Hot Water Heater Out, Cold Showers In

Our hot water heater went kaput yesterday and I’ve now endured the only 2 cold showers I’ve ever taken in my life that I can recall.

Sena will be doing sponge baths, even though I’ve told her cold showers are great, easy, and healthy. Her hesitation might have something to do with my screams while I’m in the shower. The neighbors called emergency services yesterday, but now they probably know the story.

It’s strange how hot water heaters can just plain fail, especially on a Friday when the plumber is booked until late Monday afternoon. When I told the scheduler I would be more than happy to donate every single one of my cribbage awards to their company (which number exactly zero at last count), she just chuckled. When she told me our water heater was “out of warranty,” it didn’t surprise me and made me wonder if I would be taking daily cold showers until the day I die (meaning in about one week given my current level of recurrent hypothermia).

My cold shower method is the jump-in-yikes-out approach. Sena hauls me out in a wheelbarrow to unthaw me in the refrigerator—body part by body part.

In fact, there’s some evidence that cold showers are actually healthy for you, provided you don’t die of cold shock. Believe it or not, a cold shower drives blood flow from your skin to your internal organs. I don’t think that includes your brain, mainly because I don’t think you could pay me enough to stick my head into the freezing water which would turn me into a Jimbo-cickle.

On the other hand, there’s not a wealth of scientific evidence that cold showers are always good for you. On the other hand, it may be good for your immune system and circulation. Consult your doctor if you have cardiovascular disease. Cold showers can shrink your blood vessels. They can also shrink other parts of a guy’s anatomy, if you know what I mean.

Hey, did you know that Chuck Norris’ balls make cold water shrink? You get my drift.

This is not the first time we’ve had problems with a hot water heater. A few years ago, in a different house, the water heater developed a leak around the base. This is supposedly something the homeowner can deal with.

You get my drift. You might think you’re lucky this is the age of YouTube and you’d be partly right. However, I found a number of do-it-yourself videos in which different consultants had slightly nuanced approaches to checking and maintenance of hot water heaters. Watching several videos and getting the gist of the steps is what ordinary people probably do if they do this at all.

Is there only one way to check the Temperature Pressure Release (TPR) valve? Do you always have to shut off the gas line valve or can you get by with turning the thermostat knob to the pilot setting?

Should you really watch that MythBusters episode in which there is a very explosive example of how the wrong procedures in hot water heater maintenance can lead to very deadly consequences? No kidding; a couple of experts recommended it.

I gotta tell ya, I can do without the “guttural thud.”

Anyway, start to finish, the project of checking for leaks around the drain valve and the TPR valve, getting the garden hose and hooking it up to the drain valve after shutting off the cold-water valve, turning the thermostat to pilot, draining the 50 gallon tank (don’t forget to turn on your hot water faucets to help the process along!) to see tea-colored water briefly which cleared quickly, and reversing the steps, with a total time of about 2 hours including clean up and shazam—the leak was not fixed.

That’s why I call a plumber. And I’ll be keeping track of the number of cold showers I take.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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