Warm, but grumpy

By Mir
March 3, 2009

Yesterday we spent a fun-filled afternoon deep in family togetherness, by which I mean we went to Otto’s office and parked the children with their Nintendo DSs while Otto and I did some work. The kids thought they’d died and gone to heaven when they complained of hunger mid-afternoon and we took them to the VENDING MACHINES and let them each pick out their own pouch of high fructose corn syrup-laden, salty fatty goodness.

Finally, our relentless phone calls back to the house yielded a pick-up by our crappy answering machine, and lo, we knew power and order had been restored. We returned, and celebrated with reheated lasagna.

I also sent Monkey upstairs to shower, as the children were beginning to become a bit fragrant. (Otto and I know how to wash up in the dark in the sink with cold water without screaming [much]. The kids, well, I was choosing my battles.)

So Monkey had his shower and came down all squeaky clean, and after a little while Otto said, “There’s water running somewhere.” So naturally we gave Monkey the evil eye, because sometimes he sees something shiny and doesn’t quite shut off the water all the way, but he insisted that he had. And then we checked the toilet that has a tendency to stick, and that wasn’t it, either.

So Otto grabbed a flashlight and went underneath the house, and when he came back, his expression was grim.

“Well, the hot water heater is gone.”

Gone. GONE?? Like, it got up and walked away? But no, it was still there. Most of it, anyway. Except, you know, the BOTTOM of it. The part that KEEPS THE WATER CONTAINED. That part was sort of gone, and we’d been watering our property since sometime after Monkey’s shower—thank GOODNESS, because it’s not like we had six inches of snow melting and doing that for us already!

So. We had heat. We had electricity. But we only had one clean family member, and we had no hot water.

School was canceled again today (APOCALYPSE. NOW!), but Otto had to go back to work, so he bravely shaved with icy cold water and otherwise cleaned up and made himself presentable and set off to work. I was left to wrangle with the plumbers who never called back yesterday, and the good news is that I got one of them on the phone right away.

The bad news is that our original-to-the-house hot water heater model no longer exists. Haha! Isn’t that AWESOME? I mean, after the storm and the trees and the power and everything, that was really just the icing on the crap cake, I must say.

See, we have a gas hot water heater in our crawl space. It’s called a lowboy. Those are no longer made, because… well, I have no idea. Maybe because sometimes they blow up? No idea. Anyway, the choices were to repipe and move a taller unit elsewhere (“How about your basement?” the plumber helpfully suggested, apparently not aware that having a crawl space is generally, you know, because you don’t actually HAVE a basement), or convert to electric and stay in the same location.

We’re converting to electric. Which means that we need both a plumber AND an electrician AND several additional buckets of money to pay for it all. Awesome.

In the meantime, I woke up this morning wanting nothing more than to be clean, so I went all pioneer and heated water in every pot I own and had a nice soak in three inches of water in my tub. Hmph. But at least I had the presence of mind to save a pot so that I could rinse out my hair after I washed it.

Hey, at least now I don’t have to worry about knocking out the plumber or the electrician with my stench when they arrive. That’s good, right? Right.


  1. Tammy

    On the bright side, the new water heater will likely be much more energy efficient than the old one. So, it should pay for itself in about 27.9 years. ;)

  2. Megan

    This is just taking the whole “when it rains…” saying TOO FAR.

  3. Katie in MA

    I think you should present the kids with a bar of soap and a towel and tell them it’s time to go outside and wash their hair in the snow. If you can keep a straight face, the looks on their faces should be PRICELESS. :)

  4. jennielynn

    Sounds like a good time to go motel camping for a night. But I’m a sissy like that.

  5. Grace

    I so FEEL for you! Our water heater broke in January, so I know how difficult it can be to get everyone in the family clean with no running hot water. [sigh] I hope it all works out quickly for you!

  6. Barbara

    A day at the office – parental survival mode. You did well. But you have a lot of work to do if you want to start camping as a family.

    We are living the hard life with one bathroom out pending remodel after ONE pipe leak. A break in a 50-year-old-pipe leak. Any chance your water heater broke due to freezing? Any chance that would be covered under your homeowner’s insurance?

