Thursday, March 24, 2005

Water Heater Replacement!

A few tips for the newbies from the now oh-so-experienced (and slightly dinged up) me.

  • Rent an appliance dolly. For twice as long as you think you'll need. I figured this one out after pulling the new water heater out of the back of my van.
  • Measure the basement landing. Build a crib of 2x4's if you find that the box+dolly is wider than the landing. It will be.
  • Ask a teenage daughter to take a shower after you turn the heater off. This means that you'll get rid of all the hot water, and you can use your garden hose to drain the heater without ruining the hose.
  • You're going to have to shut off the house water, unless there's a valve already on the hot water line. You can't just shut off the cold input and drain the house hot water--somewhere upstairs a faucet mixes hot and cold together, and it comes back downstairs.
  • The old machine has a lot of rock and sand in the bottom. With the house water off, there's no pressure, and it takes a long time to drain. Mine took over an hour. Keep the hose flat. It was suggested to me that I should have ripped the outlet off or used a thin rod to push the crud out of the way. I didn't want a giant puddle on the floor.
  • Make sure you know exactly what size the gas outlet and heater inlets are. Ditto for the water lines.
  • Flexible gas hose kits don't have all the parts, unless you're lucky. Look carefully at the double-male adapter. One end is beveled, unlike the double male black pipe piece you just bought.
  • Get the correct grease for the gas pipe fittings. Use it on the male connectors.
  • A rubber cork is a nice thing to stick in the gas pipe to keep it from stinking up the place. You did turn the gas valve off first, right? And double checked it? I got my rubber stoppers from university surplus, and happened to have one lying around at the time.
  • If you are re-using the flexible copper water hoses, don't forget to replace those $#%! washers. They are not the same size as garden hose/washer hookup hose washers.
  • Look for the union in the gas line. It had better be downstream of the shutoff valve, or you've got a problem. Undo the union first, and then work your way out to the heater. There aren't any shortcuts.
  • Clean the gas fitting threads with a wire brush. Don't scrimp: ten extra minutes brushing might save a half hour looking for a leak later. Old fitting grease chips off nicely with a sharp knife.
  • Be courteous to increasingly irritable and cross-legged family members wondering when the water will come back on. You will need them when you try to get the old water heater back upstairs. It is full of rocks now.
  • Try to center the new machine under the existing pipes. Try to try-fit the water lines. Murphy dictates that one of the 12 inch hoses will be 1/2 inch too short; and the next size up is 18 inches.
  • Cold water goes in the intake marked COLD.
  • The water softener drain hose will be in the way. Luckily we're having to replace that too (it doesn't work), so I just got rid of the copper tube. Don't forget to cap it off, though.
  • When bending flexible hoses, bend them over a sofa back or something else with a large radius, or they're apt to pinch themselves half-closed.
  • Wear gloves when trimming the metal vent stack.
  • For some reason the screws holding the vent don't want to go very far in. As long as the vent can't move, you're probably OK.
  • Before you dolly the old machine out to the curb, check when the appliance pickup date is. There might be some penalty for having junk left out too soon.
  • Fill the machine with water before trying to turn it on. A water hose is going to leak.
  • It might take a while, and you might smell a little gas, when trying to light the pilot light. Remember that the last few feet of the gas line have air in them, which doesn't burn very well. As the directions say, turn the pilot off. Go outside or something so your nose doesn't get acclimated to the smell. When you come back, put soapy water on the fittings and see if you see bubbles or smell anything.
  • Don't forget to return the dolly.
  • Tape the heater manual to the wall.
  • If you luck out, you might save a few bucks buying a water heater connection kit. It wouldn't have helped me much, though.
  • The thermal damper isn't really needed with modern systems.
  • Amuse yourself rolling the old machine back and forth and listening to the rattle inside.

No, I didn't make all those mistakes. Quite a few, though.

No comments: