A bit of drama

Poof, all our lights went out and the heaters stopped.

It was 11 o’clock last night, 38 degrees outside headed to 31, and I was at the end of a very challenging day.

Our lights had been flickering for the past week, and I had done some troubleshooting. I was limited physically, but limited more by the problem being so intermittent.

Not to worry, the lights we use are 12 volt, and we have 110 fluorescents available. I managed to verify that status when the regular lights went out completely one evening but I could still turn on the fluorescents.

The problem is that the 12 volt lights don’t give a clue that they’re back on, because their switches are electronic so remain off. The problem was actually a flicker of the whole 12 volt system.

Ahhhh, which leads to last night’s dilemma. The whole 12 volt system turned off: the fans that blow hot air, the pumps that circulate the boiler fluid so we have hot air, the thermostat that triggers everything. Oh, and the fluorescents (unclear about that one).

No light, no heat, and I’m beat. But why worry, it has always flickered back on in just a minute.

Checked the three breaker/fuse panels in the back bedroom. Checked the whole panel of controls for the lights above the potty (they’re a multiplexed system, with multiple switches for each set of lights).

Goin on 15 minutes and no 12 volt. Call me Alfred E Neuman: “What, me worry?” The system had always flickered back on right away.

I might as well go out and check our battery connections in case we had a bad ground. Nope, tight. Cold out there, too.

Back inside, the computer still worked, because it’s plugged into 110. Monitor provided some great illumination. Robyn turned on our electric fireplace, including its heater element, and got out the comforter.

I decided to research the problem online. Hmm, 12 volt solenoid will cause flicker. Ughhh, my solenoid is in the basement, and requires acting like a snake to get to it. After abdominal surgery. Who needs the grief! Why worry?

The. Power. Always. Comes. Right. Back.

Going on 40 minutes without heat, I decided to be a python. Took pliers and screwdriver, and crawled into the basement with my flashlight. Ohhhh, this is work….

Identified the solenoid, checked for loose connections, then did what all master mechanics do when there’s no explanation for failure….gave it some good raps with the screwdriver handle.

Click. Three other things nearby clicked. Fans started to whir. Pumps started to pump. The diesel burner fired because it had cold water to heat. Robyn tapped on the floor to indicate changes upstairs.


11 thoughts on “A bit of drama

  1. What a story, and so well told! Glad you finally got to “bingo”, but yikes, being a python after that surgery sounds dicey. Good job, Mr Goodwrench! Now, can you bang the solenoid from farther away next time?

  2. Oh good grief!  Hopefully you got all warmed up and are taking it easy today.  Remember I told you to rest.  Not healed yet! 


  3. Oh the joys of life on the road! All to familiar to these retired motorhomers!! Wishing you endless days of no electrical, automotive, or physical problems–in other words, instant trouble-free-paradise!

    On Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 11:25 AM, the BigTaxi

  4. I have nothing to say but wanted you to know I had nothing to say so I wrote this so you would know
    I have nothing to say. But if I did have something to say it would be” MEN” , you could have hurt yourself.

    • I certainly have nothing to say about what you didn’t say or what you would’ve said if you did say. But if I did it would be just one word: cold (outdoors, not you).

  5. Doug; had the same problem once and a friend who is an electrician located a couple breakers on the charger/inverter that fixed the problem. If it happens again check inverter box for breakers.TC

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