For months now we've been having problems with our electricity. Weird problems. The lights will flicker dramatically for a few seconds and then half the house will lose power. It will stay off anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours, and then pop back on like nothing ever happened.
None of the circuit breakers trip when these power losses occur. Flipping the breakers on and off does nothing to make the power come back on. Occasionally, like yesterday, it will come on if you flip on a single light -- the light comes on and so does everything else.
But the parts of the house that go out are not all on the same side. The TV in the corner of the living room goes and the entry way light - but not the table lamps on the other side of the room. The hood light on the stove goes out - but not the stove. My bedroom lights and my bathroom lights go, as does my bedroom TV and the hall light, but the kids' bathroom right next to mine and the kids' rooms all work fine.
This is annoying enough for obvious reasons - blow-drying your hair in the morning when there is no power anywhere near your mirror is a seriously inconvenient thing to cope with. Many a morning I've had to stand in the kitchen with my little round magnifying mirror. Not being able to watch a show when the kids have everything else tied up - or even worse, having the bedroom DVR shut off in the middle of recording this week's episode of Game of Thrones -- that's seriously impacting my world. But the worst, the absolute worst part of it is how it impacts the kids.
My son's classroom is designed around helping children with autism learn social and behavioral skills. Everything is based on positive discipline. The kids have several tools to earn prizes. Sticker books for a toy out of the classroom toybox, a penny board for bigger rewards at the end of a day if enough pennies are earned. Race Car Man's challenge has been to earn the letters K-I-N-D-L-E every day. If he displays an expected behavior - complying with a request, transitioning from a task, being kind to another student, working on the task at hand -- he earns a letter. If he earns all of the letters, that evening at home he can do his favorite thing -- play Roblox on the computer, or Skylanders on the Wii. It started off as earning Kindle back when I first got the Fire and he wanted to play on it all the time. Currently he is obsessed with gaming, and it is enormously motivated to earn the privilege of playing.
Imagine a day when he has been great -- TERRIFIC in fact, and he comes home excited to continue the level he had to stop in the middle of on his Skylanders game last night because it was bedtime. He turns on the Wii, turns on the TV, powers up the Portal of Power, and puts the chosen Skylander on it. He starts playing, and he's having a great time. "Mommy!" he'll call out. "Look what I got for Gill Grunt in my upgrade!" If I don't come running, he'll pester me until I look. He's enjoying his reward, rightfully earned. Suddenly and without warning, the power goes out and his game cuts off.
This would be hard enough for a neurotypical child. For a child with autism, it is akin to the end of the universe. You can imagine the screaming.
If we were lucky, the power would come right back on. If we were not, it would be out for hours and my son would be nearly inconsolable. If he and his sister were playing the game together I 'd have two upset children howling at the same time. You probably don't want to check my store receipts to see how much the consumption of wine and comfort food increased since this started happening.
We had some very miserable nights the last few months.
Our first assumption was that it was spikes or lags from the utility district. We've had a lot of new construction in our area the last few years. A 5 acre field that used to have grapevines on it was turned into a small development for about 12 big houses, and there are similar developments popping up everywhere. After all, the additional users has had a huge impact on our internet service. Five o'clock rolls around and the internet slows to a damn crawl anymore. (Hel-loooooo Charter? Upgrade your lines already!)
I called the PUD and they sent a guy the same day. He looked at the power pole in the pasture and the transformer on the street, took some readings at the box on the house, and told me he could find nothing wrong. He determined the problem must be in the house.
I called an electrician. They dispatched a technician to diagnose the problem. He couldn't really find anything but made a couple of recommendations. When I had the money to implement, I scheduled the work. The guy came out yesterday and did his thing. I paid him and he went on his merry way.
I left shortly after that to pick the kids up from school and came home 15 minutes later to find half the house was dark and unresponsive. SHIT. I flipped a few breakers, went to my bedroom and turned the light on - and everything came back. OK. Hopefully this was just a fluke because someone was working on the box? Of course not. We went to Race Car Man's therapy appointment and came back again to a house without half its power. My son had earned his reward in school and been very good for his therapy appointment, and he was itching to play Skylanders, so you can imagine the level of meltdown. I called the electrician back. He said he would come as soon as he could. The power didn't come on for a couple of hours, but managed to resurrect itself ten minutes before he arrived.
He still couldn't find the problem, but while he was looking, it went out again. He tested the incoming power to the breaker panel and guess what? We were getting almost nothing in on the left side of the panel from the lines to the house.
After a rather terse conversation with the PUD, two very nice gentlmen arrived and worked on overtime hours to fix what turned out to be corroded and loose wires at the transformer.
Somehow I don't think they're going to reimburse me the $500 I paid to the electrician for something I didn't really need, but I'll forgive them since all I really wanted was for the screaming to stop.