Mistakes. Were. Made.

…and they have cascaded together down the years.

The house needed new gutters.

We hired a guy to install new gutters.

That guy noticed that there were drainpipes coming up out of the ground at each corner where you’d naturally put a downspout. They were capped off, and the downspouts were draining onto the ground—like they do—and that was causing some minor efflorescence of the bricks in the basement at those corners. Which is concerning because it means the rainwater is not being escorted away from the house as it should. But isn’t a huge deal. But anyway he suggested we just run the downspouts into these drainpipes….

A couple two three years later, we were having a recurring flooding problem in the basement. Every time there was a really heavy rain, the basement drains would back up, the toilet down there would overflow…it was not great. (Writing this next to the thing about the downspouts makes it all obvious. But we didn’t realize what was happening until much later.)

So one day a person came around offering a solution to our basement flooding woes. His company installed a French Drain around the perimeter of our basement. Basically they dug a trench through the basement floor all around the edge, put perforated drain pipe in the bottom of it, filled the trench back up with gravel, and patched the concrete back up leaving about a 2″ gap. There’s a sump that the drain pipe drains to, and a pump to drain the sump out into the back yard. They guaranteed we would never have standing water in the basement again.

Note that they didn’t guarantee no flooding. Just no standing water.

The drains still backed up; the water just ran quickly into the french drain and away. The basement still flooded and things in the basement got wet when it rained; the water just didn’t stand around. So not much actually improved. In fact, where before the basement had been generally arid when it wasn’t flooding, now it is always a little dank as humid air is constantly infiltrating up through the 2″ crack they installed around the entire perimeter of the basement.

A few more years went by, and we needed a new roof, which meant replacing the gutters again. We hired a roofer guy. That guy took one look at the downspouts going into the drainpipes and told us that he would not do that for us, because it was illegal in our town.

So that explained why they’d been capped off.

We still didn’t catch on about the flooding and the drainpipes, though. It was a few years later when that realization dawned on me. Because it had been a few years since the drains had backed up….It turns out the reason the downspout-into-drain thing is illegal is because of issues like this on a city-wide scale. They used to do it that way (with combined storm and sanitary sewers), and now at great expense they’ve been separated so our basement (the collective, city-wide “our”) doesn’t flood when it rains.

So now my drains don’t back up when it rains, because I’m not overloading them with thousands of gallons of rainwater. But the french drain is still there, making my basement extra humid. And also…there’s the rat issue.

Several weeks ago, I noticed that it looked like some mice had been at some of my stored pasta. As I’ve mentioned, most of my food is stored in glass or steel or at the very least sealed plastic buckets, for exactly this reason. Maybe 90%. Except for the pasta, basically.

I threw away all the ruined pasta I found, and bought more buckets, and now the new packages of long pasta are in a 5 gallon bucket, and the packages of curly egg noodles are in a second 5 gallon bucket, and the ramen is in plastic tubs.

But last week, I discovered that a: the boxed mac-n-cheese which I thought was too high off the ground to get got by mice was in fact nibbled. And b: what I found was not mouse droppings, but rat droppings. Some more investigation revealed a prodigious pile of dirt behind/under one of the shelving units. Right next to the french drain, which had a spot quite clear of dirt. Suspiciously clear of dirt, for being next to this big pile of dirt.

So now I’ve put out some rat traps. And I put the remaining mac-n-cheese in steel ammo cans. It probably won’t stay there; I have a good eye for sizes so I ran out and bought the cans, and I was pretty damn close to perfect. But it turns out that while twelve boxes of mac-n-cheese fit perfectly in a 50cal ammo can in three rows of four, they’re maybe 6mm too tall. So the lid is almost impossible to close. The mac-n-cheese will probably end up in another bucket. And probably the ramen; the plastic bins I got at the dollar store are just the right size, but while I am confident they’ll keep out mice, I am not confident they’ll keep out rats.

