Saturday, January 20, 2018

How it Really Goes

Be warned, this post contains LOTS of bad words.

Do you ever watch a DIY how-to video and say, "oh, that looks easy"?

Well, fixing a hot water heater is like that.  They are really very simple contraptions and when they quit working, they can usually be repaired with a few easy steps and less than $40.  I have light bulbs that are harder to change, mostly because I need a step ladder tall enough to reach them and I am too cheap to buy one.

The steps to fixing a water heater go like this:
  1. Turn off power to water heater
  2. Turn off water supply to heater
  3. Attach garden hose to drain at bottom of heater and open valve
  4. Open the hot water tap on the faucets so air can get into tank and allow it to drain.
  5. Remove the cover panel on the front of the tank (two little screws)
  6. Remove the two wires attached to the heating element located under the cover panel 
  7. Unscrew heating element with the special wrench made for the job ($4.99) and replace with a new heating element ($14.99)
  8. Reattach the wires to the element  (most tanks have an upper and lower heating element.  Since you've gone this far, you might as well replace both at the same time so repeat steps 6&7 for the lower element)
  9. Turn the water supply back on - make sure to leave the taps open so the air can get pushed back out.
  10. Once all the faucets are running clear, turn them off and turn the power to the heater back on.
Hot water restored in ten easy steps for less than $35.


How it goes in real life:
  1. Turn off power to water heater
  2. Turn off water supply to heater
  3. The hose is not where it is supposed to be.  Where the f*** did I leave the damned hose?
  4. Oh yeah, it's buried in the snow under the tree because it snowed before I remembered to put it away  
  5. Dig out hose and drag the frozen, snow covered thing inside to thaw out and drip all over floor.  
  6. Go out and finish cleaning the barn
  7. Come in and wiggle hose, it feels empty so start to attach it to the hot water heater
  8. Remember at that moment that I cranked a plug onto the end of the water heater valve 4-5 years ago because it was leaking.
  9. Go out to barn to get big wrench to get stupid plug off valve
  10. Wrestle with corroded, stripped piece-of-shit plug for 15 minutes
  11. Step back and grab piece of newspaper to stop the bleeding 
  12. Finally get piece-of-shit plug off 
  13. Attach hose to even worse piece-of-shit plastic valve
  14. Take deep breath and put other end of hose outside to drain
  15. Open valve and check to see that the water is flowing out of other end of hose
  16. There is no water flowing out of the hose
  17. Remember to go open all the hot water taps on the faucets
  18. Go check to see that water is flowing out of hose
  19. There is NO F****** water flowing out of the F****** hose
  20. Unattach hose from hot water heater and attach to pressure tank to make sure hose is not clogged with ice
  21. Stop the bleeding 
  22. Hose is not clogged and water is running fine
  23. Unattach hose from pressure tank and reattach to hot water drain
  24. Open valve and go check water flow
  25. There is no GODDAMNED water draining out of the tank
  27. Unattach hose and fiddle with miserable f*****, piece-of-shit valve
  28. A tiny trickle of water begins flowing out of valve
  29. Take a deep breath and reattach hose.  It will just take a while for the water to drain
  30. Take the long suffering Border Collie for a walk
  31. Come back and check water flow
  32. There is NO F****** WATER DRAINING OUT OF F****** TANK
  33. Unattach hose
  34. Find a plastic zip strip and shove it up the piece-of-shit valve to unclog it
  35. A cloudy, white trickle of sludge dribbles out of valve and then stops altogether
  37. Repeat step 33 until cloudy water resumes trickling out of valve
  38. Reattach hose and leave for 3 hours
  39. Return to find that some water has drained
  40. Tentatively remove upper elememt
  41. Happily screw in new element and sigh in relief that the water finally drained and I can have this job done in another two minutes
  42. Unscrew lower heating element
  43. Gallons of water gushes out, soaking everything in its path
  44. Desperately screw element back in and stop the flood
  48. Unattach hose
  49. Notice that the Border Collie has just tiptoed out his dog-door
  50. Gather up all the towels I can find and begin sopping up water
  52. Toss bucket of grungy water out the door and and see Border Collie sneak in to rescue the frisbee and sneak back out to safety
  53. Keep cleaning and wait for more water to drain
  54. Tentatively reach for heating element
  55. Element partially breaks off and more water comes gushing out
  56. Try to stop water then give up and let it drain onto floor
  57. Examine miserable, stinking, piece-of-shit heater tank and find that the bottom ten inches of tank is filled with mineral deposits
  58. Call Farm Buddy and tell her we need to take her old, decrepit, brakeless truck to Lowes and buy a new water heater
  59. She hems, haws, mutters and reluctantly agrees, but she has to milk her cow first
  60. Hastily remove everything possible from the path of the flood
  61. Kick stupid, horrible water tank and bruise my toe
  62. Clean 30 gallons of water off of floor
  63. Spend 40 minutes removing bent, broken heating element
  64. Stop the bleeding
  65. Ponder whether or not it is worth spending $400 for a new water heater so that I can start growing a whole new geological formation or if I should invest in a water filtration system first
  66. Shove new heating element into the layer of calcite in the bottom of the tank and screw it into place
  67. Answer phone when FB calls and call off emergency trip to Lowes.  They are closed by now anayway
  68. Use paper towels to dry off all the wiring 
  69. Ponder the likelihood of electrocution if I ever turn the power back on
  70. Ponder the likelihood of dying from calcium toxicity from drinking my water
  71. Fuck it, I'm not dead yet
  72. Turn the water supply back on and fill tank
  73. Once all the faucets are running clear, turn them off  
  74. Did I hook hook up the wires?
  75. Yes
  76. Are they dry?  
  77. Mostly
  78. Will I start an electrical fire if I turn the power on?
  79. Probably not
  80. Fuck it.  
  81. Fuck all of it.  
  82. If I can't have hot water, I may as well burn the house down
  83. Turn the power to the heater back on
Hot water restored in 80+ steps, massive swearing, blood loss, fits of rage and less than $35.

