Revenge of the Water Heater

 The thing about a water heater is that it's supposed to heat water--hence the name--and then hold aforementioned heated water until you let it out. If the water gets out before you want it to, that's a problem. It's also a problem if the heated water isn't heated, but never mind.


So when I saw water leaking out of the bottom of my water heater, it naturally occurred to me that I might have a problem. And what does one do in modern times when one has a problem? That's right: consult the internet.


The internet told me that the water might be coming from the drain valve, in which case I might be able to cap it. (It wasn't.) Or, it might be coming from anywhere else, in which case both I and my wallet were screwed. Further consultation revealed that "screwed" was not meant literally, so my collection of mismatched screwdrivers would not help me. Nor would the jar full of screws I've found in random places, and always wondered what they were supposed to be holding together.


Further, I discovered drinking a screwdriver would help, but only temporarily.


The internet told me my water heater is approaching its normal lifespan anyway, and there's no use crying over spilled water. However, it also told me that if the leak isn't too bad, and the water isn't damaging anything, I could go on using the heater for years more before it finally conks out.


(I suspect it was people on the internet who said that, rather than the internet itself. Then again, keep feeding information into a computer system and sooner or later it's going to figure stuff out for itself--we've all seen those movies.)


This idea suits me. (The "keep using it" idea, not "the internet's taking over" idea, which terrifies me.) "Ignore the problem and maybe it'll go away" is a creed I've lived by when it comes to home repairs, or anything mechanical. Yes, that may have led to a tire falling off my car, but no creed is perfect.


On a quite definitely related note, I also discovered that the valve to shut off water to my heater is corroded so badly that it's no longer a valve. It's just a scaly green blob with no logical function, rather like a politician's brain. I can't change the heater without shutting off water to the entire house, and the house is heated with water. If that's not an excuse to put the whole thing off until cold weather ends, I don't know what is. What could possibly go wrong?


 So I put it off until May, and started work three days before our town's spring cleanup day, when I could put the old water heater out. Three days later I was indeed able to take the old heater out, just in time. At that point I didn't have any water, hot or cold, and due to a pressure surge I'd also lost my  washing machine. But hey, I got rid of that old water heater.


I could go into more detail, but it's a little hard to type with these burned fingers and the strained shoulder. On the other hand, the sore toe and damaged knees make for a good excuse to catch up on episodes of Fargo. Thanks to my brother everything's up and running except for the washing machine, which was at least three decades old and bought used, anyway.


My home, which was also bought used, is always looking for new and original ways to beat me down. I suppose when it's time to install the new washing machine, it'll find a new way.


This is where my home maintenance projects usually go.



