Yesterday started like most other days. At 5:45 AM the alarm goes off. MBH gets up, feeds the girls and grabs a bite for breakfast, while I lay in bed for another few minutes trying to get my mind reconnected to my body. MBH finishes her breakfast, showers, gets dressed for work, and heads out the door. In the meantime, I’ve usually managed to motivate my lazy butt out of bed and in front of the computer to begin my writing. It might be actual writing, or researching, or world building, character building, editing, or any of the many activities that goes into creating a book.
Yesterday was mostly about world building. At any rate, after a couple of hours in front of the computer, I usually need a break. So I will grab a bite for breakfast and take a shower before getting back to it. And that’s exactly what I did. I noticed, in an abstract kind of way, that the shower wasn’t as hot as usual. But it wasn’t too bad, and I thought maybe it was because the weather’s been cold, and maybe MBH took a longer shower than usual. In other words, it wasn’t anything more than an item of note in my morning.
Then later in the day I went to rinse some dishes in the kitchen and noticed the hot water was barely tepid. That was when I realized something was wrong. When I went into the garage (where the water heater is) I knew for certain there was a problem. There was water pooled on the floor under the door to the water heater closet. It wasn’t a huge amount, but it was enough to tell me that we had trouble. I opened the door and found that the drip pan under the water heater was full, and draining onto the floor, and that the pilot light was out.
So after some fumbling around, I figured out how to get the pilot light re-lit. I didn’t think that had anything to do with the leak, but it definitely accounted for the lack of hot water. I was about to put the cover back over the pilot light when the flame flared from that pretty blue gas flame, to a bright yellow. It was only for a second, but it was enough to get my attention. A few seconds later, there was another flare… then another. Kneeling down to peer into the hole, I could see that there was water dripping down from the actual tank of the water heater, directly into the flames. It was time to call a plumber.
I checked with my neighbors, and got a few recommendations for the same plumber. I called, got a ballpark figure for a replacement water heater, and after nearly passing out from the sticker shock I made an appointment to get them out this morning. When Mr. Plumber arrived, the whole thing turned into a bit of a good news / bad news morning.
Good news… It looks like the problem isn’t the water heater after all. Instead, it looks like the “T&P” valve (the temperature and pressure valve, in the picture here) is bad, and it will only cost a tenth of what the water heater would cost.
Bad news… Mr. Plumber doesn’t have the part.
Good news… he can get it in less than an hour.
Yay!! Problem solved. Less than an hour later, he was back, and had completely replaced the valve. Additionally, he tells me that the dripping I saw was relatively common, just condensation from the tank in the cold weather. So I text MBH to let her know we’re about done, and she asks if I could have him take a look at a minor problem we’ve been having in the kitchen.
See, the hot water in the kitchen only seems to be about half what the pressure is at any other faucet in th house. Additionally, the dishwasher doesn’t really seem to clean very well. So I ask Mr. Plumber if he would mind taking a look at the problem. He clears everything out from under the kitchen sink, goes to shut off the water, and finds immediately that it won’t shut off all the way. The shutoff valve is bad. He explains that this might be the cause of the pressure problem, though there’s no way to know for sure. But if it won’t shut all the way off, then it might not be opening all the way, either. Sounds logical, right? So once again, it’s good news / bad news.
Good news – a possible easy fix is in sight.
Bad news… you guessed it, he doesn’t have the part.
Good news… the part will only cost another $60 plus labor (and since I had been braced for a MUCH higher water heater replacement cost, that didn’t sound all that bad.)
Once more, he drives off to get the part. Once more he returns. Once more we play good news / bad news.
He goes to shut off the water at the water heater and notices that the brand new T&P valve is trickling water down the side of the water heater. Not much, mind you… just a drop or two every few seconds. But there is a very slight leak. And this time, we’re starting the game with the bad news side going first.
Bad news… we still have a leaking water heater.
Good news… it isn’t the T&P valve.
Wait, that’s good news? In a manner of speaking, yes. Since the problem isn’t the T&P, it means that the water heater itself is defective. It means that Mr. Plumber runs the numbers on the water heater and can tell that there is a replacement warranty on it.
And good news… with the warranty, it’s only going to be about half the cost of what I was originally going to have to pay.
Bad news… it’s still going to be about half of what I was originally going to have to pay.
Good news… since the water heater is barely trickling, replacement can be put off until such time as we can be better prepared for it. So while it’s not completely fixed, it is repaired enough to function for some indefinite amount of time.
So he shuts off the water, goes back to the kitchen, and replaces the defective shutoff valve under the sink.
Bad news… while it does give a slight increase in pressure to the hot water side, the hot water is still about half that of the cold water.
Good news… Mr. Plumber seems to see this as a bit of a personal challenge. He tests the flexible line leading from the shutoff to the faucet. It’s clear. He tests the water pressure from the hot and cold side by side at the line and finds they’re both good. He tests everything he can, eliminating all possible problems south of the faucet itself.
Bad news… that means that the problem is the faucet itself.
So after about three hours with Mr. Plumber, we now have a better idea of what’s going on with our plumbing, and a plan for later, if the water heater gets worse. I also have a faucet to replace in my future. But I should be able to handle that on my own. (Wait, isn’t that what Custer said just before Little Big Horn?)
All right. Time for me to get back to writing. So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next week.