Weather, Parts, & Power: The Texas Electricity Grid and Thoughts on Plumbing

TEXAS – (By Mark H. W. Hiebert for Realty News Report) – Here we are in the big Texas chill, thawing out a little bit today at least in San Antonio. The weather has me thinking back to the days I worked at Indian Hills Ace Hardware in fabulous Wichita, Kansas, what was in my mind the greatest hardware store in the known universe. In particular, I’m thinking about plumbing.

Weather being weather and whether or not it’s sub-freezing today, there’s a fair chance that there will be another forecast showing numbers none of us like to see here in our part of Texas. Back in the Kansas of my youth people gave good thought to preparedness. Water supplies came into homes deep enough under the soil that they weren’t going to freeze in the yard, and once in the house the lines were run and insulated such that a little negative nine or -19 degree cold front wasn’t going to ice that water. Stuff was built in the anticipation that things would get bad, which they did (albeit not as often as in other points north).

Weather, Parts, & Power
Mark H. W. Hiebert. Photo credit:

Of particulars, at the hardware store we sold spigots that were designed for exceptionally cold weather. They were things of beauty, bright-plated brass or stainless steel as I recollect. They worked. They weren’t cheap, but neither were they outrageously expensive contrasted with the cost of a whole house or even a small plumbing repair.

Rather than the little fixture fitting on the end of a pipe that stuck out from the side of the house, these special spigots were a few to several inches long; their stems cut off the water well away from the outside wall, thus enabling the water to be better insulated from the cold outside. While it assuredly got the kind of cold in Wichita that would freeze a man into a pillar of ice were he to stay out in it a little too long and inappropriately dressed, that manner of cold was infrequent. Nonetheless, the spigots in question worked no matter what the temperature might have been, and most notably they worked at keeping the pipes from busting on those nights of extreme cold. Thanks to Amazon, you can probably get them anywhere a truck or drone can go.

Back to Texas, let’s think of a state as a house we are rebuilding. We can build a cheap house using materials of the lowest initial cost, the parts made to function under normal circumstances but not necessarily made to last generationally, or we can build a quality house, one where the materials are made to function under abnormal circumstances and constructed to last well beyond the days we take our own and final individual breaths. The quality house will have a higher initial cost, but it will last and it will work. The cheap house will fall apart.

If we’re rebuilding the electricity grid, it makes sense to do it such that it will last and with the materials and fail-safes that will keep things running under abnormal circumstances. Without doubt, that adds up to a more costly initial outlay, but engineering it for what is considered more extreme than is likely to be seen will save us the greater cost of life, property, and livelihoods we are experiencing in these rare February days.

Using the property analogy a different way, it’s also the case that whether the house is cheaply-built or quality-built, it isn’t going to last if it doesn’t receive care and maintenance. The little, cheap, and well-maintained house is going to outlast the big, expensive, and unattended castle.

Before the politicians get too deep into their partisan weeds and claims about fault, it’s time to draw back the view to a wider perspective, document the facts, find solutions to the points of failure, enhance the systems that worked, and rebuild something your grandkids and mine can carry forward. I’d suggest we use the good spigots when we fix this house.

Anyway, that’s my 23 cents (which won’t mail a postcard these days, but alas).

(Commentary by Mark H.W. Hiebert)

Feb. 17, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021

File: Weather, Parts, & Power

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