And speaking of keeping out the rats, I also need to figure out how to exclude rats from my basement when they have this 150-foot-long point of entry available to them….

What with the damp and the rodentia, the french drain is clearly not doing me good. Especially now that the sewer doesn’t back up on the regular. But figuring out how to seal it up is something I’m still pondering. In normal construction, when you have a gap you need to fill and still allow to expand and contract, you use caulk. If you have a “wide” gap you need to fill, you stuff a foam rod in the crack and caulk it over. But that’s not really a thing for gaps this wide. The foam rod would be more like a pool noodle and I’d go broke buying a thousand tubes of caulk. (I don’t actually know if it needs to expand and contract. It was all one piece until the french drain guys separated the floor from the foundation walls. I think it’s better to not fill it back in with concrete. I don’t want to cause more trouble; I don’t know if the concrete they used has the same expansion characteristics as the concrete the rest of the floor is made of, and likewise for any concrete I would use.) But I need to fill and seal it up with something. And whatever it is has to ideally be rodent-resistant and moisture-proof.

I’m still working on that in my head. With the food locked up and traps out, I hope to be rid of the current rat or rats pretty soon. But I’m likely to get more invaders if I don’t close the border.

Posted in Plumbing, Roof

Spooky Weirdness

During the installation of the stove, a strange and disturbing discovery was made.

It came time to disconnect the gas from the old stove. I shut off the gas to the stove, got a wrench, and I reached out to disconnect the flexible connection. My other shoulder was against the stove, because there’s not a lot of room to maneuver in the kitchen. As soon as the wrench touched the gas pipe, I got a strong shock at my shoulder. The chassis of the stove was live!

I unplugged it.

Later that day I went into the laundry room, and the light did not turn on. “That’s odd,” I said. I checked the breaker: It was fine. I figured the stray current that came through my body had damaged the motion sensor; it’s not too big a leap of reasoning to go from “I got a zap on this circuit and now the light on this circuit doesn’t light” to “the zap cause the light to stop working.”

But it was weirder than that.

I bought a new fixture for the laundry area. I plugged the stove back in because I wanted to take a picture of it with the fluorescent light lit to try and donate it to the local architectural reclamation outfit. I went down to the laundry area to replace the fixture…and the light came on.

Further experimentation showed that the laundry area light only worked if the stove was plugged in.

I immediately decided that was more fun than should be allowed.

The new stove gets all the electrons it needs from the new 220 outlet. The outlet the old stove was plugged into is no longer needed. It’s not a useful location for anything, because it’s behind the stove, I disconnected it completely. It’s not attached electrically to anything at all. And now the light in the laundry area works just fine.

I don’t know what sort of spooky weirdness is happening inside that box or that piece of armored cable. And I don’t care. It’s dead now. Problem solved.

(At some time in the future I will remove the actual outlet from the wall and put a blank plate on the box. I also think I will use that box-and-antique-cable as a test bed for my plan to try disconnecting the cable from a box, dropping it down the wall and into the basement dragging a pull string, and then pulling a new cable or empty flexible conduit back up in its place. If I can do that, it would let me update some of the wiring without tearing into the walls….)

Posted in Wires

HIGH VOLTAGE!

When we bought this house, it came with a 40″ wide Crown double-oven gas stove. IMG_20200430_083248.jpgWhich was probably about 20 years old. It was pretty great.

Since then, stove technology has moved on somewhat, and the Crown has continued to get older. By 2015 or so I was getting pretty dissatisfied with it. The burners are anemic, the ovens are undersized (to fit two in, they’re each about 3/4 the width of a full oven), the self-igniter…does not. I considered replacing it when I found myself quite flush for a little while. But the stove of my dreams was like $2000-6000 and would require some major wiring. Because what I wanted was Dual-Fuel.

Let’s talk about what you need when you’re cooking.

