We all know that I was raised by women, so I get excited when I get the chance to do guy stuff. Or, in this case, watch guys who do guy stuff. Maybe I’ll learn something, right?
My hot water heater had been “acting up” for a while. For starters, we had been incrementally turning up the thermostat for quite a while to maintain a good, hot supply of water. Secondly, every time I filled the kids’ bathtub, I couldn’t help but notice the rusty tint. The clincher came when I was in the basement, messing around with something or other, and smelled a funny smell. During the course of my investigation, I noticed little wisps of smoke coming from the firebox. Oh, by the way, I have an oil-fueled hot water heater. I knew enough about fireboxes to know that the fire should stay INSIDE. Being a can-do sort of guy, I did the only thing to do. I called a guy. If you’re not a card carrying, owns lots of tools and know what they do, guy, you have to at least know how to call one of those guys. I called Dan. He was out of town. I figured a good cleaning might do the trick. Denial? Never heard of it.
Sunday morning I woke up and took a very lukewarm shower. Not a good sign. I figured that by the time I got home from church, things would magically reset. Didn’t happen. I called Dan again and told him that I was officially worried, and could he come over Monday? The Patriots were coming on at 1:00, and I didn’t want him to miss the game. I knew I didn’t want to miss it. It’s not that I’m such a huge fan of football, it’s just a heck of an excuse to wear loose fitting pants and eat nachos on the couch for 3 hours.
Being smarter than me, and recognizing trouble when he heard it, Dan came over during the game. His suspicions were correct. I was screwed. After the final play (we won!), I loaded up the grocery-getter and headed the 60 miles down the highway to our nearest Home Depot. On the way, I thought to call the ultimate in “those guys” – my Dad. Dad said I should switch to an electric hot water heater. It would be one less fire in my basement, and the rise in my electric bill would be offset by all the oil I WASN’T burning to heat water. This was fine by me, but it meant I not only needed a plumber, I would need an electrician.
My electrician (Jeremy) was arranged to visit Monday afternoon, scheduled just after the plumber (Dan) was slated to leave. I got the brilliant idea to build a box so the new heater wouldn’t sit on the damp-ish concrete floor. When Dan arrived to the sound of hammering, he said, “There’s no hammering in plumbing!” I assured him that when I plumb, there’s hammering.
I paid close attention to the plumbing. There was pipe cutting, draining, clamping, and soldering. I thought to myself, I do not have the skills or equipment to do this task. I know enough about myself to know that I can’t be trusted to wield a blowtorch INSIDE my house. So far, so good.
The electrician showed up and set to work. Again, I played too-involved homeowner. I watched really close, asked questions, and handed him tools. Technically, it didn’t seem too hard, but then I thought: if a plumber messes up, we get wet. If an electrician messes up, we get dead. Seemed easier, certainly less messy, but with much higher stakes. I reaffirmed my decision to call in backup.
Jeremy said that because I was the homeowner, I got to throw the switch at the circuit breaker that would bring this thing to life. I counted down from three (I know, I’m a geek), and closed the circuit. Silence. Silence so loud it was kind of deafening. Nothing. Jeremy said, “hmmm.” I turned it back off and he opened the panel on the side of the heater, traced every wire with his hand, muttering under his breath. Everything seemed OK. I turned it on again and we listened. Silence again. No clicks, no whir, no nothing. Picture two grown men with ears to this big barrel-thing. “Did you hear that?” “Hear what?” “Ssshhh” “Stop breathing … damn.” Turns out the one tool he’d forgotten to bring was his meter. We checked the water upstairs and hot was a tiny, tiny bit warmer than the cold. Must be working, right? Jeremy didn’t trust that, so he told me not to touch and took off to borrow a meter from a buddy. By the time he got back, the hot water was flowing nice and hot.
Apparently I was the proud owner of a brand new, GE Ninja 2000 hot water heater.
Would I try to do that sort of job by myself next time? MAYBE if one of “the guys” had my back the whole time. Funny thing though … when I fill up the tub for my babies, it’s clear. The basement doesn’t even smell funny anymore. The GE Ninja 2000 is quite a product.