Last night was some catch-up cleaning. Nothing spectacular, I’ve just been accumulating some clutter downstairs that I needed to deal with before we become path people again. I also wanted to get down on my hands and knees in the kitchen/dining room and check for baby hazards. On the whole, we’re in fairly decent shape. The kitchen alcove needs work, but that’ll be a project for later this week. During this process, I kept catching a whiff of something that didn’t belong, and it was fairly late before my nose finally identified it as heating oil. So Bob went down to the basement to see if either we had gotten an oil delivery (still ¾ of a tank, so no) or if there was an issue with the boiler. Apparently also no. I kicked it on for him to check, although that took a bit. I turned off the downstairs heat in the spring, and in the intervening time I’d forgotten how to manipulate the programmable thermostat. That was annoying. But I got it on, and everything was fine. He thought that perhaps with it being chilly out and the boiler off most of the time that the chimney stack and flues may have chilled down enough that we were getting a small backdraft. Everything seemed okay, so we headed off to bed.
Do you hear the ominous music building? I didn’t.
This morning I noticed that I could smell that faint whiff of oil at the top of the stairs, and we decided that I would click the heat on for a little while just to get things all warmed up, cleared out, and running. Also that way there would be actually hot water for Bob to grab a shower this morning. I clicked the heat up to a temporary reset from the program, heard the boiler come on, and went about my business.
Here’s the first thing I learned this morning: the smoke detector in the basement stairwell works JUST FINE, and you can hear it everywhere in the house. The boiler was spewing black smoke into the basement. nazrynn I thought of your “death house” almost immediately. I say “almost” because the first thing I thought was “holy crap, there’s a stream of black smoke spewing out the side of my boiler!”, followed by “get the damn Bilco door open!” I hit the emergency shut off switch in the stairwell, opened the front and back doors upstairs for airflow, and then went back down to get the Bilco door open. Bob set up a fan to blow the smoke up and out of the basement.
I love that Bilco door. Can you imagine trying to get the smoke out of the basement without it?
Charlotte meanwhile is in her PJs watching this whole affair from her high chair. She had Cheerios, so she was perfectly happy. The only thing that would have made it better was if someone had unstrapped her so she could come see what the fun was all about. I was just as glad to have her strapped in. If the carbon monoxide detector had gone off I was grabbing her, chair and all, and heading outside. It never did, so everything was all right.
Bob called Brooks Oil’s emergency number, described the situation, and they’re sending someone out this morning. The operator said that it sounds like it just needs cleaning! I had it cleaned last November, so I hadn’t intended to do that until next month, and have the flue swept at about the same time. It seems like an extreme set of symptoms for “needs cleaning,” but one of the ladies at day care said that she had the same thing a few years ago. This is yet another reason why I want a new boiler. That’s a few years away though. What I want is not going to be cheap.
After he got off the phone with Brooks, I grabbed the flashlight to go down and see if I could pinpoint where the smoke had been coming from. My spirit of scientific documentation hadn’t extended to standing in the emerging cloud of smoke to check precisely where it was coming from. As it was, when I blew my nose on the way in to work it looked like I’d been at Pennsic for a week. ‘nuff said about that.
As I got to the bottom of the stairs and turned the corner, I saw Nishka, and my heart stopped.
We only opened the basement door to the cats about a month ago, if that. So in the automated portions of the brain, the basement is still a cat-free zone. Except it isn’t. And the basement door was open. And the Bilco door was open. And there was Niska headed towards the great outdoors with Becket nowhere to be seen.
A frantic search for cats ensued, and both of them were located still within the house. At that point we moved the litterbox back upstairs and closed the basement door. I think it is a fairly safe bet that I won’t be making that mistake again anytime soon. Although I’m thinking that some sort of a screen door for that opening might not be a bad thing. It’s nice to air out the basement occasionally just on general principles. I’ll have to give this some thought.
So as it stands now, the boiler is off at the switch meaning no heat (no big deal at the moment,) and no hot water (not optimal, but better than no water at all.) The basement is airing out, and as soon as the outdoor temperature is up Bob will open all the windows and air out the house. Brooks will have someone over to check things out sometime this morning, and Bob has moved some residual basement clutter and set up work lights so the technician can see what he’s doing when he gets there.
Hey – at least
* Bob is home to meet the technician whenever he arrives. That’s a silver lining.
* It’s warm enough that shutting off the boiler for the duration is an inconvenience rather than a problem.
* This all happened first thing in the morning rather than late at night.
* The basement is in reasonable shape and the boiler is clear of clutter.
* We have a service contract.
* Well – now that’ll be done for the year! Now I just need to schedule the chimney sweeping.
* I’m WIDE AWAKE. No caffeine required. J
Later on I’ll post some first birthday pictures. That’s cheerier.