Southern Man

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Southern Man vs the Hot Water Heater

It is a busy, busy time in the life of Southern Man and Wife. Summer school is finally out, but she's recovering from oral surgery and we have a scant few weeks to get the house in shape for Teen Daughter to move in before the fall semester begins. So of course the eighteen-year-old water heater chose this moment to break down. And by "break down" Southern Man means "spew water all over the laundry room floor." This is also the time that Southern Man discovered that Southern Wife's ex had capped the floor drain for said water heater so the leaked water was going straight into the den instead of outside. So Southern Man broke the cap out so that the water would refrain from flooding the west end of the house (a garage conversion that houses the laundry room, den and Southern Wife's office). But then we discovered that using the dishwasher and clothes washer also flooded the laundry room (or, rather, rediscovered; that's why Southern Wife's ex had capped that floor drain in the first place so Southern Man apologizes for some rather unkind and unjust thoughts that he might have had about that). And then the hot water heater leak got so bad that Southern Man had little choice but to shut it down and turn off the water supply.

So, there we are with no hot water, no dishwasher or clothes washer, and soaked, stinking carpet in the den. And Southern Wife really, really likes her hot bath every evening. And Southern Man likes to make Southern Wife happy.

This also rather upset our remodeling plans - the utility room wasn't slated for serious work until next summer - but now we had little choice. Southern Man went shopping and found that a new heater plus installation through one of the local home stores would run a good twelve hundred bucks or so - they have to pull a permit, make sure everything is done to code, and so on. Now, the new Casa Southern Man was a burnout purchased and more-or-less rebuilt by Southern Wife many years ago and is so far out of compliance with code that we'll have to burn it down again for the insurance money rather than sell it, so that wasn't going to work. But Southern Man did find a heater at a local home store on sale as a dented-and-dinged return for about half price, with full warranty. So that heater, an installation kit, a stand, and a few more odds and ends came home with Southern Man on Friday afternoon. He then hooked up a hose to drain the old heater into the back yard and ran out to The Land for his appliance dolly and plumbing toolbox and called it a day.

Saturday was spent removing the old heater, which was not all that difficult: hacksaw off the copper water pipes, remove the gas line (thankfully, it came off easily enough), and wrestle the thing outside. Installing the new heater didn't quite go as planned: the existing gate valve leaked and had to be replaced, and the heater was too tall to fit in the heater closet with a stand so said stand was disassembled and returned later. The $50 installation kit ("all you need but the wrenches!") was a near-complete waste of money - neither the water nor the gas fittings matched what we had - but a few trips to the store and the new heater was installed with only a single water leak. Now, Southern Man is no plumber and that three of his four compression fittings held on the first try is something he is quite proud of. So after messing with the leak for a bit he rigged a funnel and hose to drain the leak outside and fired up the heater and Southern Wife had her hot bath and Southern Man his hot shower and all was well.

The next day (Sunday) was supposed to go something like this: quickly take care of that last pesky leak, then go to church, have lunch, and spend the afternoon clearing out the den and pulling up carpet (which we have decided to discard and replace with tile or wood or something that doesn't absorb dog odor quite like that carpet, which was admittedly in pretty nasty shape even when dry). What actually happened was that Southern Man spent the entire day working on that leak and had to make eight - count 'em, eight - trips to the store before the day was done. But success was finally had; the plumbing is now tight, that floor drain re-capped (Southern Man will run a new drain line for the heater through the wall Real Soon Now), and all is well.

The home store Southern Man used throughout this adventure was a
Lowes here in the city. Now Southern Man usually shops elsewhere for the sorts of things they carry, but Southern Wife counts Lowes as a favorite and Mom and Dad had given us a Lowes gift card as a wedding gift. And everyone there - and Southern Man does mean everyone, from the appliance manager who gave him a great deal on the heater to the master plumber who tutored him in the finer points of copper and compresssion fittings and so on - was nothing but kind and helpful. Credit where credit is due - Southern Man will shop there regularly from now on.

And some day Southern Man will write a post entitled "Ode to Vice-Grips" in honor of what was by far and away the most useful tool in the box.


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