The Tech Savvy Luddite

20+ years ago when I was in graduate school, one of my professors had students in a class he taught over to his house for beers, dinner, and discussion. He lived in the tract of homes on the hill overlooking UC Irvine where homes were only available for professors to purchase.

Aside: Go, Anteaters. Fight, Anteaters.

I immediately noticed that he did not have a fireplace in his living room and I asked about that. He said that when he had the home built, he specified no fireplace. This was not out of environmental concern, but because he just didn’t like the idea of fire inside his house. The decision made immediate sense to me, and I have continued to wonder in the passing decades why so many homes in SoCal have fireplaces. We can’t burn wood in them anymore, gas logs are a pain in the ass, and modern heaters are far more efficient. Gas appliances aside, fire inside the home really isn’t the greatest idea.

I’ve begun to think the same about water. Friday, water began leaking onto the back porch out a light fixture embedded in an overhang.  We immediately turned off the water to the condo, yet the water continued to leak. Then we noticed it was leaking out the adjoining neighbor’s back porch light as well. Attempts to contact the neighbor to have her shut off her water (manual valve is inside her garage) to prevent serious damage were unsuccessful for several hours. Calls to the property management company that serves the home owners did not yield anyone who could assist until 3pm.

A restoration company has been onsight for 6 months. They are halfway through a preemptive repipe of all units in the complex. They sent one of their spare guys over to assess the problem. After turning off all the water to all the units in the same structure at the street main, he still saw that water was leaking. And it was starting to rain as the mystery deepened.

Around 5pm, they figured out that it must be the structure’s fire sprinkler system, which of course, required a call to the fire department to turn off. The leak was shut off a few hours later that night, with the restoration company working until 1am to complete the repair to the pipe.

This isn’t the first rodeo with leaky wall pipes. We seem to have a water in the walls problem about once a year. It’s definitely a thing in Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita, something about the drinking water here. It’s got me thinking that in my next home, I want neither fire nor water. An outdoor hose and shower, maybe a pool would be great. And a nice roomy outhouse, with an electric space heater.

-Brad Hutchings,
Tech Savvy Luddite

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