Thursday, May 8, 2008

Two and one half inch nipples are not big enough

I was messing around with two nipples. They were both two and one half inches (2.5). You would think that would be big enough. These nipples were a nice color and all hard. I guess it depends on what they are attached to.

These were attached to a new forty gallon gas water heater I got to install.

I’d gotten home from a Monday Night Band practice so it was late, about 10:30 PM. I was already exhausted, as my work had phoned me at 4:15 AM to fix a problem. Around 10:45 PM, I went to get a shower and turned on the hot water. The master bath is about the farthest from the water heater, which lives in a closet in the garage. I waited. I waited some more. After about five minutes, I quit waiting and went and asked the wife if she’d gotten any hot water. I was thinking that the dishwasher ran late, a load of clothes was washing when I’d come in. I know the middle school kid had taken a long bath. Maybe we were just out of hot water. Forty gallons only goes so far. The wife said she’d not gotten any hot water and had given up. Since the middle school kid was still awake, I asked her and she said she’d gotten hot water……….but not much. This didn’t sound too good. Out I head to the examination room in the garage. I knock and enter the examination room. The tank is not well. He’s got a bladder issue. If he had a leak, there should be water in the drip pan, except I didn’t have a drip pan. So he’d been slowly relieving himself on the examination room floor. A slow drip. At first I suspected some bladder infection. I quickly ruled that out with a quick glance under him. Then I suspected the worst. Yes, a STD. You know, I’d heard a few strange noises from his room in the garage. And perhaps he’d even opened that garage door and snuck out into the night. Into danger. Into the arms of some floozy hot water heater. Who knows what all had been in her. It could have been lime, salts, shoot even fluoride could have caused his slow drip. I continue the examination as to why the slow drip has caused the patient to experience chills. I shine my flashlight under the patient and see that the slow drip has extinguished his flame. What a sad ending to an old friend. Terminal Leakess, flame-us interuptus. I guess he died happy, as he was 15 years old. Old age for water heaters. I hope when I die, I don’t dribble in my shorts. Here is a photo of the old heater, the flex pipes, the busted cut off valve, once I’d gotten it all out.

So I lie awake for a time and run through my mind all the parts and steps needed to remove the dead corpse of the old water heater and to install a new one. I’d even installed the dead one about fifteen years before. I’d also installed a thirty gallon electric unit in my work shop. I’d installed a thirty gallon gas unit in another part of our home. I’m an experienced water heater installer! So I fall asleep with plans to stay home from work and replace the heater. Except I already knew there would be at least two issues to overcome. The cut off valve at the water heater didn’t function any more. The cut off valve to that part of the house, worked, but the handle was about 75 percent rotted away from moisture. So I figured to get the family off to school and work and go purchase the new tank, drip pan, brass nipples and ribbed flexible connection fittings. I even bought a fresh bottle of lubricant. Pipe fitting lubricant. Once I had everything in place, I’d go to the water meter and cut off the water to the entire property. My first priority would be to get the old tank out of the way, the old brass connections cut away and a new cut off valve put on. Then, I could turn the water on to the rest of the property and at least flush the toilets and wash my hands.

I got the new tank home. I slowly and carefully remove her from her cardboard clothes, and plastic wrapping. In her nakedness, was beauty. I examine all the parts with it. At the hardware store, I’d purchased two, two and one half inch long, ¾ inch brass nipples. They were beautiful! All shinny and hard. I almost regretted lubing them up with Rector-Seal. I go ahead and install the new brass nipples in the expansion valve and also into the water inlets. Once I put them in, I realize that they were a bit small! Too short really. Shoot, another trip to the hardware store. Except there seemed to be some size issues. They have the 2.5, but no 3 inch nipples. I opt for four inch nipples. Real men always opt for the bigger ones.

Just after lunch I call a friend to stop by and we hoist the new heater into place. He was on a time crunch, so I work around the new tank to get the valve in place and the new connections soldered on. I leave the cut off valve in the off position and turn on the water at the water meter and rush back to check for leaks. No leaks! I then turn on the hot water in the kitchen sink, just inside the door, and turn on the water to the new water heater. She begins to emit some groans of pleasure as she fills with cool water for the first time. After a few minutes I shut off the water in the kitchen, but then I begin to hear an ever loudening hissing noise. I double check, but the natural gas is still turned off. Has the new water heater already become displeased to be hissing at me? Usually it takes women at least 10 minutes to start hissing at me. I start lovingly caressing her ribbed connection tubes. Does she not like the ribbed action? I find the hot water out tube, has a pinhole in it! It was defective from the factory! The hissing is the air fleeing through the pinhole. I’ve heard of condoms with holes in them before. I shut everything down and fire up the plumbers’ torch to remove the tube to return it for another. I just hope this is the only glitch in this process.

I finally get back with the new hose and solder it on and connect it to the heater. I hope she likes this one better! It seemed to have the same ribs as the last hose, but what do I know. I start filling the tank again and this time there is no hissing noise. I then busy myself connecting up the natural gas connection and start trying to turn this lady on by lighting the burner on this baby. Our old heater took the old standby method using matches to light the pilot light. This new one has a pieso igniter. You rotate her switch to PILOT, push her button to start the flow of gas, and then punch the igniter button and watch for the pilot to ignite. I try this for about five minutes with no luck and no flames. This is one cold woman! I then suddenly notice that she has also started to cry! SHOOT! The hot water nipple seems to be leaking! I try tightening. Still leaking a lot. I switch that nipple with the other one, to rule out a busted nipple. Still leaking at the hot water nipple fitting! I come to the sad conclusion, that this mother is DEFECTIVE! By this time, the day is shot and I’ve still not got this baby on fire. I call the hardware store who says they will gladly exchange it. What a lot of work to remove the new one, and return it! But, I have no choice. I begin to drain the 40 gallons and disconnect all the pipes and fittings.

Thankfully, they took it back and with all new fittings on, everything came apart easy and within two hours, another hot water heater was in place and ready for a test. She fired right up on the third push of her igniter button, lighting off with a roar. I still had a very minor water leak on that same Hot Out nipple, but nothing like the first leak! I mop up the leak, tighten the nipple a bit more and hope for the best. Two hours later, we had hot water for showers and the leak was almost stopped. I guess the cast iron insert in the water tank, had to get all close and comfortable with my shiny new brass nipple.

I hope she is happy for fifteen years! By then, I will opt to let the professional plumber come and have his way with her old dead and worn out carcass.

While typing up this blog entry, I was listening to Robert Palmer’s (RIP) Addictions (VOL 1). Addicted to Love (which my band had been working on), Some Guys have All the Luck, Bad Case of Loving You, Simply Irresistible and Some Like it Hot. All seem to be strangely appropriate songs when dealing with nipples on water heaters.

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