On the stovetop, usually you want to be able to put heat into a pan. A lot of heat…or a little heat…and to tweak and adjust the amount of heat moment-by-moment. Gas flame does that: turn up the fire, turn down the fire, and instantly there is more and less heat hitting the pan. Electric elements…don’t. Turn down an electric stove and the burner gets cooler…pretty soon. Turn it up and the element starts to get hotter…pretty soon. Not instantly. Pretty soon. So a gas stove is clearly superior to an electric stove.

In the oven, what you want is stability. Set the oven for 350°, and once it’s heated up, it’s a stable 350° for as long as it’s on. A gas oven can’t do that very well. The thermostat in the oven asks for more heat, the burner turns on, and the oven suddenly gets 10° hotter. Then the burner turns off, and the oven starts to cool down. Noticeable temperature swings are the norm. Not great. But in an electric oven, the thermostat asks for more heat and the heating element, which is still hot from the last time, turns on again and adds heat…gently bringing the oven back up to 350°. The heat in an electric oven is very even and steady. So an electric stove is clearly superior to a gas stove.

This dilemma has plagued cooks for many years.

Luckily, there is a solution. They make stoves that are gas on top and electric below: Dual-Fuel. That’s what I wanted. But they’re expensive, and I’d have had to hire an electrician to run a high-amperage 220 circuit to the stove, because 220 is scary. So that’s a couple few hundred dollars on top of the $2000-3000 for the stove…I just couldn’t justify the expense. So I kept my 50-year-old workhorse stove.

Then one day, an opportunity appeared to buy a slightly used 40″ Dual-Fuel stove for just a few hundred dollars.

I decided I would do it. And I decided to do the wiring myself.

My house is about a hundred years old. It was not built with modern wiring in mind. Getting the big conduit I would need up into the outside wall where I needed it appeared to be a challenge.

I decided to avoid the problem two ways:

First, I didn’t try to put the stove outlet in the wall at all. I put it on the floor in a configuration known in the trade as “tombstone style,” because it looks like a gravestone sticking up out of the ground. It’s not in the floor, or in or even on the wall: It’s standing tall on the floor like, well, like a tombstone.

Second, I didn’t use rigid conduit. I used greenfield.

Greenfield is basically armored cable, without the cable. It’s also called flexible conduit. I figured I had to go about 10 feet. But Greenfield is generally sold in 25 foot lengths. So I bought a 25 foot piece, and I pulled it where it needed to go:

Then I cut off the excess and measured that. It was 18 feet. So I knew the piece I’d installed was 7 feet, and I went and bought 10 feet each of the 4 colors of wire to pull into the pipe. I wanted enough slack at each end to manage the connections, but wire that heavy is expensive and I didn’t want to buy a lot extra.

Unfortunately, it turns out the people who packaged my “25 foot” length of Greenfield were a little generous. The 10 feet of wire exactly fit in the should-have-been-7 foot length of Greenfield, leaving no slack to actually connect the wires to anything.

And cut wire is not returnable.

I went back and bought 15 feet.

I pulled the wire in. I installed the 220V 50A 4-wire outlet, and I screwed it to the floor.IMG_20200426_144319.jpgIMG_20200426_144503.jpgIMG_20200426_144648.jpgI attached the other end to the breaker box. IMG_20200426_142439.jpgI attached the red and black wires to the 50A breaker.IMG_20200426_145806.jpg I attached the white wire to the neutral bus.IMG_20200426_150526.jpg I attached the green wire to the breaker box itself. I buttoned it all back up. And just like that I have a stove outlet.

…And an extra 10 feet each of four colors of 6 gauge wire that I will probably never use.

And so now I have a dual-fuel stove. IMG_20200503_124444.jpgIt’s got a full-sized oven (and a narrow little side oven. Not sure how much utility I’m going to be able to get from that. But I seldom used both ovens on the old stove, so having one full-size oven is better).

Is this the stove of my dreams? No.

But it’s the type of stove I’ve dreamed of. And it was affordable. And now the wiring is done, so if an even better stove appears in the future, I need not hesitate.

