Monday, January 4, 2010

What I did on my Christmas Vacation

The Holidays are over, and looking back at the last 2 weeks I have to just smile and say "Oh, well!", because it doesn't seem like we really had a vacation. On Christmas Eve day I realized that I was getting a sore throat that reminded me of the "swallowing razor blades" feeling I would always get as a kid when I had strep throat. I called my doctor and was able to get a Z-pack called in and started it right away. We were supposed to get together with family on Christmas day, but decided to stay home so I wouldn't be "Typhoid Mary" and infect everyone with my germs. By the next couple of days I was feeling better, so my husband and I decided to take on a project that we had planned to do over the Holidays: installing a water softener. To all of you jewelers out there who know how to solder I have a tip for you: you can save a lot of money on plumbing bills if you put your skills to good use in your home! We bought a nice unit from our local home improvement store and installed it in a day. The fun part was that our home was not plumbed for the softener! We had to locate the water main coming into our house, shut off the water at the street, cut into the line and add some couplings and elbows and other pieces to hook up the softener. You can use your soldering skills to connect the pipes. The steps you have to take are almost exactly the same. You cut your pieces and dry fit everything together. Make sure all your cuts are straight and flush, clean your pieces where they will be soldered together by sanding the surface, then coat the area to be soldered with water soluble flux, heat the area slowly with the torch until the flux runs and add the non lead solder. In the plumbing world they call it "sweating" the connection, but it's pretty much the same a soldering a piece of jewelry together.

Anyway, we installed the water softener (which is located in a closet along with an electric water heater in the corner of my studio) , and we were very proud of ourselves. The unit seemed to be working just fine, so we went about some other chores. The next day we were in the studio when all of a sudden a really strange noise like "Boooooing" came from the water heater and the lights in the studio flickered. My husband and I looked at each other in horror wondering what in the world had happened, and fearing some horrible event had taken place in that closet.... had we installed something wrong? We checked the electric panel and the breaker for the water heater was tripped. Great. What now. So my husband switched it back to the "on" position and everything appeared to be OK. Whew! Maybe it was just a fluke!

We went to bed that night a little nervous about the breaker incident, but hoped for the best. When we awoke the next morning I went to take a shower and found that we had no hot water. The breaker was tripped again and flipping it back on did not work this time. My husband scratched his head and said "what did we do wrong?  Did installing the water softener cause the water heater to go out?" I told him that I had been expecting the 8 year old water heater to go out soon since we have very hard water and surmised that it was probably at least a third full of calcium. We checked the heater and found that the heating element at the bottom of the tank had shorted out due to the calcium build up.

So, we had another plumbing project on our hands. We purchased a new water heater and drained the old one. (My guess was correct by the way, I measured the water that we drained with a 2 gallon container and was only able to drain 51 gallons out of that 66 gallon tank!) Getting the old one out of closet was a superhuman feat since it sits on a platform that is about 18 inches off the ground in a closet. Somehow we managed to "walk" it down a makeshift set of platforms that we threw together with odds and ends until we could get it to the floor and out of the way. With all the "rocks" in the bottom it was really heavy! Then getting the new heater into position was another superhuman endeavor! But, we did it!!! We spent half the day on New Years Eve and all day on New Years Day installing a new water heater. So far everything is working great! We have plenty of hot water and no calcium deposits!


What did YOU do on YOUR vacation?  :o )

1 comment: