As you have probably assumed, by reading our previous posts, sometimes we take on jobs that would seem out of the ordinary and sometimes overwhelming. The latest project, though not foreseen as being a concern, could be considered one of those that got out of hand. To give you a little back-story, or original water heater has been suffering from neglect, as it has not been internally cleaned since we purchased the house five years ago. Seeing how the house was taken care of before we purchased, I doubt that it has ever been drained. So, with that, our assumptions were that the water heater was at least half full of rust and calcium, since it was difficult to have hot water for more than a shower. The project began when we inherited a spare water heater, not knowing the condition of it, besides expecting that it was in better shape than our current one.
So, in preparation of the installation, I Mr. Modern Day Pioneer, looked at the job as just another weekend warrior project. What could go wrong. I spent the good part of my day off re-plumbing the lines, cleaning up random copper that served no purpose. (ten foot lines that didn’t go anywhere) Once this was done, I made the “no going back” decision and cut the lines to the old water heater. With the help of my wife, we slid the new water heater into position, measured the leads, and soldered the new tank into the network. Almost there, and ready for a shower, I fired up the power back to the tank and waited in anticipation to wash the filth from my body. 20 minutes; half an hour; 2 hours…still no hot water. Really!? What went wrong. I checked the power…tests good. I even made sure that I connected the cold to blue and the hot to red. (you never know). That was also good. Last thing I checked was to make sure that the heating elements were turned up in temp. Still no hot water.
This is where Google, again enforced its friendship. With some research, I found that the heating elements in themselves could be the issue. I brought out the Ohm meter and started probing, not really remembering how to use the tool. Oh right; this wire goes here and…alright. Total Recall kicked in, and we were in business. Come to find out, there was a fault in the top heating element. Not being able to see what the issue was, the heating element would have to be removed from the side of the tank. This is where the project goes South. Not only does the heating element need to come out, it is also submerged in 44 gallons of water, not including what has been charged to all of the plumbing in the house. Also, who really has an inch and a half socket and breaker bar laying around the house.
Day two. Because of the extent of the water heater situation, I did not sleep well last night. Immediately this morning, I pounded a cup of coffee, skipped breakfast, and headed to my local hardware store in the hunt of the elusive 1.5 inch socket. Luckily they had one in stock. Back at home, the water heater waited patiently, comfortably, for my next move. Staring her down, I knew that in needed to crack open the side and hope for the best.
Of course I drained the water, up until I could not wait anymore. Anxiety is my major downfall. The heating element came out easily with the socket and revealed the issue of why the water heater was not heating. A broken heating rod.
With our standard method of project cannibalization, I began to take apart the original water heater in hopes that those rods were in better shape than the one that I removed. And, of course, the old water heater too was plum full with water. Here we go again. Removing the heating elements from the old water heater was as simple as the previous. I was amazed with what I found. The rods in the old water heater were preserved in time, with all of the calcium build up. Some light sanding and they were brand new.
I installed both rods into the new tank, not wanting to have to do this project twice. Wiring back in place and the tank full, it was time to cross the old fingers. Within ten minutes, we had tepid water, and has been getting warmer. I think we just created Frankenstein’s Monster. As long as we have hot water, I have no problem with monsters living in my basement.