Posted in Appliances, Wires

The pipes are calling….

I finally redid the kitchen sink drain.

And I’ll probably re-redo it again.

As I’ve mentioned, the drain pipe that comes out of the wall for my kitchen sink is improbably high. So high that it’s difficult to get good drainage out of the sink. And it comes out at a weird angle. Which makes connecting the sink drain to the pipe a bit of a challenge. The way this challenge was met by some previous owner was with a piece of flexible drainpipe. Which is a corrugated affair that is all bendy. Like a straw. That was connected to a P-trap. Above that was a T pipe leading left (to the disposal) and up (to the main sink). And all with slip joints.

Slip joints leak. I dislike them.

But it turns out that the weird angle at which the pipe comes out of the wall is not super weird. Just too weird for common sink drain parts. It’s about 22.5°. Which is half of 45° and is not unheard of in the PVC and steel pipe world. Just impossible to find in slip-joint drain pipes.

I bought a screw-on PVC adapter. And a 22.5° elbow. Then I started looking at how to make the sink drains better in general. I put in a Y next. One side leads to the main sink, one side leads to the disposal. I added a cleanout access port to the main sink leg so I can get the auger in there next time the stack needs attention. Then I put a P-trap on each side. (Why two traps where before there was only one? Because I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to plunge a double-bowl sink…but it’s basically impossible: push on this side, and the water just comes up on the other side. You can’t get the pressure you need to clear the clog. With two traps, they can each clog separately, and each be plunged separately.) The only slip joins are the ones right next to the sink and the disposal. Everything else is rigidly glued together. Nothing leaks. Nothing can leak.

I immediately regret this decision.

There is not clearance to get the tailpiece off the sink. And the sink strainer basket is a little bit damaged; it’s plastic, and some idiot (probably (definitely) me) cross-threaded a metal nut onto it at some point, so it’s prone to leaking if everything isn’t Just So. I’d like to replace it, but the newer ones I like have the outlet on the side instead of the bottom. So I’ll need shift the trap around a little to match the new configuration and no wait it’s all glued together. So I’ll have to cut and remove parts of what I glued together to make it point a different way. And the odds of the P-trap being reusable at that new angle are slim.

So sometime in the future I’ll buy the new strainer basket, and all new PVC pipes—including at least one union, so I can take sections out—and redo the whole thing a second time. Because I really do not like slip joints. So I’m going to glue almost everything together when I do it again. The lack of leaks is worth not being able to reconfigure everything at a moment’s notice.

But for now: no leaks. No dampness under the sink. It’s a win.

Posted in Plumbing

Dishwasher is upgraded

The dishwasher started complaining. And refusing to do any work. It said the steam vent was open.The steam vent is a little vent on the top of the dishwasher, with a fan on it, that opens when you’re in the drying phase to let the hot moist air out. Dishwasher was saying it didn’t want to work because the vent was open.

Well…maybe.

There’s a lot of things that might be making it think that. The sensor might be fouled. The cable might be loose. The vent might have a piece of debris stuck in it. The main board might be failing. Or the vent might in fact be broken.

Only one way to find out: Pull the dishwasher out from under the cabinets and check out the vent assembly. Simple enough….Except it was not simple. It was very difficult to pull the dishwasher out. Like it was stuck on something. Then it came free….

The dishwasher’s water and electric hookups are supposed to be long enough to pull the dishwasher completely out. But whomever had installed my dishwasher had used an extra-short piece of armored cable to do that, and installed that armored cable so that about half of it was not available to move. So the dishwasher did not in fact come out at all…until I basically ripped the armored cable loose.

So now, whatever I was going to do about the vent situation I needed to rewire the armored cable before I could put it back in its spot.

