Saturday, June 5, 2010

Minor Domestic Disturbance

Last night around 6 p.m., E. and I realized we had no hot water. A trip down to the basement confirmed our worst fears — our ten-year-old gas hot water heater had leaked several inches of water into the surrounding area, including inside a closet where we'd stored boxes on the floor. Trying to look on the bright side, we reminded ourselves that water is much easier to clean up than oil. Then we set to work. Or, I should say, E. set to work.

This minor crisis served to remind me of my physical shortcomings as well as my deficiencies regarding anything mechanical. The water heater shutoff valve was stuck, so E. temporarily turned off the water to the entire house. I'd forgotten where the main water shutoff is located. Then E. used a mallet to loosen the water heater shutoff valve, so he was able to close it and then restore (cold) water to the rest of the house. I wouldn't have had the common sense and possibly not the strength to get the shutoff valve to close. Next, E. had the presence of mind to look for the gas shutoff. He quickly located it and shut that off, too. Such a move wouldn't have occurred to me. 

I did have a role, however. My job was to find a plumber who could replace the water heater. Good luck at 6 p.m. on a Friday night. In fact, the receptionist for my regular plumber did call me right back, but then she informed me that no one would be available until Monday morning. Meantime, she offered moral support and some practical advice — turn off the shutoff valve, don't use the hot water faucets, write down the model and serial numbers so you'll have them handy when the plumber finally calls.

My next move was to contact our heating/air conditioning company to see if they could help. The service guy on call told me he didn't service water heaters but would ask his manager if he had a suggestion. Within half an hour, the manager put me in touch with a different plumber, who does work on weekends. The plumber was pleasant and helpful. He promised to try to locate a new water heater for us in the morning. If he found one, he would install it that afternoon. Just knowing someone was on the case made me feel better.

Meanwhile, E. was engaged in more tasks that were beyond my physical ability — moving wet boxes onto dry ground and attempting to drain out the rest of the enormous (75 gallon) water tank. Unfortunately, the hose he hooked up didn't drain the water effectively, so that meant releasing water from the tank into a big bucket and carrying the bucket to a sink on the other side of the basement. I soon lost count of how many trips it took, but my arms are too weak to have hoisted one of the bucketfuls he carried. I seriously need to start weight training.

This morning, the concrete floor is mostly dry and we've cleared some beach chairs and other stuff out of the area near the water heater to make room for the plumber when he arrives. Chances are he won't find the right water heater today, so we'll be washing with cold water for a while. But I wasn't too happy with my prior plumber anyway — although I've lost a water heater, I'm hoping I've gained a good plumber.

Fortunately, although the bottoms of some boxes were wet, nothing inside was damaged. And, thinking positively, the forced relocation of lots of stuff has created an opportunity for a long overdue cleanup and reorganization. Not exactly how I planned to spend my weekend, but I'm mindful that things could have been a lot worse. If we'd been away when the heater began to leak, we could have returned home to a major flood.

The plumber told me that ten years is about as much as one can expect from a water heater. He said they're only built to last about that long. Talk about planned obsolescence. I'm sure I could write an entire blog post about that, if not a book.


  1. Heee heee heee !
    It is just the same here - some have muscles, others have brains, and some have both !
    Congrats to E. !!!

  2. We have a homeless, sane, learned man who attends the Zen center. I asked him where he slept. He said in the winter in his friend's abandoned van... but in the summer, with the stars, on the guys porch. He was on the way to the library because Austin gets so warm in the afternoon. He reads and understands what he reads. Used to have a career in technology, but then went to South America and couldn't be part of our economy. Anyway, he always has such a beautiful smile on his face when we are chanting. He doesn't worry about his hot water heater going out.

  3. I have always kept my water heater outside-we built a little house for it. sooner or later the darn things always leak water everywhere...this way, it is at least outside when it happens.