Got hot? (water, that is)

Our attic water heater has been on the fritz.  A few months ago, it suddenly stopped heating water.  Jessica – never one to complain – mentioned that her showers were quite invigorating.  We called R & H Plumbing (our new plumbing company of choice – having firmly sworn off that guy who re-plumbed our claw-foot tub, as well as the rude ignorant folks at “Friendly Plumbing” who laid our gray water pipe upside down), and their man came out very promptly and informed us that one of the two heating elements had burned out and needed to be replaced.

He performed that little taskette for us, but also warned us that, A) the water heater was more than ten years old and liable to go at any time, B) when we did have it replaced we should consider having a “pan” installed under it because if it broke it would flood the entire house from top down, and C) due to where it’s located, it wasn’t a job he’d personally relish doing.  Think ship in a bottle.  The water heater was installed in the attic (in a short, cramped, non-air-conditioned and therefore sweltering space behind the wall and right up under the roof) before the walls were put in.  Getting the old one out and a new one in could require moving a wall!

So, I was not too exited when Jessica told us a week or so ago that her shower had once again turned quite cold.  Of course, a cold shower in May is not nearly as bad as a cold shower in February, but still.

Scott called R & H, and a different guy came out.  It was on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.  After surveying the scene, he told us that one of the heating elements was out (not sure if it was the same one as last time or the other one) and that he couldn’t repair it.  He said we had a 1994 water heater (16 years old) in an area where water heaters typically last ten years – or maybe a little longer if you have a softener, which we don’t – and it was full of rocks (caused by the fact that our water is as hard as concrete and the water heater’s only been drained three or four times in 16 years), and although it wasn’t leaking yet he didn’t know WHY it wasn’t, and that for all those reasons, ethically he couldn’t repair it.

Given that, Scott told him to bring us a new one and switch them out, which he agreed to do when he could get another guy to come help him, and that ended up being today.

The two of them worked for over three hours, and most of that time was spent simply trying to drain the old beast.  It contained at least 18 inches of “rock” (lime scale) in the bottom, and rocks are heavy.  The lime kept it from draining, and, while they might have been able to carry down a water heater that still contained some water, they could NOT carry down a water heater that contained a few hundred pounds of rocks, as well as some water.  Therefore, it was essential to get ALL the water out, and that was one time-consuming proposition.

Oh, and by the way, for the entire time they were working, we were not allowed to turn on any water or flush any toilets.  I’ll just say that I was thankful for the gas station a couple miles up the road at 65!  However, eventually the job was completed, and the guy asked me if I wanted to pay him an extra $30 to haul the old one off, or if I was going to take care of it.  I told him I’d be HAPPY to pay him $30 to do that!

Now our shiny new 40-gallon water heater is heating up the attic water, and the girls should be set for some long, hot showers.  I will also gently remind my menfolk every spring and fall to run a hose out Josiah’s bedroom window and drain that puppy!


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