Ric Wells Added May 19, 2017 - 1:25pm
The silver lining does tarnish with age. Hope springs as long as the septic tank doesn't overflow or the sewer line doesn't back up with the spring thaw and heaving.
Stone-Eater Added May 19, 2017 - 1:43pm
LOL Hilarious :-) Thanks for the laugh !
Stone-Eater Added May 19, 2017 - 1:44pm
....let me find one of my funnier ones ;-)
Stone-Eater Added May 19, 2017 - 1:52pm
Jeffry Gilbert Added May 19, 2017 - 2:19pm
One would have thought those cops he worships would have selflessly pitched in to help. 
Leroy Added May 19, 2017 - 4:37pm
My dad found out the hard way of tolerating a leaky water heater.  The leak eventually became major.  It was in the basement.  Out of sight; out of mind.  It caused the room which housed the heater to rot out.  So much for saving money.
Mark Hunter Added May 19, 2017 - 4:39pm
Ric, the sewer line was one of my original big challenges with this house -- eventually the whole thing had to be dug up, and I was able to find no trace of a silver lining beneath ground level.
Mark Hunter Added May 19, 2017 - 4:39pm
Thanks, Stone-Eater--we all need the laughs!
Mark Hunter Added May 19, 2017 - 4:42pm
Jeffry, I've never mentioned worshiping anyone, so once again you've got it wrong. But yes, they did volunteer to help; I'm just not very good at asking when I should.
Leroy Added May 19, 2017 - 5:02pm
In my previous house, I replaced my water heater with an instantaneous water heater.  It was the best thing I ever did.  I could set the temperature and use the hot water only and my shower was the perfect temperature every morning.
Not such a smart idea to replace my current one.  My wife's family will just let it run continuously.  In Shanghai, it is always an instantaneous water heater.  My wife and her mother would just it run while they prepared to take a bath, letting it run for typically 45 minutes or more. Then I moved to the north where they have tank heaters.  I had to make sure I took my bath before my mother-in-law, else there would be no hot water.  Her baths were short, it was the running of the hot water before the bath that was the problem.  My wife is the same.  It is futile to replace my tank heater.
Chinese women will drive you crazy.  They want to be warm so they turn the heat on full blast. But they want fresh air too, so they will open all the doors and windows.  Argggh...  Now it is nearly summer and in the 90s.  My wife insists on opening the doors and windows.  I refused to turn on the A/C. She just can't understand why we can't open the window and turn on the A/C.
I never understood the idea of fresh air.  The worst indoor conditions here are better than the best outdoor conditions in China.  The doctor in China suggested opening the windows so my child could get fresh air.  I questioned her, "You mean like to today when the conditions are one level above hazardous?"  Her reply was, "Maybe not today, but like yesterday?"  I reply, "Oh.  Ok. Only when it is just hazardous?"
When we go by car, she rolls down the windows.  I turn on the A/C.  What can I do?
And they are hard on an American house.  In China, anywhere there is water there is a drain in the floor--and with good reason.  Water, water everywhere.  My previous house was built in 1929.  It had beautiful wood floors that had withstood the decades.  But, they were no match for a Chinese woman.  It only took one year to destroy them.
wsucram15 Added May 19, 2017 - 6:08pm
I just replaced my Hot Water Heater last year, what an expense. But my last one lasted almost 20 years so it was time...
So worth it though, bought a new furnace while I was at it.
Yes a house always has something wrong, always it seems. Glad you were able to get your HWH out by the time they came around to remove that heavy trash.
Mark Hunter Added May 20, 2017 - 12:35am
Leroy, I think that would have started a lot of arguments in my house! My parents were children of the Great Depression, and the hatred of wasting that much energy transferred from them to me. I prefer open windows to air conditioning (the air's pretty good around here), but if it's too hot or too cold we button up. Luckily my wife also grew up poor, so we don't run the hot water long and we don't, as my dad would put it, "heat the outdoors".
Mark Hunter Added May 20, 2017 - 12:39am
That big cleanup only comes around once a year, wsucram, so I'm really glad I made it under the wire. Our water heater lasted fifteen years, so I guess we did okay. The problem is that my furnace is over forty years old, so now I need to start saving up money toward that project ... you're absolutely right, there's always something. At least it gives me writing material--and sometimes, as with this case, I hardly even have to exaggerate.
Mark Hunter Added May 20, 2017 - 12:43am
I missed your previous comment, Leroy; sorry about your dad's experience. One good thing about my house is that the water heater, washer and dryer, and furnace are all in the basement, which has a concrete floor. It's a good thing, too, because whoever installed the plumbing was about as talented as I am!
