Friday, May 18, 2012

Got Gas?

Being a homeowner has been pretty easy.  Especially living in a town-home.
The lawn gets mowed and the snow gets shoveled by someone else.  That's what association dues are for. 
I don't have to worry about the shingles or siding. 
The only headache I have to worry about is appliances.  I've had a couple in the past but that was more just coordinating installing the new and getting rid of the old.

But Tuesday morning was a whole different kind of headache.

Monday I had to do laundry because I was out of clean scrubs.  I also did the dishes.  I had hot water for those chores.  Now it's Tuesday morning and I wanted to wash my hair before heading to work.  Ice cold water in the shower on the 3rd floor.  I checked the kitchen sink with my hair dripping.  Only lukewarm to slightly cold water.  Usually I can get scalding hot in the kitchen. 

Great.  My hot water heater is probably the original so that makes it 17 years old.  I know they only last something like 20 years so I'm thinking I'm gonna need a new one.  Cha-ching$$

I have a magnet on my fridge for a discount appliance repair company.  I used them before with the dryer escapade with Lowe's a couple of years ago.  I told them what happened and scheduled an appointment for a repairman to come out for the next afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon a nice guy named Mike came and looked at the water heater.  Thinking about my situation, I told him maybe the pilot light went out.  That happened to me my first winter in my townhouse.  But it's been good ever since. 

He was in the basement for 10 minutes.  I heard him come back up, go outside and then come back inside and that's when he came and talked to me.  He said it's in relatively good condition but I do need a major cleaning and a potential replace of the thermometer.  The problem was that he couldn't test anything because he couldn't light my pilot. He said I had no gas flow.  He went outside to look at my gas meter and I'd been locked out.  I asked him to show me, and sure enough, there was a lock that looked like a brass shotgun shell locking the valve into the off position.

Huh?  Why would Center Point Energy turn off my gas?  My bill flashed through my head.  I was all paid, wasn't I?  I looked at my stack of bills due and sure enough, my bill wasn't due until next week.  It took me a while through my speech-less-ness to make the connection.

My next door neighbors moved out last fall before they were able to sell their place.  Meaning they had two mortgages and let this one slide.  Thus they were foreclosed on.  I've seen and read the signs on their front door that their home has been winterized and if vandalism has been noticed to report it to some 1-800 number.  This information led me to believe that the gas company turned off my meter instead of theirs.

Right after Mike left I get on the phone with Center Point.  I talked to 5 different people, kept getting transfered to different departments.  They kept saying that according to their computer my meter was active.  After 40 minutes on the phone, the lady said she would have a van out to look at the meter.  This was at 3:30 and she said they would be there anywhere between now and 11 pm.  Well that narrow's it down!

Some guy ended up coming at 7:30 and concurred with what Mike had said and what I had thought.  My meter was locked out and they had turned off the wrong meter.  "I work with idiots"!  Gotta love that quote.  Some person turned off the gas meter in front of MY house; with a deck full of flowers and a welcome sign hanging by the front door.  Not the one that looks like a ghost-town. They're side-by-side, but REALLY!?  He also was kind enough to relight the water heater pilot.  Thursday mornings shower was much appreciated.  We take for granted society's amenities.

The kicker is that I paid $90 for Mike to come out to tell me the gas company made a mistake.  I called back Center Point yesterday and spoke with the same lady from Wednesday.  This morning I faxed over the bill and will hopefully get a Good-Will reimbursement.  After all, it was their fault.  If they hadn't shut off my gas, I wouldn't have had to dish out $90.

One good thing came out of this though.  I never knew or thought to get a maintenance check on the water heater.  I get my furnace checked every other year but never the water heater.  As soon as I hear back from Center Point about the reimbursement, I'm going to call back Appliance Repair, Inc and schedule that cleaning and possibly replacing the thermostat too.

What a headache!