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.
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:
I moved the burner to the new door assembly and installed that:
I installed the adapter to make the gas valve take a normal thermocouple:
(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:
And now I can take a hot shower again.