Monday, April 04, 2011
Who Ya Gonna Call?
My wife, who holds a third degree black belt in undestatement, said this to me: "You know, if we were renting, we would have just called someone else." She was referring to our water heater. The one that sits in the basement of the home we own, or at least a large chunk of it. Last Wednesday, it forgot it's primary function: heating water. The initial challenge came in the form of a bathtub full of cool water. She was able to discern from this a problem, and went to the basement to look for likely suspects: The washer and dryer were still working hard, perfoming their tasks like champions. The water heater, however, was derelict. A quick inspection lead my very clever wife to the conclusion that the pilot light had gone out, and without any fire, there would be no hot water. My general rule of thumb that says that I am happy to work with plumbing, since the worst that could happen is that I get very wet, whereas electrical might leave me dead. I would like to add, at this point, my feelings about working with gas run along a very similar vein. Needless to say, I was impressed that my wife, with some coaching from her friendly neighborhood handyman, decided to try and relight the pilot light herself. When I arrived home, there were no charred remains of my wife or our house, perhaps because the pilot light was still not lit. Now it was my turn to loll about on my stomach, staring into a chamber that I was assured did not smell at all of gas. That's where I would be sticking a match. I recalled a Mythbusters episode in which they showed how you could, under proper conditions, launch your hot water heater through a two-story house and into the atmosphere. As much as I admire the work they do, I had no real interest in recreating their experiment. I pressed the little button and stuck the flame in. After a few attempts at getting a tiny blue flicker that winked out as abruptly as it started, I resorted to the next threat level: Al Gore's Internet. It was there that I discovered that my thermocouple was bad. Not a two hundred dollar water heater, but a ten dollar piece of a water heater. At this point, my wife sprang back into action, being the supply sergeant of our little enclave, and whisked down to Home Despot to get the part. Now it was past nine o'clock. I wasn't getting a shower that night no matter what I did, so we waited for the dawn's early light to call an experienced hand to drop by and help us out. I stayed away from the work site and chose instead to use my nervous energy weeding the area next to our back patio. His initial assessment confirmed our thermocouple suspicions, and fifteen minutes later we rejoiced in the installation of our newly refurbished water heater. How long might it have taken to get a landlord to get a crew to come out and inspect our water heater, much less repair it? Compared to that, our sixteen hours without hot water was a drop int he bucket.