Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Everything Needs Maintenance, Eventually

Everything needs maintenance, eventually.  If it moves, it needs lubrication, or resurfacing, or it will wear out.  If it grows, it needs nutrients, or it withers.  If it gets hot and cold, it will eventually crack from thermal fatigue (and it is still 'moving' incrementally).  High cycle fatigue (HCF), low cycle fatigue (LCF), creep (both bulk & local), wear, cracking, oxidation, erosion, corrosion, rubbing, material loss, fretting, pitting, telomeres truncation or mutation, decomposition, materials phase changes... all of these lead to required maintenance, and if the maintenance is not performed, expect it not to work.  That's true for everything, not just mechanical things.

The lovely fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas is spectacular when it works.  But Monday morning is the time the casino takes to do perform maintenance on the 100s of hydraulic motors, values, and lights in their fountain.
Our GE Profile refrigerator lasted 4 years and 11 months, before it stopped cooling our food.  I called a GE technician, and he diagnosed that it was "unrepairable" so we got a whole new fridge, with another 5 year warranty on it, for free (but I have to say, the new fridge's function, exterior appearance, and interior space, is not as nice as the old one). 
Our 9 year old pool started to crack, again, a year after it had a massive patch applied to stop the wall cracking.   The skilled pool specialist didn't want to charge me for fixing it, but I want him to stay in business, so I asked him to charge me a nominal fee for a normal 'service call' since he does remarkably good work.

Our 9 year old  sliding glass door, with a cheesy vinyl frame, decided to stick and no longer slide, that it took literally all of my upper body strength to force the door open and closed.  I called All Patio Doors from Higley AZ, and the next day, for just a few hundred dollars (of about 1/3 the price of a whole new door) we got a nice new replacement rail and rollers installed.  The door slides so smoothly now, in comparison of how bound up it was, I find that I've conditioned myself to pull MUCH Harder than necessary, and then have to Slow the door down. 

It's a good problem to have.  I asked All Patio to go ahead and put in brand new rollers, so that the old, worn out rollers wouldn't ruin their new track - for $75 they were happy to do so.  Since we go in and out of that door 1 to 10 times a day (to swim, garden, pick lemons, grill, eat, etc) this was not an "optional access door".

It has been hotter than 90F at night here, for the last week (a new record) and the days have gotten into the mid teens (115F, 116F, etc), so having a reliable, functional air conditioner, is paramount.  Custom Cooling LLC is a small, responsive, reasonably priced, professional HVAC contractor who does my yearly maintenance.  I've neglected to call them in the Spring, but they were happy to come out in July and check my condenser, evaporator, compressor, expansion value, blower, and system temperatures and pressures, and even adjusted the temperature splits so that it is delivering a 19F differential across the cooling coils instead of 17F (as the system had degraded to over the last 9 years). The technician found a starting capacitor on the blower motor had degraded a few farads, so for $5 replaced the capacitor and saved me the cost of a burnt out $250 blower motor later.  Could I have waited until the Fall, or next year to call Custom Cooling?  Probably, but I am glad I didn't. 

I planted some organic cat grass in a sectioned 4 part container.  Oat, wheat, rye, and barley.  I followed manufacturer's directions, and 3 of the 4 compartments grew just fine.  One of four got a light gray mold infection.  I added some lemon juice to kill the mold, but it didn't work (I should have used a drop or two of hydrogen peroxide).  While I was on my business trip to my company's head quarters last week, 3 of the four shriveled up and turned brown.  The gray mold thrived, and covered one of the compartments with a blanket of nasty light gray.  Three shriveled because I didn't water it for a week.  One wiped out by an unexpected disease.

Everything breaks, if it doesn't get the right maintenance, the right attention, eventually.  And sometimes, even when it does get the right maintenance, unexpected things can happen and it breaks or fails.  I didn't understand this when I was in college, choosing a major.  I was too focused on not entering into an industry that would lay me off, on having job security that my father never had when I was growing up.  Engineers, medical doctors, plumbers, mechanics, HVAC technicians, electricians... they're always going to have jobs, as long as they have things and people to try and maintain.

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