Water Is Life, But Hot Water Is Living

Broken hot water tank

I have no hot water.

In the mid­dle of the week­end, my hot water tank broke down. I called the energy com­pany and was on hold for almost two hours. When I finally got through to some­one to trou­bleshoot my prob­lem, all he told me to do was unplug the tank and plug it back in again. Then he told me to wait an hour and call back to make an appoint­ment with a tech­ni­cian if it didn’t work. I refused to do this (after being on hold for so long already), so I made an appoint­ment right there.

The tech­ni­cian came today and told me that the pipes were leak­ing water, and the black area under at the bot­tom sig­ni­fied a car­bon monox­ide leak1. The entire hot water tank has to be replaced.

The good news is that my hot water tank is rented, so any repairs or replace­ments are cov­ered by the energy com­pany. The bad news is that the ven­ti­la­tion pipe that con­nects the tank to the out­side of the house is no longer up to code, and needs to be replaced before the hot water tank is replaced. The worse news is that my ceil­ing is fin­ished, so it needs to be ripped open for the new pip­ing to be installed then patched up again when it’s done, by an out­side con­struc­tion com­pany. The cherry on top is that nei­ther the pipe instal­la­tion or the destruction/construction is cov­ered by my condo or the energy com­pany, so I’ll have to shell out more money at a time I can’t afford it.

Until then, I can’t shower2, I can’t shave, I can’t do my dishes, I can’t do my laun­dry, I can’t rinse my mouth with­out using painfully cold ice water.

I can hon­estly say that I took hot water for granted.

But I won’t after this.

  1. Thankfully low enough that the two car­bon monox­ide detec­tors didn’t go off []
  2. which is one of my favourite ways to unwind at the end of the day []


  1. I stand vin­di­cated on my last com­ment about the lux­ury of Plumbing! Oh ya. Remember that? (February 10, 2007 at 10:45 am)

    But any­way, I can’t com­ment on the finan­cial pains of home/condo own­er­ship; my sym­pa­thy there. Doesn’t this mean you should spend Christmas away? like now?

    • Holy crap, that was a long time ago…I can’t believe you remem­ber that.

      I’ll be spend­ing Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day away, but other than that, I’ll be stuck at home. It just so hap­pens that it’s a long hol­i­day too, which drags things out even more.

      • Well as we increase in age every­thing just goes a lot faster.… seems like a week ago to me…
        Ack! that IS a long time to go with­out it. Good luck.

  2. I won­der how the tech­ni­cian found out the vent pipe (or exhaust pipe?) was no longer up to code when it was con­cealed in the ceiling?

    I’m pho­bic about embed­ded pipes. A tiny prob­lem would end up with a major ren­o­va­tion. I always pre­fer pipe shafts with access panels.

    • Apparently it’s quite widely known about the pipe codes. I’ve asked sev­eral peo­ple (in the heat­ing indus­try) and they all knew what I was talk­ing about. It goes from the hot water tank to the ceil­ing, so quite a bit of it is showing.

      And this is exactly the sit­u­a­tion where you’re right to be pho­bic of embed­ded pipes. If it wasn’t for the pipes and how they’re hid­den, I would have hot water by now.

  3. I also rent a water heater for my home and it has been replaced three times in the last 20 years. The last time they brought a new one this Spring I found out that the codes had changed and they didn’t want to install the replace­ment unit till I had upgraded the breaker. I had to hire an elec­tri­cian to come and do that and it cost almost $100. for some­thing that took less than 5 min­utes to do.

    If it wasn’t safe to install the same size unit on the old breaker, what made it safe to oper­ate the old unit for almost six years. Do “changes in code” ben­e­fit any­one but the electricians?

    • I heard that the changes in code are some­thing of an over­re­ac­tion, as the fail­ure rate should be “accept­able”, though I’m guess­ing per­haps they change to avoid law­suits or loss of life.

      I also found out that the last code update (aside from the one last year) was over 15 years ago, but who knows when they’ll get updated again. It cer­tainly helps the sus­tain­abil­ity of the heat­ing and cool­ing indus­try, much to do light­en­ing of our wallets.

  4. Jeff,

    I can’t make light of your sit­u­a­tion. Technology fail­ing in tech­no­log­i­cal times is rough indeed. There are things you come to EXPECT in mod­ern living.

    In one, sev­enth month tour in Iraq I show­ered one week every month, and not once in 52 days. Discomfort and con­ve­nience and relative.

    Two words: Baby wipes!

    • You’re totally right about dis­com­fort and con­ve­nience being rel­a­tive. I think of the peo­ple in the ice storm we had back in 1998, how peo­ple didn’t just go with­out hot water, but elec­tric­ity (and so heat­ing) too, to remind myself that it could be worse.

      I’m off to buy some Baby Wipes now. They won’t cover the hair, but they should get ride of the smell!

  5. Damn that sucks
    and worst tim­ing too.. now you prob­a­bly have to wait extra busi­ness days just to get a hold of every­body you need to to get every­thing done..

    Just look for­ward to your very first hot shower:D

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