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Saturday, April 26, 2008

The new key

A little while ago I got my own shiny new key for the Community Center. Today I decided to use it for the first time.

We get electric bills for hundreds of dollars in the winter months, and a chronic problem is that the heat is left on. Our heating system consists in part of heating elements built into in the floor, and some overhead heaters. All run on electricity. We can barely afford the electricity.

I had a recent bright idea to replace the thermostats at the Community Center. What a grand story this has been! First I bought a replacement thermostat. Then I noticed that the thermostat had a lockable box that was used to prevent tampering. Then I noticed that there were 2 thermostats! So okay, I took the one I originally bought back and got a 2nd identical one. Plus I got 2 shiny new lockable boxes for the 2 shiny new thermostats. Ready to go.

Today I tried to install them. Of course I shut off the breakers before even trying. For the first thermostat, I found the key to the lockbox and was able to unlock it. That was the best part. A long story short, the thermostat was kind of, uh, fragile, and I broke it getting it out. Even worse, was that when I got the wires exposed, I realized that no Home Depot issue low voltage thermostat was going to do the job. So I buttoned it back up and moved on to the 2nd one. The 2nd one was also inside a lockable box. There was no key for this one. So I drilled holes in the plastic lock box, so i could get a screw driver inserted to remove the screws. All went well until the last drilled hole, which caused some of the plastic to shatter. No problem as I have a replacement on hand. Then I get the thermostat open, to find that while different than the first one, it too was not replacable by a typical Home Depot issued programmable thermostat. Ugh. At least this wasn’t fragile like the first thermostat. Back together it went, except I left the keyless and broken lock box off.

After that I packed up my tools and was getting ready to close up the Center. I was standing in the entry way reading the reader board when I turned toward the outer doors see our local Deputy Sheriff peering in a window right next to the entry doors. He’d evidently saw a truck by the entrance (mine), and was investigating.

Well, here I am, standing not 5 feet away watching him looking in the window. He doesn’t see me. Being a Sheriff, he is armed and there is no way I want to startle him. So I slowly put my hands in front of me, which fortunately were not holding anything and I said “Daaaannnn…..Daaaannnn…..” He heard and looked towards me. The look of recognition on his face got me past the fear of imminent problems. We talked for a while after that. I shared some of my ideas for the Center and he had some great suggestions on how to pursue them.

He left after a while and I returned to the task of transporting my tools back to the truck when I noticed there was, yes there it was, indeed, a 3rd thermostat! This one was in an out of the way place, by the entry way doors. This one was set to an indicated 85 degrees. Yikes! I turned that one off altogether, and already recognized the thermostat’s design, which is identical to the first one, so didn’t try to disassemble it.

Later in the day I spoke with another Council member and he said that he didn’t know where the key was to the 2nd thermostat. Between that and the accumulation of dust and dead bugs inside the lock box, it occurred to me that it’s probably been set at it’s current setting for a long time, which explains some of the high heating bills we’ve been paying.

Well the key to the door works, but the thermostats don’t seem to. Interesting how opening one door always leads to others.

Note: A duplicate of this article is at where we have a discussion forum.


Lorraine Hart said...

Great story with my morning cuppa Tracy! Good writing!

It's the little things...and they always seem to lead to a lot of other little things...good luck.

I'm going to chuckle all day, with the Daaaaaan bit...I'm sure not so funny in that moment...but...!

Tracy Lebenzon said...

Thanks for your kind words, Lorraine! I’m just glad that I wasn’t transporting the drill out at the time the Sheriff showed up!!

EmeraldPrincessOnline said...

That was a great story and well-told with several object lessons in it for each of us.

It's also brought to mind an incident that happened at our flower shop in Steilacoom several years ago.

The store was located in the heart of the Historic District. One sunny day, we had the front door to the store wide open while we had stepped out the back door into the alley to break down some cardboard boxes and put them into the recycling bin.

When we walked back inside the store, we froze in our tracks on seeing a Steilacoom police officer inside our store with his gun drawn conducting a sweep of the premises as if it were a crime scene.

If you ever saw any of the "Police Academy" movies, you'll know what I mean when I say it was reminiscent of many of the scenes with Officer Tackleberry.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Great story, Tracy. Always nice to hear what's happening in Greenwater and I wonder how long that third thermostat had been set on 85. Yikes!

Kim Thompson said...

Love, love, loved this post! Were you ever able to get the right parts?

JosephMcG said...

Great story... and a kicking sum up... thank you

Tracy Lebenzon said...

Thanks everyone!

A little research and a conversation with an electrician suggests that these thermostats are called “line voltage” thermostats.” They are generally no more expensive than the low voltage kind used in many homes. The typical application is for electric heaters, such as baseboard heaters. To add a little joy to the project, I did further investigation and found that the Center has 5 of these, and not 3 as I previously wrote. I guess this discovery process is to be expected given I've been in the building only a hand full of times.

If the Home Depot doesn't sell them, there are many places on the web that will.

Anonymous said...

thank you for an interesting post, I suggest to try StreetView on the website of Fizber to explore city neighborhoods. It feels as if you're walking down the street!

Stephanie Frieze said...

Thanks for the tip, Kantor. I will check it out. ~Stephanie

Anonymous said...

i just tried StreetView on the website of Fizber, it is absolutely great!!