Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Radiator Phrenology

I grew up in a part of California where serious cold weather is rare.  And even when it is cold, it's a relative chill.  Temps in the 50s are not uncommon but freezing nights are unusual.  When the day is chilly in my part of the Golden State, we turn on the heater.

Heater sounds mild, and I suppose it is, since weather there is quite mild.  I've been out east in one state or another for more than 20 years.  Weather out here sometimes features real and lasting cold.  A heater will not do.  So Sassafras House has a furnace that propels steam through pipes in the basement and into radiators in every room of the house.  It looks like a serious enterprise, and it is.

I love this kind of heat, because it isn't dry and so my skin doesn't crack in the winter.  But steam radiators can be moody and since each radiator must bring warmth to a room, a persnickety radiator brings with it the prospect of chilly zones in the house.  Especially cold mornings like today (it was 9 degrees when I got up at 6 am) find me checking each radiator for warmth, like some sort of radiator phrenologist, laying her hands upon the radiator and willing the pipes to warm up.  
I listen carefully for the clanks and and hissing sounds that confirm all is well in the pipes that power the system.  And then I stroll the house to assess problems.
A radiator that isn't drawing can be adjusted, though this is a tricky business and often leaves me engaged in the radiator equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Lately, the warmer radiator in my bedroom is rather nice.
On the other hand, the consequently colder bathroom radiator is not so nice when you exit the shower.
It's a tricky operation, this business of being a radiator phrenologist.  JT, born to a colder climate, is a native to the process of keeping the radiators happily steaming.  He can adjust the valves like he was born to this style of living, which I suppose he was.  And that always amuse his California Mama.

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