The Water Heater: Our Repair Nightmare

A water heater never dies at a convenient time. I’ve shared several of our repair nightmares in the past but recently I’ve been asked what has been our biggest headache or nightmare. Well…

One dark and dreary night last November, as I sat dutifully at my computer working away, there was suddenly a thump from the other side of the wall. That sound should’ve gotten my attention but there are always strange sounds in this house. Later that night, once the TV was shut off and we were drifting off to sleep, we heard a hissing coming from behind the wall. My thoughts quickly shifted to the electric water heater that was on the other side of that wall. I jumped out of bed and opened the closet door…yes, our water heater closet is tucked inside our bedroom closet. Much to our horror, the 30 year old tank had sprung a seal and there we were both standing in a growing pool of water on the floor.

Who Puts the Breaker Box Outside the House?!

We stood there debating what we should do. Most of you are thinking, “Shut off the breaker.” However…another fun fact about this house…our main breaker box is located on the outside of the house. Why?? I have NO idea. So, I believe it was a Sunday night and there we stood staring at the destroyed water heater. It was hard wired into the house and we weren’t sure which breaker it was on and Sharkman really didn’t want to go tripping around in the dark looking for the breaker. Besides that, we believe our breaker box was laid out by the same crew who built the Winchester Mansion. So, we turned the heat setting down to its lowest setting, drained it a little and tried to get some sleep.

Water and Electricity – No Es Bueno

The next day, Sharkman decided to cut all of the power to the house and cut the lines running to the water tank. Once he opened the closet and took a look at the tank he almost had a stroke. The electrical box for the tank was totally submerged. Electricity and water are not two things you want mingling in your immediate area. He quickly cut the lines and decided to go ahead and pull the whole unit out. He drained as much water as possible but we still ended up with quite a bit on the floor. Luckily the floor is just subfloor at this point as we are slowly trying to resurface the floors in the house.

We have another hot water heater (gas) on the other side of the house that supplies hot water to the kid’s bathroom and the laundry room. So, we knew we could still take hot showers. However, we no longer had hot water in the kitchen and Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks away. I’m not sure how many pans of water I boiled to wash dishes, but we made it through November.

We looked at our options and we had talked about tankless water heaters in the past. We decided that was the way we wanted to go. The heater we wanted was about $300 but we would have to rewire the connection since these tankless water heaters run on 60 amps not 30 like the old one. The supplies would add up to another $200. So, we decided to start saving up money. December came and we received a Lowe’s gift card for Christmas from Mom. Yea! Between our gift card and what we had saved up, we were able to gather all of the materials by early January.

What’s That? We Have No Walls?!

Installing the unit had its own challenges but the biggest surprise was what we found or didn’t find in the walls of our house. As Sharkman was running the electrical line from the water heater to the breaker box (remember, it is outside) he had to cut a hole in the closet wall in order to give the line a path outside of the house to the breaker box. While he was drilling through the wall, he discovered that there is no outside panel on the house. He ran through sheetrock, then insulation, followed by the styrofoam moisture barrier and then he broke through the vinyl siding. Notice that the thing missing in this description was “pressed wood underlayment” or anything resembling that. The outer wall is not solid! I am guessing this is the case for the entire addition to the house which includes the master bed and bath, the kitchen, and the laundry room. Oh, happy day! We aren’t sure what we are going to do about that predicament but hopefully it will all remain standing for a while.

Our Shiny, New Tankless Water Heater

The water heater has been doing great however, in April we started having a problem with the unit tripping the breaker during our showers. At first it would give us a solid 15 minutes, then 10, when we got down to 5 minutes, we decided to do something about it. Another trip to Lowe’s (I should own stock) to get a replacement breaker for the indoor breaker box. As I said earlier, Sharkman over builds things so he doesn’t have headaches to deal with later. He added an indoor breaker box for the water heater so he wouldn’t have to run outside everytime the breaker tripped. As it turns out it was just a faulty breaker and the tankless heater has been running great ever since.

The New Water Heater is Working Great, But...

I have had one new oddity concerning the hot water in our bathroom…
It turns out that ever since we removed the demon bathtub drain stopper, the hot water to the tub doesn’t work. See if you can figure this one out: when I try to run hot water from the faucet into the tub, there isn’t any hot water. However, when I pull the shower diverter and direct the water to the shower head….magically hot water appears. When I divert the water back to the faucet, it is cold. What is that!?! If any of you have any clues I would love to hear them. Right now Sharkman and I have to return to our battles with the swimming pool leaks.


*Originally posted 8/4/16 on previous HippyDippyGeekyChick blog.


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