Thursday, February 08, 2007

Water Heater Troubles, continued

The part came in a couple of weeks ago, but I hadn't had time to install it. It involves taking pretty much the whole water heater apart.

Well this morning, I heard the leak alarm going off, and I went down to check. It was leaking from the top of the third cylinder, in the other cylinder pair (the one I hadn't ordered a replacement part for). I stayed home to address the issue.

I took it apart and, not surprisingly, what I found was yet another crack in the plastic had developed, this time through the threads where the heating element plugged in. I talked to a tech at Seisco so I could order another part. I asked him a few questions, like whether they'd had a bad batch of plastic. He said "not in your serial number range".

I decided to replace the worse leak with the new part, since the leak in the other one was controllable and away from electronics. Which is what I ended up doing. I ground a little grove into the crack on the less-bad leak and patched it with epoxy, and I cut a gasket the size of the whole bottom plate to cover all the bases. By about 4:30 I had it all put back together and hung it on the wall. Turned on the water. No leaks. Cool.

Turned on the power and went through the matching routine. Everything tested fine, and bang, we had hot water! Success!

I could hear it clicking on and off as Vicki used hot water upstairs as I was cleaning up. About 6:30 I was putting stuff away that I had removed from under the stairs to do the work when I heard a loud pop and a saw a blue flash.

Not good.

I tested it a few more times and couldn't tell where the flash came from -- finally, I decided it had to be from behind the circuit board. Really not good.

I took the circuit board off. A big square black mark over part of the two cylinders behind the circuit board was revealed. There was a big black smudge and a huge bit of PCB burnt out on the back.

The circuit board is toast. Some water must have gotten on it. Probably happened when I was turning on the water -- a few drops dribbled out of the intake pipe. I quickly tightened it and it stopped. I didn't see but a few drops of water, and I dried those up. I flashed a flashlight around to see what I could see. I should've checked harder. I figure the ruckus of me putting stuff back in the stair-hole where the water heater was ... dehumidifier, vaccum cleaner, carpet cleaner .... caused some drop of water to ooze its way down to a bad spot, and POW!

So we have no hot water tonight -- and we probably won't have it until Saturday at the earliest.

I'll call Seisco in the morning and see how much they'll charge me for a new PCB. They were second-daying me another 4 cylinders -- that was $25. I think it'll be $35 to overnight the PCB + whatever they'll charge since this wouldn't be covered by warranty.

There's no way to fit a standard water heater under the stairs anymore since we drywalled it off. I mean, one would fit, but you couldn't get it in the door past the furnace. This is why we bought the tankless to begin with.

My other option is to go buy a PowerStar at Lowes. Not quite as advanced circuitry, and slightly less wattage.... but local replacement is a possibility, and I think the cylinders are made of metal instead of plastic. I'd also have to re-do the sub panel with 3 40 amp brakers and pull some new wire ... though not much. The water heater is right there. But we're talking about $650 with tax, plus probably another $55-$60 in breakers. It depends on how much they want for a new PCB from Seisco.

So anyway, that was a wasted day off. Not that I didn't learn something. Actually I learned a lot. But to go from "Whoo-hoo, I did it" to "B-U-M-M-E-R" in such a short period of time....

I'm bummed. I hope I can sleep.

Lord knows, the cold shower will wake me up in the morning.

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