just then, I went to bed ranting and cursing about blipping BC Hydro.

3 am, and the bedroom light came on. Closely followed by the blipping burglar alarm, which we never use but which needs to have its code entered to placate it and make it stop chirping after each blip.

It was shortly after this experience that I changed my Facebook status to "Cath can't f***ing believe it. And no longer loves BC Hydro". This attracted a few curious comments... all I can say is that having your kettle work again, but then having your milk turn bad, does not make for a happy tea-filled blogger. Especially when she is sleep deprived and having to update her Facebook status on her iPhone2 because she's moved her computer into the room that previously had a reliable outlet.

Anyway. We called BC Hydro again, and they promised to come back out some time before Monday night. This meant that we had to stay home during daylight hours to wait for them, and had a couple more nights of sleepus interruptus. (Although admittedly one of these was caused by the blipping cats rather than any electrical problems).

A different Hydro guy eventually showed up on Sunday, and immediately found a problem with our connections to the main Hydro pole in the back alley. You know, the connections that we'd been told were fine. It turned out that the first guy must have switched around the two live wires, so that the wire that was misconnected at the alley was now connected to a different phase where it entered our house. (Apparently it is usually fine to do this). Hence the flip-flop in the healthy vs. blipping circuits, and the need for me to throw out all of the contents of the blipping freezer and most of the contents of the blipping fridge.

Anyway. Like I say, 42 hours and counting... if this continues for another week or two I might finally start believing that we've fixed the problem. I will never, ever take simple things like lights and fridges and kettles and non-chirping alarms for granted ever again.

My Facebook status now reads "Cath is cautiously optimistic".

1) other hypotheses included a grow-op / meth lab in the neighbourhood, squirrels, raccoons, gremlins, or a malicious ghost.

2) yet another reason to love miPhone. I wasn't feeling well one Friday night a couple of weeks ago, and stayed home while Mr E Man went out with friends. The power blipped out almost as soon as he left, so I sat there in the dark, emailing friends and reading blogs by candlelight (this was before I moved the computer). The power came back on 10 minutes before Mr E Man got home...


  1. That just sucks. I hate it when food goes bad, especially if it could have been saved (that is if the BC hydro person hadn't switched the wires). I hope you continue to have power.

  2. Thanks, me too! There wasn't anything too expensive in the freezer (and I think the plum jam I made will be OK), but we lost things like some salmon and halibut that Mr E Man's friend caught and gave to us.

    BTW I was worried that writing this post would jinx my wiring, but as it happened, it jinxed my iPhone instead! Not long after posting this I picked up the phone to browse the internet while making my toast, and it just froze. Won't turn off, won't charge, won't accept calls. (Okham you can stop laughing now). Mr E Man has rushed it to iPhone hospital for me seeing as he's not working today.

  3. iPhone update: Mr E Man just called. He decided to do some other chores before going to the iPhone doctor, and meanwhile it ran out of battery power. Once plugged in to charge it started working again. But he is refusing to bring it to me at work, saying that I am an addict and need to learn to do without it for a few hours at a time...

  4. it jinxed my iPhone instead! ... (Okham you can stop laughing now)

    You make me sound terrible... You know, I have feelings too... I "empathize with you" (imagine this pronounced a-la GWB)...
    It's not like I am just sitting here laughing my tail off, thinking "See ? You broke ranks, betrayed your blog buddy Okham, and decided to support the evil Rogers monopoly with its outrageous charges ? That'll serve you well !"...

  5. One more time, dude: I didn't buy it. It was a present from my husband, remember?! I didn't break ranks or betray ANYONE.


  6. Oh, is that your excuse ? That it was a "present" ?
    By that token, if I got someone else to buy one for me, then my principles would be saved and I could...
    OK, gotta go.

  7. Do a trade deal with some teenager. You'll go in to a liquor store and buy him beer with his money, if he'll go into the Rogers store and buy you an iPhone with your money.

  8. Hope your electricity problems really are fixed!

    My in-laws still have no power at their place after the hurricane, so we've got them all here. 5 days and counting of the "we love Sarah Palin, she understands the importance of teaching children religion instead of the theory of evolution." (Maybe if I sabotaged my electricity...)

  9. 5 days and counting of the "we love Sarah Palin..."

    Now, now, I am sure that after five days you are already much more sympathetic to some of the basic right-wing tenets... like, the "right to bear arms" .... just kidding

  10. ScienceGirl, I hope you didn't find this post insensitive at a time when your state is having such a hard time... and yeah, you need to at least sabotage the TV and radio and any other sources of news that might encourage more Palinism.

  11. My in-laws ventured out to check on their home today (so we got a break from Palinism - I am so stealing this term!); no damage, but still no power. All things considered, we've been pretty lucky, as there are plenty of people that were hit much, much harder.

  12. Oh, it's good that there wasn't any more damage. How much longer do you think you'll be subjected to the Palinism?

    (I saw a magazine cover today that called it "Palin-tology" and depicted McCain as a dinosaur, which I thought was pretty cool).

  13. They are off! (All but SIL who is still not allowed back in her area). They still have no electricity but some of the stores opened back up, and they've got a lot of clean-up to do in the yard, etc. I don't think they will drive all the way back here unless the electricity is not on for another week (they are expecting it on Monday).

    McCain is a dinosaur. It is scary to think that someone so unfamiliar with today's technology and science may be elected to lead this country!

  14. Hooray! You survived! And you got to be the hero! I'm sure you have some good in-law karma points stored up now.


I promise to respond to all respectful non-spam comments! Don't be shy! Oh, and please don't type my surname in your comments; I know you all know what it is, but I'd prefer Google to rank other pages before this blog.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.