Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Water Heater: Crying Wolf

     Went down to the basement this morning and there was water on the floor; not much but a small puddle and a larger damp area, appearing to be coming from the water heater.  Oh, no!

     Shut the water valves, shut off the gas supply, called the plumber.  Went back down to see what needed to be rearranged and/or moved to the safe...

     ...Took a closer look at the water and spotted the opened-up elbow in the air-conditioning condensate drain, hidden in the shadow of the water heater.

     Y'see, the furnace guys didn't glue the joints in the PVC line; it has a couple of elbows in it and their reasoning was there no actual pressure on it and it's all the easier to clean out.  This has worked out well.  In fact, I had checked it back at the furnace end just last night -- which is when I probably disconnected that shadowed elbow.

     I took a long look at the water heater heating element controls (gas), which is so slathered in safety devices it might as well be a fusion plant for all the sense it makes, and called the plumber back: "All I need is a relight!"

     Sheesh.  At least the water heater is up on little feet.

     Update: Or maybe more than a relight!  There was a leaking connection between galvanized and copper pipe, a previous homeowner not being in the habit of using (or requesting) dielectric unions when connecting dissimilar metal pipes.


Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Pro-tip: When I was young, Dad taught me that when relighting the water heater's pilot light, you should make sure your ignition source is ready before turning on the gas.

His eyebrows did eventually grow back...

Roberta X said...

My favorite (?) gas appliance remains the 1920s coal-converted-to-gas furnace at my house in Muncie: there was a very small pilot under a big flat plate at the center of a doughnut-shaped gas ring about thirty inches across.

When the 'stat kicked on, the main valve would open and you'd hear, "hissssssssssss...." and think, hooray, the heat is on, "...ssssssss....." yes, any second now, "...sssss..." it's got to come on, "...ssssss..." should I be getting outdoors? "...SsssssssbwhooooOMPH!" That was the slowest-lighting furnace I ever saw -- except the house was a duplex and there was one just as slow in the other side.

At the time, I had a remarkable HVAC service guy, skilled in all the oddness to be found in an old Gas Boom town, who assured me it was quite normal behavior.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Er. I was in the HVAC business for nearly 30 years, man and boy.

And I would have used PVC pipe unions rather than leave the pipe uncemented. I'm just built that way, I guess.

I used to love those old gas conversion burners. Except when I was replacing an older oil conversion burner with one. My goodness those could get filthy.

I remember a old fellow in Kokomo who was still burning wood in his gravity furnace in the early 1970's. He got up every morning in the winter and stoked that furnace by hand, and he'd been doing it that way for years. He finally got to where he just didn't feel like going downstairs of a cold winter's morning, and had us come in and install a gas conversion burner. I think he was in his 80's at the time. He sure did like setting a thermostat and not having to fiddle with all that wood anymore -- not to mention hauling the ashes out, too.

Anonymous said...

Water heaters are one of life's annoyances - until you remind yourself what life was like before them.


Dave H said...

still burning wood in his gravity furnace in the early 1970's

The girl I dated in the late 1970s lived in a house with a fireplace and a pot belly stove for heat. They burned the local high sulfur coal (because nobody would buy it - acid rain and all that) in them. Even today the smell of cheap coal burning sparks some very fond memories.

The smoke from those things really played hob with televisions though. The HV circuits and the CRT screen would attract smoke particles, and eventually they'd form this yellowish tarry coating. I made quite a reputation as a TV repairman by taking some window cleaner and a wad of papert towels to every set that came in the shop.

og said...

Do ysself a flavor and put a little self tapping screw in each joint. Still makes disassembly a breeze but doesn't accidently flood anything.

Anonymous said...

Assuming budget considerations don't torpedo it, might this be an opportunity for a conversion to tankless?