The vent assembly was a mess. Sometime in the past, a mouse had decided to try to make a nest in the insulation batting that all dishwashers are wrapped in. Several wires had been damaged. The vent assembly and the cable that led to it were not repairable. A new vent assembly would be on the order of $100. Not related to this, the control panel also had a button that no longer worked. In general I had no confidence the dishwasher as a whole was going to keep running long enough to justify sinking (at least) $100 into it.Whilst I was pondering that, I redid the wiring and plumbing for the dishwasher. The old armored cable was 6 feet long, and half of its length was stapled to the joists in the basement going from the nearest box to the hole leading up to the dishwasher cubby. The new armored cable is 12 feet long and 11.5 feet of it are available to move the dishwasher around, and there is a switch that shuts off the dishwasher’s power.IMG_20200401_181920.jpgThe new water connection is 5 feet because that’s the longest that is available. IMG_20200401_181927.jpgThere is a valve in the basement to shut off the water to the dishwasher, separate from the water to the sink.

(An aside: before all this, I thought the dishwasher was on the same circuit as the rest of the kitchen. That’s the breaker I turned off before trying to pull out the dishwasher. It turns out the dishwasher was on its own circuit the whole time and every time I messed around with its wires (or accidentally ripped them from the dishwasher leaving a ragged mess of exposed wires), they were live when I thought they were safe. The lesson here is: If you’re doing anything electrical, always treat all wiring as if it were live, even if you know you turned the power off. The fact that I do that is why I am not now dead or injured.)

I bought a new dishwasher on clearance. $500 for a whole new unit sounded like a better deal to me than $100 that might not fix it and even if it does fix it who knows how long. It’s nicer than my old one, and actually works. Which is a plus. And it’s nearly silent. Which is…mostly good.

Posted in Appliances, Plumbing, Wires

Separating Lights and Darks

As I said, I replaced the laundry area light after the “kazappp!” incident caused by the dishwasher.

Let me back up.

There’s a switch at the top of the basement stairs. It controls the light in the laundry area, which is just to the right as you go down the stairs. Fair enough. But I was always leaving it on. So I put a motion-sensor in the socket. One of these:

…And then never touched the switch again. But that was only sort of great. A single bare bulb is a little stark, and it eventually died and had to be replaced…I was on the third one I think when the dishwasher killed the whole thing. The sensor thing was dead. The LED bulb was dead. The socket itself was scorched. It was time for a change.

I opened up the box and found the short. I completely disconnected the switch at the top of the stairs. I installed a short length of conduit and another box…out of the likely range of any future water issues from the dishwasher and coincidentally more centered in the work area. And there I installed a fixture with built-in motion sensing.

This one:

Now when I am in the laundry area, there is light. And when I leave it goes out a minute or two later.

Which is what I wanted all along.

Later, things got weird.

Posted in Wires

More kitchen drain trouble.

A little while ago, the laundry room light blew up. With a shower of sparks and blown breaker.

It did that because of water. The dishwasher had wet itself, the water had dripped through the floor of the kitchen, which is the ceiling of the laundry room. The ceiling where the light is. So it all got wet, and kazappp! I’ll tell you about repairing the light in a later post. This is about the “dishwasher wet itself” situation.

The dishwasher wet itself because the kitchen sink backed up.

The kitchen sink backed up because there was a clog in the stack. Again.

I tried the same trick I did last time the kitchen drain clogged.

It didn’t work. The water jet hit the bottom of the clog and just stopped. It did not break on through to the other side.

Eventually, I was out of ideas. I went to second-hand stores and found a serious drain auger. But it had no auger heads. So before buying it, I looked around to see if any local stores could sell me new heads. Harbor Freight has a set that includes a new cable and heads for their heavy-duty auger. I didn’t need the new cable, just the heads, but I went to Harbor Freight to look at it. I wasn’t impressed. But next to it on the shelf was their hand-held power auger. It looked like it had a good chance of getting my clog cleared up. So I bought that.

Don’t buy that. It’s crap.

