January 20, 2012

Never simple.

It was one of those warm snuggle mornings.  The bed was ever so comfortable.  I was pondering how long I could stay under the warm layers, in-between cat napping quick dreams.

"The shower is not getting hot" came the klaxon call from the bathroom. My wife has work, I have the day off of work.  Well, I had the day off from my job.  Work was about to be my day...

I slogged out the door, slipped my work tennies on and proceeded down the half flight of concrete steps that leads to under-the-house.  To my dismay there was lots of standing water... a flood.  Great...

Living on a hill and having a flooded basement is not something considered.  But, there it was, a good six inches of water.  Curiously it was still below the access panel to the gas water heater.

First order of business was to get the water out of my basement.  My contemplation started with bailing or using a garden hose as a siphon.  Slipping on my trusty rubber boots, my brain had devised the next step and a shovel was soon in hand.  Heading to the downhill side of the house I started with a hole then a furrow.  This effectively destroyed a planter.  I got a trickle of water and increased the furrow to match.  Then headed inside and connected the tunnels.  My mind went back to kindergarten and sand box tunnels of yore.  As the water started flowing I had a smile of satisfaction until the grim task of troubleshooting the water heater came.

When we first moved into our house, the water heater was an electric model that sat in the kitchen disguised as a work-space.  My pop and I installed a much more affordable gas heater a few years back. This was a direct vent water heater that could be safely vented out a side wall.

The access panel was dry and I was perplexed at why the flame had gone out.  I used the igniter and the pilot lit!  HUZZAH! Hot water abounds...  Then it went out and would not re-light.

There was a note on the side saying that after a flood you need to replace the unit.  Great, just what I need a new water heater.  How do I find another direct vent?  How far would I have to drive  to find one.  My day was quickly becoming the suck.

Tina boiled some water and got ready for work.  Trevor was mopping out the remaining water.  I called the smartest plumber on the planet, my Pop.  Pop quizzed me about several aspects and finally told me to call the "gas guy"  As they are more familiar with current gas water heaters then he was.  Avista is our gas utility and I placed an order for someone to come out.

Next up I called my brother-in-law, Doug.  Doug is a plumber by trade who was tutored by my Pop.  He thought the gas line might have some water or debris and had thoughts on clearing (something the Gas guy would do later).  He also cautioned that some units have a fail safe that burns itself out when it overheats.  He could not figure out how a flood would make it overheat, but provided the caution.

Tony from Avista arrived and set about checking the water heater.  This was not the fail-safe style unit and with out much effort he got the pilot to light and the burner to work!  HUZZAH! Hot water abounds...  Then As he started putting the screws of the burner back it went out and would not re-light.

No air was getting to the flame...  A direct draft Gas water heater has an air intake and exhaust nested inside one another they start and stop at the top of the tank.  It was perplexing.  Tony took out the burner again and we saw the reflection of standing water UNDER the burner below a plate.  This corresponded with the air intake pipes that run down the backside of the unit.

Now with a battle plan I sent Tony Avista on his way.  Headed to lowes to buy a small water pump (the kind powered by a drill. and some hose. Pumped out the water then used sponge and paper towels until the bottom was all but dry.

This time the flame burned happily and began the task of heating my water.  Which I just now tested and... dare I say it? HUZZAH! Hot water abounds!

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