But Oh, What A Bastard To Clean

The heating and cooling guy came yesterday morning for the winter checkup. When I started working from home I got a contract on the system and religiously schedule the seasonal checks; it is a very, very bad thing when you have a client due in a half hour and the house stands at 55 degrees because the furnace has conked out. (That happened once, soon after I moved in; I ran the shower in the adjacent bathroom, stoppering the tub, until the water heater was empty and the tub was full. Along with some blankets, the mass of steaming water made work possible.)

The system I have now dates from 2008, a hybrid (that’s the nicer word) designed to operate on a heat pump until the temperature drops below a set level and then kick in the gas furnace.  It is pretty nifty but the computerized thermostat is displaying symptoms of early chip burnout and needs to be replaced. (That’s in the contract.) The humidifier, which was a bold leap for me, has gotten noisy and huffy, and after Elmer gave the motor a listen he revised his recommendation from “serviced” to “replaced” on that too. That’s not in the contract.

“I could get you a discount to about $975,” he said.

I told him I would think it over as the thing is still working, though it clanks a bit starting up and seems to be emitting more vapor in the cellar than into the ducts. “Think it over” is go-away-speak for “I probably won’t.” Even in the most gadget-saturated country in the world I have yet to meet a humidifier that works.

There was one attached to the system when I moved in, or at least its mortal remains were. Aside from hot-wiring the dryer into the breaker box and painting the dining room lipstick pink, the sellers had apparently just left the carcass there when it died, something that had clearly occurred so far in the past that the half-full, yellowing plastic tank now harbored a gently wafting garden of algae. Some guys from a duct cleaning company removed it for a surreptitious sawbuck (I don’t think they wrote it up on the ticket) and I never intended to install another one, but when I got my new system Izzy, my financial manager, insisted on bequeathing me one which he said was nearly new. He had helped me broker the payment plan for the whole hybrid thingamajig, and was jonesing to install some sort of state of the art steam gizmo in his own home.

This means the one that is about to crap out is only four years old and I have to seriously ask myself what advantage there is to paying a thousand bucks for a new one when I can put a lobster pot of water on the stove and turn the flame down low. The lobster pot cost me thirteen bucks at Ross, I use more water flushing the toilet than boils off in a day and a low gas flame probably has less of a carbon footprint than that clanky motor. Plus, there is no issue with changing a filter, with science projects breeding unknown forms of life, or with conduits clogged by grungy, yellowish mineral accumulations that require industrial douching with white vinegar.

You know the limerick about the Young Man From Racine

who invented a fucking machine.
Both concave and convex,
It would fit either sex,
But oh, what a bastard to clean.

Some things are just not improved by excess technology.


4 thoughts on “But Oh, What A Bastard To Clean

  1. Back in Canada (I tended to live in older houses & apartments with clanky radiators) you could find deep and narrow recipients that hooked over the radiator grooves. Filled em up a couple of times a day and that was all that was needed.

    I also prefer simpler methods. When I see an appliance or gadget with too many doodads on it I just think “something else to go wrong”.

    What about a small electric humidifier? You could then move it from room to room. Here’s one you might like…

    • I use something like that in my bedroom at night. The pot on the stove is elegant for taking care of the whole first floor where I see clients.

      Once I bought a fancy plug-in humidifier from Vornado, a Midwestern company which makes all the fans I use in the house — those fans run forever. barely make a sound and move air like crazy without ever blasting you in the face. So I thought the humidifier would be wizzo. It was supposed to perfectly sense the right level of humidity and be whisper quiet and all that jazz. Actually it had an obnoxious light on the front that you couldn’t turn off, made a huge racket and boasted an expensive filter that had to be replaced twice a year, not mentioned in the sales literature. The second year it was in service it got neurotic and dumped water on my bedroom floor, which is just above the massage room, where drips began mysteriously forming on the ceiling. I caught it just in time to prevent some real damage.

      I’m really bullish on that pot.

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