  7. Jamie AZ

    Just don’t ask “what next?”!!!

  8. Keyona

    Aww you poor thing. I hope they get it fixed quickly!

  9. Gem

    In the past I have decided that paying gym membership for a year when I rarely got there could be justified because it meant I had somewhere to go for a hot shower in situations such as this!

  10. Chuck

    Yikes! When it rains it pours…cold water.

  11. hollygee

    How about, since you have to make the change anyway, a point of use. Saves mucho bucks since it doesn’t have to keep the water hot, just heats what you need.


  12. Heather

    Just think about the really lovely shower you will have after the new water heater is installed. Focus on that. That’s all I got.

  13. exile on mom street

    Ummm. Wow.

    That is a triumph of sucktitude, that’s what that is.

    Oh, and I think that I’m un-inviting you to my house. You’ve got cooties…

  14. elizabeth

    you’ve got your priorities right I see – get the small boy clean first. if my two go too long, whew!

    you made a tough call on how to replace. I’d not had a gas water heater till the current house and am sold. who knew there was a difference? the tank-less ones seem like a good idea too but I wonder if they can reach the temps of tanked heaters.

    hope your water is hot soon.

  15. Frank

    Second the motion for Point of Use… Hot Water On Demand… that kind of setup. Much more efficient and you have more freedom of location. plus a fairly steady supply of toasty H2O for those days where a Long Hot Shower (TM)is necessary.

  16. Crisanne

    Wow. That’s just about all I can say. Wow. (Two points if you can name the children’s book)

    Maybe a trip to the library for some new books would help keep the kids quiet while you work?

  17. JennyM

    Wow, that’s crappy. As a homeowner there are few things more terrifying than the “wait…. there’s water running somewhere” realization. Never good. Our water heater crapped out Thanksgiving morning, with guests in the house and only one shower taken. When my husband pulled the access panel, he was met with burning, sizzling insulation. So Thanksgiving last year was about being thankful that while we were slightly stinky, we hadn’t burned up in our beds.

  18. Tracy

    WoW! I’m scared to wish you a better day tomorrow! But in any event, try to enjoy the rest of today!

  19. nil zed

    I third for the point of use ‘boiler’ as they call them in the UK. Never-ending-hot-water-supply. True.

    In the long ago past, I had to do the boiling water for a bath thing, depressing how little water you get even after using all of your largest pots, twice. Makes me very glad to live in the now.

  20. All Adither

    Ugh. This sounds like my entire sixth grade year.

  21. Jean

    Ok, seriously, that just bites. I don’t even know what to say. I’d offer you a large glass of wine if I lived closer…would that help?

  22. Melissa

    Ack, that is just a pain in the rear. I hope today improves…

  23. kristy

    When it rains, it pours eh? So sorry for all the troubles y’all are experiencing…hoping things start looking up soon!!

  24. AKD

    Our hot water heater is in the crawl space as well, but it (and the furnace) are in a dug-out and cemented box maybe 3′ below the normal level of the crawl space. (it’s about the size of a hot tub, but square.) This allows the water heater to be full size. We have a water alarm down there so if the water heater bursts, we hopefully will hear a beeping noise. Or I should say, my husband will hopefully hear the beeping noise, since I am too deaf to hear high pitched noises.

  25. Mom24@4evermom

    You have my complete and utter sympathy. Not so much for what you went through, although for that as well certainly, but also because you’re going to be dealing with electric for a water heater, and that’s not anywhere near as nice as gas. Sorry.

    I also had to chuckle because your post in the feed reader included an ad for a tankless water heater. I assume you considered that option. They are awesome, but I’m sure they are a lot more buckets of money.

    Hope the cosmos align to start giving you some much needed breaks.

  26. marge

    our water heater is in the attic, when it broke it flooded the room below. it was like it was raining inside the house. fortunately we dont have carpeting.

  27. Jen

    Um, hugs? At least you only have problems with ONE house now, not two (or three?). Summer’s coming and you can use the pool that gets too hot? Oh, I’m no help. We’ll stick with hugs…

  28. carrien

    Before you do that you may want to look up flash water heaters.
    They are tiny, propane, only heat the hot water when you turn it on, you always have hot water because it’s not stored in a tank, and they are actually low energy, low environmental impact. Oh, and did I mention cheap. It’s what my FIL plans to install if/when his current hot water tank ever goes. OFten used in tiny apartments in Europe.