Mircea Negres Added May 20, 2017 - 3:53am
Movies usually show people buying the four bedroom, two or three bathroom and white picket fence pile, then living happily ever after. The reality of owning a house is something else- maintenance, maintenance, maintenance which costs money and time. Of course, stubborn problems take on a life of their own and besides plumbers, carpenters and electricians, even an exorcist is required. Thank you for a humorous look at what's involved in owning a house, Mark. I've got a question for those who live in a house- what would you guys say is worse from a maintenance perspective, living in a mountainous area in the interior of a country, or on the coast? 
Mark Hunter Added May 20, 2017 - 5:12am
That's a great question, Mircea. I like living in the Midwest, where despite snowstorms and tornadoes we avoid a lot of the really severe, widespread weather like hurricanes and large wildfires. I'd imagine the differences in temperature are the biggest natural threats to a house, over the long term.
But in any case, you're absolutely right about maintenance, especially with a very old house like mine. If you're renting it's someone else's responsibility--but that's assuming they show up to get it done. Despite my lack of maintenance savvy, I prefer owning my own place where I can put a nail in the wall if I want to ... even though in my case that might bring mortal danger.
Jeffry Gilbert Added May 20, 2017 - 5:43am
Mircea, the challenges are very different between the mountains and the shore. Different things to defend from. That said, the providers of material, supplies and service have figured out just what to charge so the percentage of purchase price spent on maintenance each year is very similar in both locations. Here in Thailand labor cost is much lower though higher end products being imported are costlier. In the West both labor and materials are outrageous.
Variables like age, material built from, prior level of care, your skills need to be considered. 
John Minehan Added May 20, 2017 - 9:32am
With leaks, never forget the value of pepper.
One of my generator mechanics fixed the radiator on a 15KW generator associated with the TACFIRE system using pepper and it stayed fixed for a couple of years.
Michael B. Added May 20, 2017 - 1:16pm
Funny story! I learned my lesson on trying to make home repairs many years ago. I tried to fix a leaky bathtub faucet and wound up with a major project that took me most of the rest of the day to fix. I felt like a one-man Three Stooges act. The Germans actually have a word for a project that starts out with something very minor but winds up being a major disaster - "schimmbesserung". So-called "professionals" often aren't any better. For example, my landlady, who also owned a couple of bars and a bowling alley, would usually recruit her drunken patrons as handymen to work off their bar tabs. One time, the garbage disposal broke, and she said she was sending somebody; she wanted me to leave a key under a planter, telling me she could vouch for the guy and that he was trustworthy. I came home just in time to see him snorting a thick line of crank, and his girlfriend/assistant, in addition to being high, evidently had a raging case of OCD, as the entire contents of my cupboards were emptied and neatly arranged on the counters and floor. Luckily for them, I have a pretty good sense of humor, and they were nice enough, but people who are so high that they're almost in low-earth orbit usually are. The dude was so tweaked out and energetic that he was wanted to fix things that weren't broke, which is something I'm always against.
Stone-Eater Added May 20, 2017 - 1:18pm
That's "Verschlimmbesserung". You want to make something better and it ends up worse !
Michael B. Added May 20, 2017 - 1:38pm
I stand corrected - danke schoen, Herr Stein Esser! lol
John Minehan Added May 20, 2017 - 1:41pm
An "escalation of commitment error" (as they say in B-School) or a "bus ride to Abilene" (as I hear they say at Army C&GSC). 
Michael B. Added May 20, 2017 - 1:47pm
"Escalation of commitment error"...good one! The one I'm most accustomed to is "project creep", of which very, very few projects are without. I also used that term on one occasion to describe a certain engineer.
John Minehan Added May 20, 2017 - 1:49pm
"I also used that term on one occasion to describe a certain engineer."
Good one . . . . 
Michael B. Added May 20, 2017 - 2:24pm
Yeah, he was a strange dude who gave off a very creepy vibe. He spoke in a barely-perceptible voice and even then, it sounded like a 45 record being played on 33. Whenever anyone asked him questions, he would look at them like they just farted in his face. Evidently he was very religious, because when he wasn't working he was reading his Bible, either at his desk or in his car, and prayed for several minutes before eating his lunch. The fact that he was a very bad engineer didn't help. One day the guy didn't show up, didn't call in or anything, and the next day the boss called him asking about his status. The guy replied that he was at a new employee orientation at another company and didn't have time to talk. All in all, a weird and creepy person.
