Happy New Year and a Swan Song

Hello to 2018, and goodbye to Randy West


Randy West/Courtesy

I was cleaning out my old photos and I came across some of a home I inspected many years ago. The home had a lot of, shall we say, happy homeowner handiwork.

There were lights with no fixtures — the bulbs were soldered directly to the wires. There was an in-wall electric heater directly over a toilet that would burn your scalp and probably start your shirt on fire if you sat too long. There was no drain pipe under the kitchen sink, instead there was a 5-gallon bucket with an attached garden hose routed out the exterior wall.

There was a “solar hot water” system that consisted of an open galvanized tank on the roof. You opened one faucet to fill the tank (“stop if you see water draining past the window”). Then another valve to gravity feed a faucet at the kitchen sink.

There also was a generator in the garage, and the exhaust was routed out a window with what looked like an undersized and severely damaged dryer duct. The window was so high that no exhaust was making it out the window, it was all leaking out of the duct into the garage.

There were notes all over the place on how to operate the switches and devices — this note was my favorite! I can’t copy/paste from a photograph, but I transcribed these instructions as exactly as I could. My spell checker corrected some words, but my grammar checker failed about half way through:

“Instructions To Operate Astron Hot Water Heater.


Randy West/Courtesy

To Activate The Astron Water heater, Place the Three Valves marked A B and C in the Horizontal position, that is, the Red handles will be laying down. You may have to force the cold water pipe just a little to get the large Red handle to lay down horizontal. After all three Red handles are down, run the hot water in the kitchen till all air is out of the line (NO MORE SPEWING AT THE FAUCET.) Now start the generator, plug in the charge cable and waite till the system goes into the CHARGE mode. The yellow light will glow on the Trace inverter indicating BULK CHARGE. Now plug in the power cable on the ASTRON heater into the wall socket on the other side of the short wall, then flip on the switch on the front of the ASTRON heater. In about one hour or less the water should be HOT. You now have about 4 gallons of HOT water. When finished, turn off the ASTRON water heater, unplug its cable from the wall socket and return all three RED VALVES A B and C to their vertical position. This is the normal position for SOLAR HOT WATER. You may now turn off the Generator.”

So, to get hot water to the bathroom you had to move valves, go start the generator in the garage, risk your life plugging in cords near the Trace inverter panel, ‘waite’ one hour, and you’ll have 4 gallons of hot water. Enough water for my wife to wash her hair (not rinse it, just wash it).

I remember the generator was in the garage, the water heater in a basement room, the “Trace inverter” in a different room, and the water heater cord in a third room (sort of, this was a half-height wall). If there were several “panels” on the walls, this would have looked right at home in a 1950 science fiction movie. These had combinations of 120 and 12-volt wiring, fuses and breakers, speakers, solenoids, timers, and devices with no known nomenclature.

New subject


Randy West/Courtesy

I’ve always tried to inject a little humor in my columns. About 10 years ago I wrote that the words “homeowner maintenance” are mutually exclusive, like “military intelligence.” That was when I first realized how many people read my column. I received many emails from irate veterans. In the next column I explained that I am a vet, as was my father. In the column I was referring to the poor intelligence/information that the military receives, not the IQ of the military members.

I’ve also been known to ramble off course in these columns. Several years ago I got a speeding ticket from that stupid photo van in Prescott Valley. It was at the bottom of the hill on Stoneridge, and probably caught a few hundred people. In my next column I raged about these cameras, but you never saw that column. I received an email from editor Tim Wiederaenders saying he would like to see the word “home” or “inspector” at least once in my columns.

As I mentioned I was going through old home inspector photos. Actually I was archiving the photos, and all my other home inspector folders. That’s because at the end of the year (a couple days), I’m getting archived myself — at least from the home inspector profession.

This will be my last “ask the inspector” column. It’s hard to believe the first column was in the Dec. 7, 2005, Courier. Thirteen years and a few hundred columns. I enjoyed writing every one of them. And I enjoyed reading the countless emails I’ve received from these columns.

Some of you emailed me several times, a few emailed me frequently. Some dared to disagree with me. Some even made suggestions that are impossible with human anatomy. And I even enjoyed reading those.

Thank all of you for reading my columns over the years!