Misery, and Every Home Improvement Moron, Loves Company

I’ve written before on this blog about some of the crazy stuff we inherited when we bought this house.  By far the craziest is the alternate water heating system the previous owner built and I figured it’s about time I gave a little visual evidence of this fiasco (you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them).


First is a picture of the outdoor fireplace that the previous owners had built behind the house.  Besides the fact that it looks like a giant phallis the other problem with it is that it is too short. Some would say this is fitting, but this isn’t about me. If we were to burn wood in this thing the smoke would come in under our eaves and when the wind blows it would send the smoke into our neighbors’ homes (something we’ve been informed used to happen quite a bit).  When they had the fireplace built they had water pipes passed through it and hooked up to the main water supply of the house.  Brilliant!

The water pipes exit and re-enter the house through a hole in the wall in the garage (pictured at left) and then are attached to a radiator-type contraption which you can see pictured to the lower right (the silver looking thing).  After passing through this radiator the water was routed to several other sets of radiators and the hot water heater.  The result?

First we found that the pressure in and out of the water heater was all screwed up so it leaked through the pressure valve.  We had the water heater replaced before the second set of plumbers to look at it figured out the problem.  (For this my eternal gratitude goes out to John’s Plumbing).

Then when we removed the drop down ceiling in the basement we found out that there was a set of radiators between the joists of the main floor.  Double brilliant!  Finally when we had our ducts cleaned we found that they’d put a set of radiators inside the ducts, which of course let to mold in the HVAC system.Triple brilliant!

To top all of this, in my mind, is the fact that all of this was driven by an outdoor, wood burning operation in North Carolina.  So the logic is that you freeze your butt off for hours on end while you’re sitting outside burning wood to heat water in a climate that’s bitterly cold about three weeks out of the year. Quadruple brilliant!

We’ve had all of the water disconnected from our inherited Macgyver-esque alternative water heating system.  My next job is to physically remove the radiators from between the joists and the ductwork, which ought to be all kinds of fun.


Celeste and I were pretty well convinced that we had the craziest water heating system ever seen, but of course this is America and there’s always an ass dumber than yours out there.  The last picture I have is one that I found on the This Old House website that shows someone had a similar idea except they used an old car radiator.  I guess we should thank our lucky stars.  BTW, you should check out the photo galleries here and here on This Old House for some truly nightmarish home “improvement” projects (found via Boing Boing).

I’ll end with this piece of advice:  When you’re looking to buy a house and the home inspector looks at something and says, “What the heck is that?  I’ve never seen anything like that” you might want to reconsider or get some major concessions in your contract.  That’s exactly what the inspector said when he saw the contraption in our garage and it’s a sentence we’ve heard many times since.

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