Mircea Negres Added May 20, 2017 - 2:27pm
Thanks for your replies, Mark and Jeffry. I live on the coast in South Africa. The climate is mild from a temperature perspective, but the wind and high humidity along with high salt content corrode the hell out of anything metallic. Here scratches on cars need to be painted over quickly or rust sets in and panels can rot within a year or two. Mind you, even house windows are not spared. I've seen some which appear to have been eaten by acid, but it's actually damage from salt in the air and probably sand blown by the wind. Most of those who have houses do spend quite a bit on maintenance if they can afford it, although I've seen properties in terrible state. My impression is that house maintenance on the coast is more frequent than inland, like in Johannesburg or Pretoria. There the wind only blows if there's a reason (in Port Elizabeth it blows for fun), the air is drier and building foundations a lot more stable than on the coast. The prices of building materials and labor are about the same throughout the country, however it's still a pain to pay for such things.
John Minehan Added May 20, 2017 - 2:27pm
"The guy replied that he was at a new employee orientation at another company and didn't have time to talk."
Which could be considered, "Notice."
Michael B. Added May 20, 2017 - 2:44pm
That was it...when the boss told me that story, I almost soiled myself from laughter. For some reason, I wasn't a bit surprised.
John Minehan Added May 20, 2017 - 2:47pm
Well, from the way you described him, he wasn't happy where he was.  sort of like a coyote in a bear trap . . . .
Michael B. Added May 20, 2017 - 3:06pm
That must have been it.
Stone-Eater Added May 20, 2017 - 3:44pm
Aluminum as much as possible. What we do in Senegal. I'm starting the house 100 m from the beach next year. And I try to avoid anything corrosive. Only plastic laptops and no CD's anymore. The salt eats it all up.
Mark Hunter Added May 20, 2017 - 4:12pm
Pepper! That's the kind of thing my brother would know about, or come up with himself--whatever works.
From now on Verschlimmbesserung will be my middle name ... One-man Three Stooges act being too long, although that describes my home maintenance efforts pretty well.
Mark Hunter Added May 20, 2017 - 4:18pm
I'd wondered about building near a coast. I used to want to live near an ocean, but over the years I've changed that to wanting to someday be near a lake--and I've had enough sewer problems to know I'd rather be overlooking the water from a hill.
Mircea Negres Added May 20, 2017 - 4:39pm
Stone-Eater, I've seen some houses with aluminium frame windows, but most have the usual steel frames.
Mark, if a car radiator leaks, apparently curry powder poured into it will also block the hole until you can get it fixed. I heard this one from my former driving instructor over 10 years ago. Indeed, the high ground is useful even in situations other than military. I often shake my head at the irony in my life because I prefer the mountains yet find myself living on the Indian Ocean coast.
Sometimes the wind in Port Elizabeth is so strong that after a good gale the newspaper usually has stories of houses in the suburb of Walmer whose roofs got ripped off and cars crushed by ten foot diameter trees which got knocked over by the wind. One time I went to the mall for my monthly shopping. Going in, the weather was fine, but when I went home, I found myself buffeted by the wind like I was a piece of paper and thanked (when I usually cursed) the heavy load of the backpack (about 30 pounds) and 4 or 5 full shopping bags because they kept me on the ground. When I got home, I heard on the radio that wind gusts were measured during my walk home to have been at 192 km/h! Living on the coast can be crazy...
Stone-Eater Added May 20, 2017 - 5:19pm
I've seen some houses with aluminium frame windows, but most have the usual steel frames.
They're more expensive but it pays off in the end. And I will not use cement but what we call "banco" here. A kind of hardened clay that cools when it hot and keeps the warmth at night. And it's as tough as cement, I assure you.
Learning from the natives....
Mark Hunter Added May 20, 2017 - 5:57pm
Learning from the natives is definitely the way to go.
But that's it for me--no living on the coast! Actually, my parents both come from the Appalachians, and I've always loved visiting the hills and hollows down there. There are areas of northern Indiana that can get rugged, but mostly it's flat or low rolling hills.

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