Monday, March 03, 2008


I had a phone call at work on Friday afternoon. It was The Flatmate, ringing to tell me that our hot water system was gushing water across the back patio.

It makes sense. It's the Friday afternoon before a long weekend - of course the water heater is going to choose this moment to have a hissy fit.

After a few minutes thought I decided to go home and check on it myself, just in case it might be possible to fix it before 5pm rolled around and the world closed down for three days. A long weekend of cold showers is no long weekend at all.

When I got there, investigations revealed that a little flange on a plastic cap had weakened, probably from stresses as the water pressure rose and fell over the years. Eventually it had snapped, allowing the pressure of the water to blow the cap off. The cap held the hydro generator (a little turbine that generates the spark that ignites the gas when the water is turned on) in place, so when the cap blew off the generator blew out too. With them out of the way, the water gushed out even when the hot water taps were turned off, and I had an innovative new water feature in my back garden.

Being men, we tried jamming the cap back in place with chocks of wood, but water just squirted out of the sides. So I rang a couple of plumbing supply places to see if they had a replacement cap in stock. Of course they didn't, since that would allow people like me to repair their water heaters for a couple of bucks. Apparently the entire hydro generator would need to be replaced. I asked if they had a replacement hydro generator in stock. And of course they didn't. They did however tell me how much Bosch charged for a replacement part. Apparently Bosch can't cover the vast expense of manufacturing a moulded plastic pipe with a tiny plastic turbine in it for less than $200. If cost is anything to go by, that makes a moulded plastic pipe with a tiny plastic turbine in it as fiendishly complicated to build as a 4Gb iPod Nano.

Fortunately I was not out of options. I called my plumber, who in the proud tradition of his trade refered me to someone else, and that someone else discovered that he had some spare hydro generators in his van. He came by on Saturday morning, cannibalised parts from three old hydro generators to create a single functional one, and installed it in my water heater. Total cost was $110, as opposed to over $300 if it had been a new one.

I celebrated by doing the washing up.


Blogger phaedrus said...

My water heater is the unit's original one, making it almost 30 years old.

A day much like this one is coming soon to a utility room near me.

3:28 AM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

30 years old? Mine's only 5 years old! And around here 10 years is considered to be the lifespan of a water heater!

I believe you may have magic hot water pixies who secretly sneak into your basement every night and maintain your water heater. Try creeping down there at midnight and see - I bet they sing a little hot water maintenance song as they work.

8:50 AM  

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