The Hot Water Heater Challenge

Took on a job that I had been putting off for quite a while – mostly because it wasn’t bothering me and because it had a very large downside if things went bad. A few months back Nancy and a visiting guest complained that our water “smelled”. That’s an indication of sulphur and is present in most wells. I can’t smell it so it’s not an issue to me. That plus excess iron is the reason we have a water softener. We called Culligan and they said the softener was just fine and the culprit was probably the hot water heater but he changed the softener tanks anyway and the problem went away – that means Nancy stopped complaining. The Culligan guy suggested draining the hot water tank and refilling- sometimes that works but in most cases, a new water heater is in the cards. Yesterday she advised that the smell was back. Also that Joey was coming over to take her out shopping. That seemed like the right time to tackle the job when I could clean up any mess I created before she knew about it. And draining and filling a tank is fraught with possibilities for disaster. The tank is located in a utility area in the house so no rugs to ruin and I found the drain valve conveniently located. It’s also convenient to the back door so it’s a short run to a drain area. There’s no repair manual but it was fairly obvious that you just hook up a garden hose to the drain valve and run it outside. I have plenty of hoses and eventually overcame the reluctance of the hose and the tank fittings to mate up properly with only a tolerable amount of leakage. I wrapped the connection with a plastic bag to catch leakage as needed. I turned off the power to the unit since it made sense to me that you wouldn’t want the heater rods active when the tank is empty then opened the heater valve and waited for the nasty old water to flow out the hose. Didn’t happen as planned. I could tell the valve opened properly and could see a few drops of water leaking at the connection point but nothing was coming out of the hose. It was an old hose that I hadn’t used in ages and I guessed it was possible that it was clogged with critters so I disconnected it from the water heater and connected it to an outside spigot. Sure enough a colony of ants and other critters had set up the hose as a home base. Bad decision on their part. When it was flowing smoothly, I reconnected it to the hot water heater and tried draining it again. Success. It took about half hour to drain while also running water in the kitchen sink and bathtub. I drained until it was 100% cold water and then a few more minutes. Removed the hose, tossed the half gallon or so I’d collected in the bag and wiped up the stuff I hadn’t caught and then turned power back on. A half hour later I tested for hot water – success. Since I can’t smell the sulphur anyway, I have to wait for the chief sniffer to pass judgement. My guess is that the road eventually leads to a new hot water heater but this project should have bought me a few weeks.

I finished up just in time to leave and meet Joey and Nancy at Persimmon Hollow. Tried a new brew – a blueberry wheat ale that I could easily get hooked on.

Saw an interesting natural event this morning. This is red shoulder hawk mating season and we have plenty of them around. It’s not unusual for me to walk over to the garden and see a hawk atop the bean trellis. We have moles all over and I’ve seen the hawks drop down from the high perch of the trellis and pounce on an underground mole. They’re about the size of a mouse and move underground eating worms or whatever they find. You actually see a mound where they are tunneling. But this time when the hawk dropped down, he/she picked up a claw full of the pine needles I use to line the garden pathways and flew over to a nearby pine tree where they are building a nest. How neat is that!!

Tom and Tina bought Nancy another round of Blue Apron. Since I have to do the cooking it’s a real treat for her – so long as I don’t screw it up. We ate the first one – pork chops with roasted veggies – fennel and sweet potato – and a pear/onion compote. I must admit, I killed it. I’ve done enough of these now to understand exactly how to approach them so it went without a hitch. And I figured that as much expertise as I’ve gained making compost, compote would be a dunk.

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