December 26, 2018
Today's Water Heater Fun
By the time I had called the manufacturer in Tennessee, and three local HVAC businesses I had found all the information I needed. Like always, my plan was changing with each phone call. The nice lady at the manufacturers let me know I could find it cheaper to buy the element at the local hardware store, then send them my receipt for a warranty reimbursement. Otherwise I'd have to wait at least two days for hers to arrive and pay $24 for 2nd Day Delivery.
That's a long time without hot water, unless I am camping. As long as I am at home and not camping ... I want every convenience possible, even hot water every night.
I found out after calling two local establishments, one being my 'friend's place' ... their service charge as soon as their truck wheels touched the first stone of my gravel driveway was $125 and counting. The 3rd local business I called was still closed for the holidays. They are known in the area as the best HVAC biz but also the most expensive.
Don't get me wrong, I have a few dollars on hand that are accessible with a slide of a debit card or at an ATM machine. I just hate wasting money. Nothing pisses me off more than hearing $125 before they even get to the top of the hill. It further pisses me off when "he" says that does not include the time it takes to drain your 40gal tank or any problems we might run into. What ????? How damn hard can it be to turn the valve for the water supply off right on top of the heater, hook a hose to the drain valve, run it outside and let the water come out???
"What problems might he be talking about, that would add to that $125 service call??? "
By the time I hung up the phone I said "screw 'em" ... I'll do it myself. After all you are talking to someone that is not a RV mechanic but a few years ago I changed the two oil lines that ran underneath, from the oil filter in the middle of a 26' Class C, up to the side of the radiator in colder, wetter weather than today. Like my dad use to tell me when I was really young ... "you have a brain, use it!!!"
Around the year 2000 I had a brand new Palm Pilot ... remember those? A handheld computer of sorts. I figured out on my own which fuse went to what. You can barely see the engraved numbers on the outside border of each circuit breaker. I wrote all of them down and entered them that Palm Pilot.
I backed up that data at the time with a little memory card, I was set for a 'lifetime', or so I thought. A lot has changed since that model of Palm Pilot in 2000 .... that information was not seen anywhere 18 years later .... let alone today.
Those five 30's on the right side belong to my five baseboard heaters in four rooms. Ask me how I know that ... LOL. On one of those faded white labels I see the word range, the top one I cannot make out and the bottom white label it looks like two words "water heater" ?????? Is that just some wishful thinking on my part? It depends on what angle you look at it. So to play it safe, I flipped every 30 on the left side to "off".
At the rate I was seeing water coming out of that hose, I would have to stop this water heater project to mow the yard next April. I'm confused at this part of the process. (I can hear the experts in the crowd laughing)
Yet .... I did get to see what the old heating element looked like. Of course since I have no idea what I am doing, I then have no idea what a normal 5 year old heating element should look like .... any ideas ... is this a normal look or needs replaced? In my opinion it needs replaced.
My next problem is an hour and thirty-three minutes into this fun project ... is not the lack of water flow that a draining tank should have ... when I poked my small camping LED flashlight into the hole left by the upper heating element I took out while cleaning the threads for the new element located near the top of the machine .... WHAT DO YOU THINK I SAW ?????
WATER WATER WATER WATER WATER WATER WATER WATER !!!!!!!
Water ... just about an inch below the upper opening of the water heater, where the element was located ... It will take all night, maybe days, weeks or months to drain completely!!!!!
Two hours later I hear a sound of some kind, like water might be draining. It's inside the unit and I had just barely unscrewed the bottom heating element. That had to have released some sort of pressure. I was THRILLED I did not have 35 gallons of water hitting me in the face ... since I was on my hands and knees, checking to see if I saw any kind of water coming out with the old heating element still screwed in.
While the unit took it's time draining ... I decided to unload the photos from the iPhone and start this blog post. Before you get out of shape on this and start telling me I'm an idiot (maybe I am), I was planning on draining my water heater anyway this year BEFORE the heating elements went bad .... BEFORE I had no hot water.
