Time to Change the Water Heater

By , January 21, 2013

I knew for sure that we’d repaired the wind generator properly when Michelle called me to say that the water heater is leaking again. No time to rest on our laurels, we must move on to the next crisis!

I’d gone to town to see an old friend who’d come to Haines to see his son compete in a regional swim meet, and to do some laundry. Michelle came down with flu symptoms the afternoon we finished working on the wind generator and stayed home. She called to ask me to pick up a drain spigot to add to our newest water heater.

Our water heater has served us well for a long time—far longer than we thought possible. Supposedly leaky when we first installed it, it really did start losing water in May 2011. That patch job has wept slightly, but hasn’t really leaked enough to worry about. Earlier this year, a new leak started, again so slight it merely created water stains on the outside of the tank. When we saw that, we started looking around for another heater, and soon found one in town. We bought it, shipped it around in the canoe, and painted it. Since then, it has stayed in our boat house, as the current water heater continued to serve our needs.

Saturday, we brought the new one over to the cabin to fit it for installation. We saw that we would need to buy a few fittings in town, so we decided to patch the leaky one yet again. Even if it’s not perfect, it’ll only have to last a few more days, until we purchase the new fittings and I sweat them on.

We’re a little leery of the change. The new water heater is larger than the old one. Since we couldn’t find white heatproof paint, we painted the new one black. It looms over the current one like Darth Vader threatening R2D2.

More over, we’ve just had better luck with this tank, which is smaller than the first one we had. It seemed to be just the right size to heat water as it entered the tank, creating what is essentially an on-demand hot water system. In the larger one we used to have, the incoming cold water would overwhelm the hot water, and we’d have to pause between showers to let the water heat up again. I’m hoping that we’ve learned to use it better, and that the larger-capacity heater won’t have that same lag. Time will tell.

5 Responses to “Time to Change the Water Heater”

  1. Linn Hartman says:

    Never a dull moment – Now that the dryer deal is over I am back to fixing the drop drop drop in the tub – I am sure the guy got paid for putting cutoff valves in the line but he did not do it – surprise! – out of sight out of mind – Our water heater is 12 years old so I expect that is a problem coming down the track one day- We’d get bored without these little bumps in the road.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    That’s it, Linn–this is basically the stuff that keeps guys like you and me off the streets at night.

    For all the work and uncertainty, I have to admit that I’m grateful our relative isolation keeps us from being able to hire people to do the work for us, simply because I hate finding “surprises” like you describe, necessitating new negotiations. I’m not good at that kind of thing.

  3. Linn Hartman says:

    I am of the opinion we probably see alot of things the same way – except for a rare occasion I usually would rather do a job myself – it may not be the best way but it makes sense to me – I am not good at asking people to do things – especially if there is a chance they could get hurt – I was probably the best boss the folks that worked for me ever had – I would end up doing a job rather than ask them to do it – dumb! ha
    Continue on!

  4. Mark says:

    So Your electricity comes from wind power? Does it re-charge batteries or is it direct inverter? Your hot water is from a wood-fired hot water heater? Do you have running water? Is it pressurized? What about heat, all wood fired? Cooking on a wood-fired stove? Lighting from your power source or candles?

  5. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Mark,

    Not to put you off, but I spent a lot of time working on telling these stories “just right” in the blog. You’ll find all your answers by searching the blog for “off-the-grid power” and “water,” or by following the links within the posts themselves.

    Briefly, we generate wind and solar power, which charges our battery bank. Our lights are electric, although we use oil lamps and candle light for low power periods and ambiance.

    Mark

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