The past few days have been quite eventful -- so much so that I haven't had time to write about them until now. Lets see how well my memory serves me:
While I was at work in Cambridge, my tenant on Bowers street called and told me their kitchen water wasn't working. They told me their bathroom water was fine, but not the kitchen. I really didn't want to have to drive all the way back to Lowell if it wasn't a big problem, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't something major; like a broken water pipe. So I called my Dad to see if he was nearby and luckily he was. He stopped by Bowers st and then called and told me there was no major leaks anywhere, but the hallway was pretty cold. He knocked on the door for the second floor (the tenant who called me) and checked the kitchen sink pipes. They were frozen! Crap, not again. My Dad plugged in an electric heater in the basement and left it running.
After work, I decided to drive back to Lowell, stop at Home Depot , pick up an electric baseboard heater and then install it in the hallway at Bowers St. When I arrived, the hallway was nice and warm from the electric heater my Dad turned on. So before I started installing the baseboard heater, I checked with the second floor tenants to see if their water was working yet. I turned on the sink and only a little bit of water started coming out. I tried the hot water and after leaving it on for a few seconds it slowly started gushing out. The ice must have just cleared the pipes. Whew!
It was my first time installing a baseboard heater and the directions were incredibly bad. I used a 12/2 wire, which is able to carry the 240 volts the heater requires. I hooked it up to a 20 amp breaker in the basement that had nothing but a single GFI outlet attached to it, so I figured there would be more than enough power available. The first time I turned it on, it shorted and the breaker tripped. Doh, thank god for smart breakers. I changed the wiring to the thermostat on the heater and flipped the breaker on again. This time it stayed on. However, when I turned the thermostat to high, the heater only felt warm. Ah, it was 11:45pm and I had to drive back to Cambridge and be up early for work the next morning. So I left it the way it was, and prayed the pipes didn't freeze again.
Worked in Cambridge. I can't remember if I went back to Lowell later in the evening, or even specifically what I did on Wednesday.
I was able to take a break from work and spend Thursday and Friday working on the apartments. The second floor tenant on Bowers street referred someone to me who was looking for an apartment. I showed him the Ware st apartment and he liked it. He said he would like to move in next Wednesday and I told him it would be ready.
After the scare with frozen pipes at Bowers St, I decided to check the vacant 1st floor unit on Cumberland Rd, right upstairs from the finished (er, work-in-progress) basement where I live when I come back to Lowell. I don't leave the heat on when I go to Cambridge for the week, because it would cost me a fortune. I'm already struggling financially, so I need to save wherever I can. When I checked the kitchen on the first floor unit, I found ice coming out of the faucets... not a good sign at all. So I turned on the heat and drove to Ware St to work on the vacant units. I called my Dad and mentioned ice in the faucets on Cumberland Rd. When I told him I turned on the heat he was concerned, because he thought I was going to leave the heat on and return to Cambridge for the day. I explained that I was working on the houses in Lowell all day and that I would be in the area to go back to Cumberland Rd every few hours and check for leaks.
Two hours had passed since I turned on the heat in Cumberland Rd and my Dad's concern made me concerned. I was going to stop at LifeAlive and get something to eat for lunch but decided to first check on the pipes at Cumberland Rd to make sure nothing was leaking. I opened the door to my basement apartment and found a downpour inside. Water was pouring down from the ceiling; all over the kitchen I built, half the bathroom, all over my pile of tools, over electric junction boxes, wires, everywhere! Instinctively I ran to the main water shutoff and turned it off. Then I bolted upstairs to look at the first floor unit, expecting the worst. A few weeks ago I spent over $1400 having the entire place repainted and if I had to spend even more money on that unit, it was going to kill me.
Luckily the water damage in the leaking unit was minimal. I must have arrived less than 10 minutes before the leak started, because with the amount of water that was pouring out, it could have been MUCH worse. A few years ago when I had a huge broken water pipe incident at Bowers st, it was uneven floors in all three units that saved me over $70k in extra damage to the units. Starting from the middle of the kitchen and going to the back wall where the bathrooms are, the floor sloped down. This kept the majority of the water out of the rest of the house. The same thing happen on Cumberland RD. The floors in the kitchen and bathroom all slope down to one spot, which kept the water out of the rest of the house. Who knew uneven floors could be a good thing!?
I spent the following 5 hours, basically the rest of the day, fixing pipe after pipe. I found one leak, fixed it, turned on the water, heard the waterfall start again, turned off the water and looked for the next leak. Thankfully there's an ACE hardware store a few blocks from Cumberland Rd. I must have gone there over a dozen times -- the employees kept saying "Back again!?". Eventually they stopped saying anything and simply nodded at me and smiled. I spent my evening cleaning up the water damage. Luckily I had moved most of my tools to Ware St, so nothing electronic and expensive was ruined. I had to toss out a big carpet and throw away some food, but overall I was very lucky. It could have been raw sewage instead of clean water!
I went to Home Depot and asked someone from the electric department what kind of breaker I needed for an electric baseboard heater. I brought the 20 amp breaker from the breaker box with me, because I knew the breakers are specific to the boxes they go in. The guy took one look at it and said that wouldn't work for a baseboard heater and that I needed a double-pole breaker. He handed me the double-pole breaker, which looks like two 20 amp breakers stuck together, said that's what I needed and walked away, as if he didn't want to have anything to do with answering any extra questions I may have. So I walked over to the area with all the do-it-yourself books. I picked up an electronics book and turned to the page on installing baseboard heaters. Argh! It wasn't any more help than the damn good-for-nothing directions included with the heater and the thermostat!
I stuck the double-pole breaker in the box, and attached the black wire to one of the two breakers. Hmm, no change in the temperature of the heater. I tried a couple of different wiring configurations with the thermostat, but nothing helped. I don't have time for this, and its not freezing outside anymore, so I shouldn't have to worry about the pipes for the next few days. I went to Ware ST and spent the rest of the day working on the vacant units over there.
I scheduled several computer related appointments for Saturday morning, starting at 9:30am. They ended up lasting longer than I'd expected, so I didn't even finish until 2pm. Afterwards, I worked on Ware st.
One computer related appointment in the morning, which was quick, and then spent the rest of the day working on Ware St. Installed some much needed lights in the basement of Ware St and got the electric stove in the first floor rear unit working. Installed vinyl shades on the windows of the unit for which I have tenants moving in on Wednesday. I was surprised that new vinyl shades at home depot were only $4 a piece! I was expecting something closer to $15.
Headed back to Cambridge late Sunday evening.
Spent the day working in Cambridge -- had an off-site deployment and training to attend -- and later in the evening I went back to Lowell to check on Bowers street to make sure the hallway wasn't too cold. I had to stop at Cumberland road and get something, and I realized there was an electric baseboard heater in the first floor unit. I looked at the breaker box in the basement to checked how it was wired. To my amazement, but at the same time confirming what I had suspected, both the white and the black wires were connected to the double-pole breaker; one to each lead.
I went back to Bowers street, attached the white wire to the second breaker on the double-pole breaker, changed the wiring on the thermostat to how I had originally wired it, flipped the breaker on, turned up the thermostat, and voila! Now it felt like a heater! I had searched Google for wiring directions earlier in the day and found nothing but other people asking the same question! I'll see if I can post a wiring diagram tomorrow for anyone else who might be having the same problem as I did.