First problem is, augers don’t like to go up. They like to go down. Getting it up the pipe from the basement cleanout plug was…arduous. And then it wouldn’t push up. It kept falling down. (This is not the reason I don’t recommend this tool. Any auger would have the same problem.)

So I went up to the kitchen and pushed from the top. After a few tries, I got it to go down. It went all the way to the basement, then I started trying to pull it back.

It has a front grip. Theoretically, you push the handle forward and it feeds the auger out. You hold the handle in neutral and no feeding happens, only spinning. You pull the handle back and it reels the auger back in. Theoretically. The one I got, you push the handle forward and it feeds the auger out. You pull the handle back and…it feeds the auger out more.

So I had to unlock the chuck and pull the auger back by hand. Eventually I got it all reeled back in, put the drain back together, and ran water in the sink.

It backed up again.

Apparently the auger had bored its way through the clog and that’s all. It had done nothing in the way of actually breaking it up. So now I had a clog with a 5/16″ hole through it. Which is not enough.

I took the tool back to Harbor Freight.

They wouldn’t take it back, because it was covered with sewage. Because duh. But there’s a number you can call. 20 minutes later the person on the phone verified my purchase and sent out a refund check. They won’t take the thing back. They will replace or refund it, but they don’t want the filthy thing back. I tossed it back in the car and came home.

I sat and thought about the problem for a while.

I sent the auger back down. Once it was at the bottom, where I could grab it through the basement cleanout, I strung a bunch of zip-ties to the end of it. Radially, like the branches of a tree. Then I went back to the kitchen and started spinning the auger while slowly pulling it back. (No choice but to pull it back slowly; the power retract doesn’t work…) When it got to the top, the zip-ties were a: bent into a spiral pattern, and b: covered in black muck.

I put the drain back together and ran water in the sink. It drained. My problems were solved!

Posted in Plumbing

The way it’s supposed to go.

Last year, there was some strife getting the heat started.

The weather here has turned cool. So it’s time for me to start the heat and make sure it will keep me warm when it’s actually cold. So Sunday I bought the oil, oiled the pump, and started it up.

It worked just fine. The temperature in my house was 69°F before I started. I set the thermostats to 70°F, the valves cranked over, the pump started up, and the radiators got warm…then hot…and the house warmed up. When it was 71°F in the main zone, the valve for that zone cranked over again. When it was 71°F in the bedroom zone that valve cranked over again, they were both satisfied, and the pump stopped.

I do have a few minor upgrades I’d like to make before it’s actually heating season. The drain valve for one of the zones is a: directly over something I’d like not to be dripped on (the pressure relief valve; that’s why it was Quite Rusted last year), and b: dripping. Right now there’s a hose attached to it to direct the drips harmlessly away. But I’d like to replace the valve and add some pipes to make it not drip and be nicer in general. But if that doesn’t happen at all it’ll still be fine.

 

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Posted in Plumbing

Who made it…really?

Appliances are made by the thousands and millions. In factories in the US and elsewhere.

But mostly, they’re all made in the same factories regardless of what name is on the front.

When I replaced my ice maker, I bought the part I needed. I installed that part in my Maytag refrigerator. But it’s the same part you will need for your similar Kenmore refrigerator. Whirlpool? Yup. GE? Same. Pretty much every major US name (That is, maybe not Samsung, or Bosch, etc) fridge is made with the same parts, probably in the same one or two factories.

Same goes for laundry machines. And stoves. And so on. They have a different name on the front, and a slightly different look, slightly different features are included…but they’re all made in the same place from the same basic parts. And it’s been that way since at least the 70s.

On the other side of the coin, often a Big Name company will license that name to another company to use on their products, if the Big Name doesn’t want to make those things themselves. My GE Z-Wave switches are actually made by a company named Jasco, who pays GE to let them be called GE switches. My water heater was made by the American Water Heater Company. But it says Whirlpool on the front. There are even some Big Names that really don’t make anything anymore. They just collect fees from licensees who make things with their name on them.

