Today, though, was a bit different. I got home, found that I had some new pans delivered from Amazon (yay!), and came in the house to prepare dinner. I was trying to decide what to fix when I realized it was colder than normal in the house. I tried fiddling with the thermostat (to no avail), and then proceeded downstairs to see what was happening.
The boiler had stopped heating water. There didn't seem to be a clear reason, so I went around looking at the system, checking valves etc. I then noticed a glass pipe that was used to indicate the system's current water level. It seemed to be empty, so I started looking for a "turn water back on" valve. I found such a valve, turned it on... then the burner started running again. Satisfied in my success, I went back upstairs. Things seemed to be making weird noises, so I went back down and checked the boiler. When I got there, there was water coming out of a release pipe. I put a bucket under said pipe, and turned off the valve I had turned on. Nothing else weird happened, so I went back upstairs.
I decided to go into the bathroom after coming upstairs. Much to my shock and horror, the bathroom was full of water! Even worse, it seemed to be coming out of the small steam release valve on the bathroom's radiator. I quickly threw down some towels to soak up the water, then tried to find a way to shut off the flow. With my girlfriend's help, I was able to mop up the water mess, but not stop the water flow.
I went back downstairs, turned off the boiler, turned off all the water, and went around checking everything I could. One of the other radiators had started dripping, but I caught that before it turned into a flood. (Thankfully, the bathroom floor was mostly sealed.) I had my girlfriend call a plumber, and I called my housemate/landlord to tell him what had happened. He had a few pointers for operating the system, which helped immensely. By this time, the water had stopped in most places, as the inflow of water to the house had been shut down. With the temperature inside the house dropping by a little over a degree Fahrenheit per hour (at around fifty-two degrees inside, and nine outside), I was very nervous at this point.
With the immediate crisis averted, I now set about unplugging/turning off various electrical devices that I believed may have been in the path of any water leaks. Thankfully, the actual water leakage was minimal, with the damage seemingly limited to a water spot in the kitchen near the wall.
With the temperature dropping, and no plumber in sight, I decided to take action to get things running again. Carefully, I drained the system of all water. Then, I reset all valves on the boiler to their pre-Alex positions, and reset the water flow to the house. Afterward, I turned the boiler back on for a few minutes (to ensure it still worked), turned it back off, then waited a while for the plumber. By this time, some pizza had arrived, so my girlfriend and I ate heartily of the warm pizza. (Our original dinner plans having been interrupted by the cold and water.)
After dinner, with no plumber in sight, I tried my luck at the water heater again. I turned the whole system back on, and set the thermostat for sixty degrees. (Cold, but a reasonable goal when starting at nearly fifty.) Furiously checking all outlets for leaks, I eventually was able to settle down in confidence. The system worked! Hot water was flowing from the faucets, and heat and noise was flowing from the radiators.
With things mostly back to normal, I called my housemate back. Having apprised him of the situation, I checked to see if there had been any serious water damage. With nothing terribly serious to report, I moved the refrigerator to another outlet (just to be safe), and started some laundry. The heat is slowly returning to my life, with a current inside temperature of fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. After my laundry is safely tucked in the dryer, it will be time for some much-needed sleep.
Ah... to be back in Boston! post/read comments