Thursday, January 21, 2010

Plumb tired of plumbing

No hot water and a burning smell from the basement.  This is never a good sign.  Water heater is toast.  Looks like a leak around the seal of the upper element dripped down and shorted the lower element.  Ah, I hate the smell of burning plastic in the morning.

Don't want to mess about with replacing elements and thermostats on a leaky gunky tank, so went with a new one.  A cheapy, since our well water isn't kind to water tanks.  Cheap or expensive, it will still have to be replaced in 6 years and one month, just after the 6 year warranty runs out.  Found the right one on sale even.  Got it home, opened the box, there was a giant dent.  Not a cosmetic dent, but a top to bottom 1" deep gouge.  The kind you would only get if you lifted the tank with a forklift and ran in into a very sharp corner.  On purpose.

Had it back 20 minutes after I bought it looking for a replacement.  It was the last one in stock.    Naturally.  But hey, they are expecting a delivery of more Feb 2nd if I want to wait!  The next closest CT store had some, but they are 115 km away.  Ended up paying more for a virtually identical tank at the hardware store (same manufacturer, same model, different label).   Annoying, but less annoying than 2.5 hours of driving and the price difference was less than the tank of gas I would have used.

A pretty straightforward change-out, but I elected to replace an old valve that had turned into a gunk magnet, decreasing hot water pressure and not fully closing when turned to 'off'.  It is important to cycle your valves!!  Turn them off then back on occasionally.  Or they won't work when you need them to.   Also added some unions at the inlet and outlet.  Five bucks a piece, I can see why they were left out by whoever put the old tank in.  Worth it though, since I won't have to cut the tank out if there are any more problems or when it comes time to replace the tank again.

Omniscient foresight? Finished everything up, filled the tank over the course of a few hours so as not to strain the well or old piston pump.  Two leaks.  I was surprised, since I'm half decent at sweating copper pipes.  Neither was my bad though.  New valve was leaking through the stem - just had to snug up the nut.  Also the hot water outlet was leaking.  Took me three tries to solve that leak - yay for unions or I would have been cutting and soldering all night.  Just had to depressurize, drain a little out the TPR valve, and unscrew.  Replaced the thread compound and tried tightening twice to no avail.  Turns out the plastic sleeve inside the inlet was a fraction of a millimeter higher than the metal threads of the inlet.  Even after pipe wrenching tight, the plastic left a little gap, allowing the leak.  Shaved off the excess with my Olfa, sealed up nice and tight with no more leaking.

One more thing to do I didn't have parts for.  New tank has a 3/4 inch TPR, old one was 1/2" temperature and pressure relief valve.  Against code to reduce the diameter, so need to get some 3/4 copper pipe and a threaded adapter.   It is a safety issue!  If, for whatever reason, the heating elements don't shut off (like a short due to leaking tank?), the water expands and needs somewhere to go.  If the water gets too hot, or there is too much pressure in the tank, the TPR opens and releases water/pressure.  Reducing from 3/4 to 1/2 would maybe not be an issue, but check out this awesome video of what can happen if the TPR is capped shut and the elements keep heating!

Unforeseen expenses are annoying, but the increased water pressure is glorious.  Gunkless tank will also mean electricity savings.   In recognition of all my hard work, Leaf gave me a special treat.  Custard.  How things change post kids...


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