Why does this matter? Well… in the first case, where they’re really all the same parts, it means the parts are going to be more readily available because the parts guy doesn’t have to stock a Whirlpool ice maker, and a Kenmore ice maker, and so on. They just stock the three or four ice makers that are in 90% of all fridges.

In the second case, it’s not as nice. Because you may buy an appliance from a name you trust, only to discover you’re not getting what you thought you were paying for. And even though the company whose name is on the outside may still be around, the licensee who actually made the thing could be gone and then you may be stuck.

So it pays to figure out if what you’re buying is really made by the folks whose name is on the front. It may not matter (These Jasco/GE switches are pretty great, actually, and anyway no one is going to help me repair them if they break. Once they’re installed, no more support is really possible if they stop working), but then again it may (as I discovered when I tried to fix my water heater…)

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Posted in Appliances, Uncategorized

I Also Want A Hot Shower.

Friday morning I got up as usual, made coffee as usual, got into the shower as usual…and didn’t really realize until my shower was nearly done that the water was…quite warm, certainly, but not actually hot.

That’s not cool.

I ran the hot water in the sink. It was…warmish.

Great.

About 15 years ago, my water heater sprang a leak and I replaced it. In a hurry. With what Lowes had on hand. I almost installed a tankless model at that time, but the idea of rerouting all the plumbing, and figuring out how to attach it to the brick wall, and all that, stopped me. So I got a 40 gallon water heater to fit in pretty much exactly the same spot as the leaking one.

Two years later it stopped making hot water. I figured it was the thermocouple and replaced that…no dice. (It’s almost always the thermocouple. They’re usually cheap. Buy a spare to have on hand.) Turns out there was a recall on the gas valve assembly. So the manufacturer sent me a new gas valve assembly and I installed it along with the new thermocouple I’d bought (because why not).

A couple of years after that (unbeknownst to me) there was a big lawsuit. The manufacturer had had a good idea and implemented it in a dumb way and people were mad! They’d built some safety features into this water heater to keep gas explosions from happening (good), and one of those safety features, they decided to build into the thermocouple (not good) which made the thermocouple expensive and hard to find (bad) and they put weird reverse threads on it to make sure you only used the right (expensive, hard to find) one.

I didn’t hear anything about that. My water heater just kept making hot water.

Until last Friday.

The result of the lawsuit was that for the cost of one of the expensive hard to find thermocouples, you could instead buy a kit to convert your water heater to use a regular thermocouple. The kit included a new manifold, fire door, pilot assembly, and a normal thermocouple.

And they stopped making this model of water heater. They’d gotten into too much hot water over it and they’d taken a bath on the repairs.

That was all several years ago. The kits were available only at Lowes or from the manufacturer. These days most people with this water heater have replaced it entirely or gotten their kit and moved on with their lives, and those kits are…scarce.

The Lowes web site said the store near me had two. I went there. They had one. And it had been opened. I was hesitant to buy it because I didn’t know for sure what all was supposed to be in it so I had no way to be absolutely certain everything was there. The appliance guy at Lowes called around to nearby stores. One store showed they had 11 of them. He called. All the ones they had had also been opened. More calls. All the ones in the whole region had been opened and looked through.

I looked at the one in front of me. I carefully looked over the parts list, and the parts in the box… I bought it and took it home.

I pulled out the old door/burner assembly:

IMG_20180914_215115.jpg

I moved the burner to the new door assembly and installed that:
IMG_20180914_220537.jpg

I installed the adapter to make the gas valve take a normal thermocouple:
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(The wiring terminals on the side of the adapter go to the now completely separate safety feature, which is now elsewhere on the door assembly. It’s designed to shut off the gas if the temperature near but not in where the flames should be gets to be flaming hot. Which is a nifty feature, really)

And then I turned on the gas, checked for leaks, and fired it up:

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And now I can take a hot shower again.

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Posted in Appliances, Plumbing