Prevaricating Plumbers

The new solar hot water system we ordered hadn't arrived, but the plumber and his sidekicks were there ready to install it. That wasn't why WifeOfVirge called me at work and asked me to come home. Something was wrong. Sometimes a story doesn't ring true, and the story being pushed by the plumber was tingling her spider senses.

We'd planned to have the new hot water service installed on a west-facing roof section. It's not as efficient as north-facing but on any of our north-facing roof area it would have stood out like a bubo on a barbie doll. In fact we'd already decided to order a three-panel instead of a two-panel unit to compensate for the sub-optimal placement.

When I arrived home I got the story straight from the plumber's mouth.

"It won't work in that spot. It's still in shade."

"What? Shaded by the front roof section?" I asked.


I climbed the ladder. I looked. "How tall did you say the solar panels are?" I called down.

"About 1 metre and a half," the plumber replied.

"And how low can the panels be mounted? How close to the gutter?"

"The bottom can go as low as that row of screws there," he pointed.

The proposed roof area wasn't in shadow. We would miss some of the pre-noon sun but I suspected that he may have had an ulterior motive. Then he mentioned that there was an extremely remote possibility of an inspection from the energy authority and a reduced rebate on the unit cost if the inspection found it wasn't installed in the best position. That's when I knew there was more than just our energy-efficient, hot showery bliss in his thoughts.

We wandered around the back of the house.

"It's going to be a bugger getting the pipes to it," he grumbled. "Can we get access to the roof-space?"

"I don't think so," I said.

"We don't usually run pipes up over a roof. It's usually just up a wall."

A couple of neurons high-fived each other in my head. These guys were probably on a fixed-price contract from the solar heating company. HouseOfVirge was not an easy job so they were looking for a way to make it easier.

I pointed to the sub-floor door. "There's plenty of space under the house. Why not go straight through underneath then straight up to the unit?" I said.

"That could work... apart from the extra distance" he said.

Tinglissimo. The bullshit detectors were firing again. I explained what the plumber must have already known. The pipe length needed to go across then up would be approximately the same as that required to go up then across. I left him to work it out.

I'm not too worried if he decides to take the hard route up over the roof. The salesman who signed up the contract was a senior estimator. He knew the distances when he quoted on the job and agreed to waive the installation cost. I will just have to hope our prevaricating plumbers are better at doing the work than they are at spinning a believable tale.