The day the hot water heater died

Damn you, Murphy’s Law.

In a reenactment of the mythical Noah’s Flood, our 75 gallon water heater (that I believe was installed when the house was built) died on us Friday. Nay, not just “died on us.” Imploded in a spectacular fashion, and at an inopportune time.

My wife had invited guests to come over Friday night (mothers and kids), but the husbands would not be invited. Call a “Girls Nite In”, but with kids. [Personally not my idea of a fun time if it was a “Dad’s Nite” but whatever.] The plan was that I would tidy up Thursday evening, then occupy myself Friday night after work. I asked the kids to help me tidy up the basement, since the kids were going to be sequestered down there for the evening. Before going to bed late Thursday night, I surveyed my work and said “This is good.”

Friday evening as I’m catching the train at Newark Penn, my wife calls me to report the basement carpet is wet. Extremely wet. Over a large area. We’re wondering what is leaking, and I’m immediately wondering if the burst pipe  from a few months ago was the culprit. Sadly, it was even worse – the hot water heater. This is likely (but I was not 100% sure) that this was the original hot water heater that came with the house. I’m not certain because the previous owners were there for around 15 years.

Namita wasn’t sure how to shut off the water, but neither she nor I had planned for this type of emergency. Maybe that should change. Anyway, not much to do until I could get home in over an hour. Meanwhile, guests were already over. All we could do was throw down some blankets and towels.

As soon as I arrived home, I bolted downstairs with a guide I pulled up on how to turn off the gas and shut off the water. I found a small leak pouring out near the bottom. Whenever it actually cracked, it likely emptied out the entire 75 gallons and kept refilling and emptying. What a mess. I threw more towels down (purchased during our last big leak), and ran off to get ready to meet Doug for Jurassic World.

Before or during the movie, my friend Jason offered via text message to lend me his wet / dry vac to soak up the water. Great idea, as throwing down an infinite number of towels wasn’t going to cut it this time. I picked up the wet / dry vac after the movie around 2 am, snuck into the house quietly, then spent the next two hours sucking up as much I could. I quit around 4 am out of exhaustion.

Early Saturday morning, I was out and about driving to and from our closest Lowes and Home Depot stores. The last time I had to replace an ancient hot water heater (years ago at the townhouse), finding one to fit the tight utility room was the major concern, not capacity. This time around, it turns out most retailers don’t carry large 75 gallon heaters. They aren’t common?

What I learned is that most people do have ones with 40 – 50 gallon capacity. The people who do have the large capacity heaters (75 or more) is when you have those large whirlpool tubs in your master bathroom, like we do. Those tubs can easily fill 55 gallons all by themselves.

After making many phone calls, we had two options:

1. Purchase a 50 gallon model from Lowes, and potentially have it installed later that afternoon.
2. Order a 75 gallon model, and wait a few weeks for delivery and installation.

I contacted Jason for advice (per my wife’s nudging), and they had 5 people using a 50 gallon model with no issues. We rarely use that whirlpool tub anyway, so screw it. We needed immediate resolution. We never use that tub much anyway.

Later that afternoon, we had a plumber installing the new hot water heater, and I was nearby working the shop vac. I had also pulled up the carpet in two places, and had two under carpet blowers (rented from Home Depot for $25/day) drying out the carpet.

This arrangement stayed for the next few days. The carpet and padding was soaked, and even the wet / dry vac was effective but slow going and back-breaking. To effectively pull water out of both carpet and padding, you have to push the attachment down for 10 seconds, then move it down two inches, and repeat. Slow. Going. And your back will hurt after awhile, I promise you.

I returned the 1st blower around Wed morning, but needed to keep the 2nd blower going until late Thursday night. I returned it that night just before they closed. The carpet is 99% dry, I think, but now I have all this carpet pulled up. While I was Home Depot, I picked up this rubber / plastic carpet tool to help me push the carpet back into the corners. I wouldn’t have minded one of those cool knee kicker devices, but they run for $80. I’ll try this one first. I still have to return the vacuum. The basement still smelled like wet dog or carpet, but I sprinkled Arm & Hammer carpet deodorizer all around. I didn’t vacuum yet, but it has helped immensely.

What a weekend and week. Water is terrible sometimes, because it gets into everything and spreads so quickly.

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