Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wallowing In Water Heater Woes

A little discolored water on the laundry room floor on Sunday didn't faze me. At first, I thought it was Tigger. He is 16. He is a cat. And cats leave you all kinds of niceties on the floor on occasion, especially older and sometimes incontinent cats.

A little more water made me think it was the air conditioner drain hose leaking. It wasn't. Was it leaking from inside? Maybe, but I didn't see it. It's done nothing but rain, rain, rain here for weeks so it was possible we'd sprung a leak. Checked everywhere. Nothing. Also checked all the pipes for a leak. Nothing.

I also checked the water heater. Couldn't find a spot, except around one of the feet, that was wet. That didn't count though. The floor around it was damp, so it would naturally be damp, too. But after more water last night I went over it VERY thoroughly and found a damp spot on the bottom. Prognosis: The water heater is dying.

To its credits, it's time. It's almost 20 years old. (I cringe to think that when that one went in, I was a college intern!) They sure don't make them like that anymore. In fact, today's models average 8-13 years -- if they even make it to 8! Pathetic.

Buck up li'l camper, the remedy seems pretty simple: Buy a new one. OK, but which one? There isn't a dealer for Richmond, the kind in place now, within 100 miles. So, top of the replacement list were GE (Home Depot), Whirlpool (Lowe's), and Kenmore (Sears). I did a lot of researching online. And with all the complaints and the bad news about the leading manufacturers that I uncovered, I can't help but be confused and concerned.

First, the Whirlpool "Flame Lock" water heaters were the subject of a huge class action suit that was only settled in the past several months. Second, Whirlpool water heaters are actually made by the American Water Heater Company (AWHC), one of four such manufacturers in the United States. AWHC also make products that GE and Kenmore slap their stickers on the side of the tank and distribute to stores such as Lowe's and Sears. So much for those brands!

Another issue, but with some levity, came through this YouTube submission. It's long, but pretty hilarious. (If you can't stick it out, fast-forward 'til he does the impression of the Sears' gal calling him at about the 4:50 point. Priceless.)

I guess I'll have to call Lawrence and see what he recommends. And see what his schedule is like and if I can get something done this week. If you've got suggestions, I'm open to them.

I know that I don't want to wait until the thing goes completely out and Tigger needs scuba gear.

And so another adventure begins ...


fhdogs said...

What about upgrading to a tankless heater?

I hope to get mine one day, but my big 80 gallon heater is pretty new. When it's time comes I'm going with tankless.

- Mike@Rural Renovations

NV said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Mike. I thought about it, but I hear there are still some bugs to be worked it.

Maybe after the new heater wears out ... :-)

fhdogs said...

You may be right. Since I just moved from an apartment (with a very large central boiler) to this home I haven't had to deal with hot water heaters. I'm hoping this one will last awhile. In addition I'm hoping to go with a solar pre-heater for the house. Hopefully I've got at least 10 years to think about it though.