    I can find you details if you like.

  29. Nancy

    Just got back from Nicaragua where, even in our middle class neighborhood, there is no hot water. OK, so the temp was high, but still a cold shower first thing in the AM was a lot different than the cold shower after a day of dusty visiting barrio’s filled with filthy children. One day the water did not work, not because of anything broken, but because the government can just shut your neighborhood down because someone (only takes one!) in your neighborhood did not pay their bill. We showered with a bucket of rainwater and a smaller bucket to pour over your head. (in some places called a whor***’s shower.) Water was back at the end of the day. We heard sometimes it is 2 weeks, and you have to pay for 55 gals of water delivered to your house.
    I know, it does not help when MY heat did not work yesterday – here in the snowy north where we know how to drive. I still freaked. But maybe a little less freaky than I would have before seeing how 2/3rds of the world lives.

  30. Debbi

    BTDT just a few months ago and it was awful. Hope things get better soon for you!! I’ll be thinking about you.

  31. Amy

    Maybe GA Power doesn’t do this, but AL Power used to give you a free water heater if you converted to electric. Have you thought about checking into that? It might mean a free water heater (since they are really the same company). And we all love us some free stuff.

  32. Scottsdale Girl

    Girl my butt would be in a hotel so fast it would make your head spin.

  33. Michelle

    Oh my god, that sucks. Our pipes burst after the Big Freeze came through Kentucky, so I kinda know how it feels.

  34. kath

    Year before last our hot water tank let go on Christmas Eve. Everyone had showered, margie was in the shower. I had not showered. It took until boxing day to get it all fixed as we needed to bring things up to “code”. I had a house full of people for three days and a brand new dishwasher which I had insisted on if I was going to host Christmas that I couldn’t use… we boiled water endless stock pots of water.
    All this to say, it sucks.
    Hope things get better soon!!

  35. The Mother

    Have you looked into tankless?

    When we couldn’t replace our lowboys, we went with tankless. And we never run out of hot water.

    Well, except for that 10 days without electricity…

  36. Emily in IL

    Well, crap, that just sucks. Especially the buckets of money part. I mean, the 3 inches of warm water bath sucks too, but really, electricians are EVIL expensive.

  37. Amy-Go

    That’s just…craptastic. Wine, anyone?

  38. Dawn

    Go with the tankless; it will save you in the long run.

    Crisanne: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.

  39. Giyen

    Water heater in the crawl space?!? That’s sooooo convenient.

  40. Brigitte

    Yurk. Brought back memories of visits to my grandmother’s house. Until I was eight or so, if you wanted to bathe, it was in a little round steel tub right in the kitchen, with water that had been heated on the oil stove. Somehow, I don’t think Chickadee would go for that.

  41. Ann from Minnesota

    Oh Jeez… I built my house almost eleven years ago, and am on water heater #4. Can you believe it? I am the queen of water heating catastrophes… And I surely just jinxed myself with the current one. Where’s the wine? I believe I will have a glass!

  42. Aimee

    Wow. Just… wow. This year has been a doozy so far, apparently for everyone.

    If I happen to spot any spare buckets of money, I’ll send ’em your way.

  43. bob

    It’s too bad you don’t have access to he gym facilities where Otto works – you could’ve had a cleanliness field trip there and back.

  44. crockpot lady

    I love it that you went pioneer.

  45. Trish

    I second (third? Fourth? Fifth? Whatever – I forget) the vote for the tankless hot water heater. We have one made by a company called Rinnai; it’s propane-powered (but I know they come in electric-powered models, because the hubs accidentally bought an electric model way back when). Never run out of hot water, and the best part? You can set the temp you want the water to be on the little thermostat-thingy, and the water comes out exactly the temp you want. No more adjusting endlessly the hot and cold water for showers; I set mine to 104 degrees and crank the faucet all the way to hot. Plus you’re not wasting energy by cooling down hot water when you take a shower/whatever.

    Also comes in handy when you need 110 degree water for starting yeast ;)

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