Friday, February 04, 2011

Water. The Saga. Part 2: Hot might be nice, too.

For a while after my water got plumbed, I managed to have hot running water, too. Seriously. Once I got the man* to get the heater lit properly the first time, we were off to the races. And it WAS one of those annoying instances where he seemingly did the exact things I did, it just decided to stay lit for him. Sniff.

And then all hell broke loose. After I managed to get the water to stay running in general, my hot water went kaput one day. I went around back, only to find that the pressure relief valve had blown and the water heater was draining out onto the pilot light assembly. Oh joy.

Tough to see as I took these pictures with my phone, but you get the general idea. Hopefully. That's as big as that pic gets.
 I went and rummaged through the tools in the shed only to find that the largest wrench I had (OK, other than the 48" wrench we use for the well) didn't begin to fit around the valve. So vice grips it was. Not the nicest on the palms, but oh well. You work with what you got.

Finally I got the damn thing off.
Unfortunately for me, I had only closed the shut off valve to the water heater as illustrated in the manual. The water system has been monkeyed around with so many times that who the hell know what that actually turned off, as this happened:

 Thankfully, the water heater is located less than a foot away from the main water inlet, so I shut of the water and the flow immediately stopped. Whew.

So. Old valve in hand, off I went to Lowe's thinking that a new one would be pretty easy to get. A pressure relief valve is on every water heater made, how hard could it be?

Really effing hard.

First of all, Airstream doesn't use the industry standard ANYTHING. I found this out while trying to get a waste pipe fitting so I could empty the tanks, and it was the case here again. A PRV in a 1/2 inch size is practically impossible. And then the BTU and PSI settings were both significantly lower than what you might find on your water heater at home. Why? Because my water heater is 10 gallons, and is heated by a relatively small propane flame.

When you look at it that way, it makes sense. When you're trying to replace a part, you want to kill someone.

It was going to take Airstream over a week to order me one in, and it wouldn't be exactly right.

So I went from store to store until, at my wit's end, I planted myself on a stool at the last plumbing contractor supply store in Burlington hoping that they would hook me up with SOMETHING. They did.  The extremely nice guy that works there decided it was absolutely fine to sell me a PRV rated far and above the BTU and PSI I needed, and he got me a coupler to put on it so the 3/4-inch valve would fit my 1/2 inch pipe. Whoa. Concept. (was that really so hard, other guys? hmmm?!?!)

I also have to interject the fact that I'm blond, kinda busty, female, not a contractor myself, have a foul mouth and am not easily intimated. In the south. In a contractor supply store. Covered in mud, thanks to my driveway. I left stunned and speechless guys with their asses hanging out of their pants in my wake. I'm not convinced I didn't thoroughly scare a few of them also. Oh. And I drive a pretty urban car with fantastic redneck mud tires. Only on the front.

The old, the new, the ugly tool.
 A couple of strips of teflon tape, a few falls in the mud, and a cup of coffee later, I had the new valve on.

Shiny! And if you look closely, you can see that the flame is lit and going.
 I got the flame lit, the hatch closed, went inside, and an hour later had no hot running water. I tried off and on for 2 days to get the damn thing to stay going, but it just wouldn't do it. This happened to coincide with a rather large puddle in the middle of the bathroom floor (unrelated to the afore-mentioned spewing of the water heater), the crumbling and deteriorating of said floor, the driveway being impassable for the umpteenth time, and a massive freak out on my part, so I ditched. I packed up and went to said man's house for a week.

I got home that next weekend, thought I'd give lighting it a shot - and it stayed lit. I had tried drying out the pilot light assembly, cleaning it, I even got in there with ether, and everything before I left, to no avail. I guess I just couldn't get it all the way dried out and it needed to sit for a week before it was good to go again.

Almost as if nothing ever happened.... almost....
Regardless of why, I am hoping - hoping!! - that this particular part of the water saga is behind me. Especially since I've got two more going on parallel to this one and I'd like to end up with fewer things to try to get fixed - not more!

Only time will tell, I suppose.

*really I'm being nice to him by not dedicating a whole post to his awesomeness and listing all of the amazing fixit stuff that he does for me, but it's killing me. Really. A testament to how much I want to keep him, this whole NOT writing about him thing.....

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