Your Place: Checking in with readers' solutions

Posted: June 28, 2013

I had a question awhile back from a reader who had a smart meter installed and checks online for usage.

The reader reported usage was normal for one or two days, then surged for the next day or two. There is no pattern to the surges. She said it was almost like a timer was turning on.

Not realizing the problem dated back several weeks - there is a backlog of hundreds of questions, and I receive 75 to 100 new ones every week - one reader suggested that perhaps, because of the recent heavy rains, the basement dehumidifier was the culprit.

Indeed, my sump pump, which has been quiet since Hurricane Irene in August 2011, came on a few times after more than six inches of rain fell between June 6 and 14.

That, and our basement dehumidifier, which I run from May to October, can soak up a lot of electricity.

Reader Chuck Ulmann of West Chester suggested it might be the well.

"That's a 240 circuit and eats power," he said. "It could be a leak, a bad pressure switch, or bad pressure tank. It could work right for awhile and then have issues, and run high when they are washing clothes.

"Wells are sneaky things," Ulmann says.

Now to the reader in Avalon with the rotten-egg-smelling tap water he first noticed after Sandy.

Although I thought the answer from the plumbing contractor I provided said it all, I also like to share the experiences of readers with similar problems.

Not every problem is exactly the same and not every solution works - something the DIY TV talking heads don't seem to understand.

From Nick and Marilyn Chapis:

"We've had a house in Avalon since 1978, and this past year for the first time ever, we experienced the hydrogen sulfide odor.

"Our water heater booklet gave a couple of reasons that this could happen," Nick said, including that an "anode rod in the heater eroded or bacteria in our water multiplied due to too low a temperature in the heater."

The Chapises called their plumber, who drained the tank and then refilled it, and turned the pilot light back on, at a cost of $400.

"We turned the temperature up, ran our washers and showered, and in a couple of the days, the odor was gone."

Mary Jane Jerrett of Ocean City had the problem the Chapises' plumber pointed to as a possible cause:

"I also had that sulfur smell about five years ago, when the house was five years old. A plumber friend thought maybe it was because of a dry drain."

She tried cleaning the drains with a product she obtained from a hardware store, but then realized the odor was present only when the hot water was on.

"The first thing I did was get out the manual for the hot water heater," she said. "The manual stated that the rotten-egg smell was actually the anode rod. As it breaks down, it gives off that smell."

Although she is now a widow, Jerrett still thinks "that I can do all of the do-it-yourself projects that" she and her late husband did.

So she went to a plumbing supply store and bought an anode rod, and "I'm sure the guys at the counter had a good laugh on me when I left with the five-foot rod."

"They didn't bother to tell me that they sell an articulating one that is easier to put in in tight spaces," she said.

She called her plumber. The cost was a little more than $200 five years ago.

Save the manual and read it when you buy any product, rather than just sticking it in the back of the kitchen drawer.

Remember, too, that the Internet can be a great information source if you filter out the misinformation.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.

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