I’m in Hot Water

Old hot water heater 04-30-2016No, I’m not in trouble with Wife Lila. Well, I MIGHT be, but that’s not the topic of this post.

For the past five, maybe even ten years, Mother’s water heater in the basement has been making strange banging and clanging noises. Guests have been alarmed, thinking someone is breaking into the house or maybe a gaggle of deranged raccoons is running amuck in the basement tangling with a posse of possums.

Goggle said the noise was caused by pieces of sediment stirring around in the tank.

I’ve noticed recently that the water that used to be scalding when I washed the dishes was only slightly hot, and that my showers had to be cut short if I didn’t want to have ice cubes coming out of the shower head. My theory was that there was so much sediment in the tank that there was no longer room for water.

When I took a close look at the heater, I saw a scrawled note in my handwriting that said, “6/19/87.” I’m pretty sure that pushing 30 years old indicates that we got our money’s worth.

Installation challenges

I know better than to touch plumbing. If I go to change a simple washer, I can expect to see the city start digging up the street in front of the house. I opted to have a guy who knew what he was doing hook it up.

The pro arrived with the heater, tools and a bunch of pieces / parts. He had a challenge breaking apart fittings that had lived together happily for three decades. At one point, I reached up to the tools hanging on the workbench. “Want a hammer?” A few minutes later, I asked, “Want a BIGGER hammer?”

Around 7:30, he asked, “How late is Ace Hardware open?”

“A negative 30 minutes,” I said. “What do you need.”

“One of these,” he said, holding up a goofus firmly attached to the end of a spaghetti of pipe.

“I’ll go get one.”

Well, there was a serious Noah’s Ark thunderboomer sitting right on top of the house. My Low Fuel light came on somewhere the far side of Thebes yesterday, and now the needle was sitting on E. This was NOT a good night to run out of gas, so I filled up in a driving rain and slopped through deep puddles of water to Menard’s plumbing section where, uncharacteristically, there was an employee restocking the shelves. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

“This is between me and a hot shower”

New water heater 03-30-2016Holding up the widget, I said, “This is what is standing between me and a hot shower.”

She cast her gaze on the woofuspus, and said, “It’s a half incher.

“I don’t like to discuss size, so I’ll let you be the judge. I would have guessed at least two inches, but I’m a guy.”

She turned to the shelf and started to reach into a bin.

An empty bin.

Next, out in the rain to Lowes. Uncharacteristically, there was a guy in the plumbing section restocking shelves. I held my whangus up in the air, he looked at it sadly, shaking his head, then walked down the aisle directly to a replacement 1/2-inch whifflebobble.

I waded through puddles again, handed my guy the whosis, and he finished assembling the plumbing puzzle and put fire in the hole.

The next morning, there was no water on the floor, I couldn’t smell gas, and I wasn’t dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. You can’t beat that with a stick.

Shouldn’t this be more efficient?

New water heater 03-30-2016I was confused by the yellow Energyguide stickers on the old and new heaters. The 1987 sticker said the estimated yearly energy cost was going to be $238. The new one, supposedly more energy efficient, was going to cost $263. What gives?

The old adage, “The big print giveth, and the small print taketh away” held the answer.

In 1987, the estimated rate was based on a natural gas average price of 62.7 cents per therm (whatever that is). The 2016 estimate is based on an average national price of $1.09 per therm.

Whatever it costs, a warm shower is worth it.

 

Taking Fencing Lessons

Mary Welch Steinhoff with new handrail 04-26-2014Curator Jessica sent me a text bragging about her time in a triathlon Saturday morning. We exchanged a couple of messages, then I texted her, “I’m busy taking fencing lessons, so I will probably be incommunicado.”

Mother has a porch on the east side of the house overlooking a woods that is the perfect place to sit and watch the birds and squirrels. Even on the hottest day, it’s usually shaded and comfortable. A few years back, Brother Mark cleared her a pathway to go from the front yard to the back and to get to her bird feeders and hanging plants.

The surface is a bit uneven and the hill is fairly steep, so we thought we’d put up a handrail to make her meanderings a little safer. Of course, we didn’t really know what we were doing, so don’t look to closely at our handiwork.

Since Mother’s age – 92-1/2 – and her weight are about the same, I don’t think there is much danger of her knocking it over.

 The Rule of Threes

Mark repairs fountain 04-26-2014I wrote about the Rule of Threes when Kid Matt was building me a new computer. This project was worse that than. In 24 hours, I think I have been at Menard’s four times; Lowes five times and Ace Hardware at least five times. And, of course, when you are in the Big Box hardware stores, fencing materials and gardening supplies are on one side of the world and lumber is on the other.

One of the tasks Mark wanted to tackle was getting Mother’s fountain working again. We confirmed that the pump was getting power, so we deduced we were peering at a kaput pump. That was a trip to Lowes. Then, he wanted to replace a section of plastic hose with copper pipe for aesthetic reasons. That was Lowes and Ace, where he told a young worker that he was Frankensteining it and would welcome inspiration.

We got back to the house, installed the copper pipe, Gooped it in place so it wouldn’t leak, then turned on the juice. The water barely trickled out of the copper pipe. The pump was supposed to be able to handle a six-foot height, but Mark cut off about two feet of pipe to make the distance even shorter. The result wasn’t much better. He started to fill the fountain with a hose to make sure there was plenty of water for it to work with.

Leaking like a nursery school

That’s where the fountain base started leaking like a nursery school short of diapers. Water left in it at the end of the summer must have frozen during the winter and cracked the plastic.

We hit Menards again. The entrance is here, and the garden shop is waaaaaaaay over there at the far end. They didn’t have anything we liked at a price that we liked.

Back to Lowes. The entrance is here, and the garden shop is halfwaaaaaay over there. They didn’t have anything, either. And, of course, we also had to hit lumber at the far end, hardware in the middle and customer service at the entrance.

That’s just a small part of the day. My feet are killing me.

Mark went to bed three hours ago, which is where I’m headed as soon as I hit the Publish button.

Sorry for the iffy quality. I shot these with my cell phone because I didn’t have the strength to pick up a real camera.

 

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.