Thank God I get to take a hot shower.


  1. This made me laugh and sounds soooo familiar. Even to the part of the dogs tiptoeing away. I think you should invest in a shop vac.

  2. You KNOW how Kelsey feels about cuss words!!!!!

  3. This sounds like a lot of our projects. End up having to bandage and wash mouth out with soap

    Get this. The Igor plumbers put both hot water tanks in attic space

    1st one we replaced had to cut a opening in closet wall sheet rock that connects to the attic short wall from inside part of house. Did this to get to Wiring and not take it thru access door and have to crawl drag it 30 feet

    2nd one. We though easy. Hell no. The shortest one they had would not go under the roof drafters. I told hubby if I ever saw that plumber I was walking up to him and kicking him as hard as I could in the boy parts

    We had to cut divots out of 2 rafters and take part of the aces door trim off to slide it into the crawl space

    Nice kicking him. I want to hurt him worse than that.

    1. Oh yeah, if could line up all the contractors I've had trouble with...well, let's just say they would not like the line they ended up in:)

  4. Oh, Kris, you are an intrepid survivor. And a conquerer. But I did have to laugh at Conner sneakng in and out. Please install a new hot water heater when the weather improves. They make a "circulating" one that "supposedly" prevents the mineral deposit at bottom of tank. Rebecca2

    1. Sneaky Connor did make me laugh too. You can always tell where his priorities lay.

      I will look into the circulating heaters, thanks.

  5. Absolutely amazing! You are the toughest cookie I have never met!

  6. Even though I haven't gotten past #49 yet, and I need to regain my composure before being able to continue, I just want to let you know that you are totally killing me. It is just SO unbearably funny... reading about it. BUT. Please know that I have endless compassion right now! Between tears... of laughter... of which I can't even really be ashamed. But. I DO feel for you, even in retrospect, I swear!!!

  7. Congratulations, kudos, chapeau, respect!!! I knew you would win - against the heater AND First Prize in comedy. Sorry about all the bloodshed, Kris, but the imagery of Connor rescuing his frisby from the Danger Zone - - bwahahahaaaa!!! Priceless post among innumerable great posts. This calls for a donation-thon or sumthn so that you girls don't have to rely on a brakeless truck... (Electrical fires, well, no risk, no fun--but brakeless trucks? Uhm, no. ;-))

  8. P.S. Could you un-bleep those bleeps? Alien readers of your blog with discriminating taste could profit from advancing beyond the f-word, you know. ;-)

    1. Honestly, it mostly devolves into incomprehensible mutterings and calling myself and the object in question lots of bad names. I doubt there is much originality involved:)

  9. Beware of the marketing SPIN from Little Magic Box company. The FREE HOT WATER has cost us a fortune in electric bills.

  10. Humnnnnn, this was horrible dejavu! I think I got those same directions when I 'fixed' my water heater. The nightmare ensued after "No water trickled out" Then the veritable flood when the lime build up came loose. My neighbour suggested a valve above the water heater that would allow a monthy flush with vinegar. He traded work for hay and put it in for me. It allowed me to shut off the main inflow of water and pour in about a quart or so of vinegar to help keep the lime down. It was easier to drain the water heater as well.

    1. That is a good idea, I might try when I get around to installing a new heater. I doubt there is enough vinegar in the world to fix the one I have.

  11. By the way, Kate leaves the kitchen every time I try to cook :-D.

  12. Oh my so glad you have hot water...what a need a drink:)

  13. Appliances do like to fail when they can cause the most trouble.

    You didn't say how old or what type of water heater you have, but from the build-up you described, there may be another problem. There is a pole/rod in the water heater called an Anti-corrosion Anode (had to look up hot water heater components because I am NOT a plumber ... ask the slow drain in the bathroom that was burping at me this morning).

    If you have that much mineral buildup, the anode rod has likely failed and the corrosion will only increase. Do you see any signs of rust,corrosion on the outside of the tank?

    M in NC

    1. You are probably right. This heater is about 18 years old. It came out of FB's milk house when she bought her farm in 2000. I put it in as a "temporary" measure when I built my place. It should be replaced, but it is working great now so I am not going to touch it until it quits again. At that point, I won't even try to fix it or drain it, I'll just make FB come over and help me haul the thing out as is:)

  14. I've watched my husband do this very thing. I am so glad that the bleeping hot water tank now resides in the basement because that one time the bottom fell out and we had gallons of water in the house with no place to go was a bleeping time too. Though it was summer at least.
    I will have to follow your instructions one day, hopefully not the 80 step one.

  15. I am both impressed and amused. But don't bleep bleep bleep me because I was smiling while reading. Please.