Monday, October 17, 2011

Adventures in hot water heaters

I like a good plumbers crack joke as much as the next guy.  This weekend, I came home late on a Saturday night and the joke was on me: a crack in the top of our water heater!

Water was coming out at a pretty decent rate.  Luckily, I must have caught it just in time as there was only about a half gallon on the basement floor.  Its a 40-gallon tank, so it could have been a lot worse.  I shut the water off to the tank, and decided to call it an evening.

I woke up the next morning and didn't have much choice other than head into homey d and try to find a replacement.

I thought hot water tanks lasted like 15 years (this one was 20 years old actually).  When you go into the store, you are basically up for a choice of 3, 6 or 9 year tanks.  Sometimes 12 years.  This seems pretty weak.  I opted for a six year tank, based on a combination of price and reviews.  This thing was exactly the same dimensions, so I was looking at a pretty easy install.

I drained the tank, which took basically the better part of an hour (40 gallons is a lot of water).  Then I cut the pipes to the tank and walked it out the way.

The hardest part of this job getting the new tank into my house and down the stairs by myself.  That will be my last time doing that.

New tank installed.

Anyway, to make a long story short.  I soldered everything ok, BUT, saw a bead of water around the cold supply (the threaded part, on the right above) when the job was complete.  I had filled the tank, and there wasn't really a leak, but I wanted to walk away from this job forever, so I cut into the pipe so I could tighten the leaky spot and re-solder a coupling.

When I was cutting, there was a quite a bit of hissing coming out of the pipe.  It was about 10:30 at night after a pretty long day on Sunday.  It did give me a moment of pause, but I decided "fuck it, I'm cutting this thing"

Big mistake.  Water started shooting everywhere!

Dorothy will probably never forget this moment.  As I started screaming and running around the basement like a lunatic trying to turn off every valve in the basement as water shot everywhere.  Nothing was stopping the water!  After what seemed like an eternity (about 30 seconds) the water stopped spraying.

I sat down and sulked for a bit.  I thought to myself 'how could this have happened??'

Well, it turns out that I filled the tank with water.  About 40 gallons of water.   What do you think happened to the 40 gallons of air that was in the tank?  It got compressed.  We must have pretty good faucets throughout the house, because no air was pushed out.  If I would have opened one of the faucets for a moment upstairs before that cut, all of that could have been avoided.  It was a classic "late in the day" mistake.  You learn something new everyday.

I gave up that night (for fear of making more bad decisions) and came home Monday evening from work and re-soldered the pipe with the supervision of a seasoned veteran.  I sweat the pipe like a pro, in about 5 minutes.

I took a hot shower that night.  It was awesome.

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