That brings up the other thing I was always wondering about when it came to my 'old friend' advice of .... drum roll ..... that I did not have to drain the water heater every year, in fact that it was bad for it. Still I have friends telling me their water heater lasted for 15-20 years and I've been HAVING TO have this 'friend' replace my water heater every 5 years when I wake up to a flood on my kitchen floor!!!!
So what gives? Drain annually or don't drain it anytime?
Two hours and forty-four minutes into the process ... the mystery continues. Little water flow, the 'draining' sound inside the water heater is still there AND THE WATER HEATER IS LIGHT ENOUGH THAT I CAN ROCK IT BACK AND FORTH, A LITTLE BIT OFF THE FLOOR !!!!
That begs the question .... WHERE IS THE WATER DRAINING TO ??????
With that, I saw no other recourse but to take Stella out for her afternoon walk since it is beautiful sweatshirt weather outside today. Plus it can give me some time to think and some time for the water to drain out without me standing over the drain valve saying "Faster Faster Faster."
Back from the walk ... I have a new plan. Get online and look for images of water coming out of the hose. I found nothing like that. I DID find a lot of articles on how to drain a water heater, in fact a few of them I had bookmarked last month but failed to review them this morning. What could be a better source than the OWNERS MANUAL ???
Well well well .... what do we have here ????
Of course late into this 'ball of fun', I find with my online search AFTER Stella's afternoon walk ... different instructions than what my owner's manual says. Imagine that!!!!
Following Bob Vila's instructions .... I opened the pressure relief value ... that noise went away after a short hissing sound when it released pressure inside the tank. That hissing sound also told me the pressure relief valve worked. Of course the Owners Manual labeled this valve as the TEMPERATURE RELIEF VALVE .... what?????
Another thing I was thinking about the lack of water flow .... a plugged or blocked drain valve by too much sediment. I just found a way to check that.
Three hours into this pain in the ass project I find out my problem. I didn't really get 'serious' about this job until after Stella's walk and I had time to think instead of wasting time letting the water heater "drain on it's own" ... take whatever time you need plan. The sediment at the bottom of the tank is blocking the flow of water.
How did I find that out for sure .... Bob's instructions and my curiosity.
I leaned a two gallon pail under the bottom heating element/thermostat block and unscrewed that element a little more .... water like I expected from the start came flowing out of that small area into my pail. I was able to screw the old element back in soon enough so the pail would not overflow. In the bottom of that two gallons of clear cold water were nice white rock type of granules.
If you look at his picture, what is big enough to fit under that lowest drain valve where the hose is connected and collect 12-35 gallons of water??
I decided to stick that two gallon pail under the lower element area .. I knew I could screw the old element back in fast enough to stop the pail from overflowing. By the way the water level looked inside the element hole, there could not have been that many gallons of water left in the tank.
I emptied two more pails of water and was able to pull out the lower heating element. I could see where it had got too hot and by all the sediment crud on the tubes, I knew I had made the right decision to replace both of them. I believe this is cause of my loss of hot water.
The hot water faucets spit and sputtered air out that was loud enough to have Heidi and Stella running for cover in the bedroom. It doesn't take much in their quiet world to make them scared .... they are use to me screaming at referees, umpires or officials during games on tv ... as if they can hear me.
I let the water run for an hour or so, then turned the power back on so I'll have some hot water tonight.
Sure I spent some time on this, but it took three hours to get really serious about completing the job. I definitely took longer than any HVAC professional would have taken but it wasn't time out of my schedule. All I have is time being retired where I can fill that time slot with anything I want to do. Today it just happened to be this.
That decision saved me $125 or more even after I subtract out the $27.03 it cost me for two heating elements and the tool to take the old ones out and screw the new ones in.
Sounds to me like I have added another home maintenance project to my resume.
All is good tonight in 'the tropics' of Southern Indiana.