Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In Hot Water: Plumbing Crisis Forces Replacement

1953 hot water tank just before replacement
A small leak this morning turned into a major, two day plumbing adventure. Thankfully, JT from Justin Dorsey was available to come out and replace our sixty year old plumbing and hot water heater.

This morning, when I went down to the basement to feed the dog, I heard water dripping. A leak had developed above the washing machine. I was able to open the washing machine and have the tank collect the dripping water.

My next step was to turn off the water, release the pressure and fix the repair. However, after shutting off the cold water feed and opening sink faucets, the pressure did not drop. Instead, hot water started flowing out the cold water taps. I frantically tracked the water lines and figured that the hot water heater was flowing backwards.

Continuing to open and close valves did not help the situation. I could not relieve pressure on the system and the leak started blasting hot steam. After about an hour of frantic work with hot water and steam pouring from all the downstairs faucets, the pressure eased off. It appears that the antique hot water heater's thermal cut off switch failed, causing the tank to overheat. Thankfully it didn't explode.

While the plumbers are here replacing the old tank, we're going ahead and removing the galvanized pipe through the house. They are installing PEX tubing and plenty of shut off valves. The entire process should only take two days. We all appreciated the way they plumbed in the downstairs toilet and sink first. As of this evening, we have cold water through the entire house and hot water lines are run. The hot water tank will be swapped out tomorrow. Once it's plumbed into the system, we'll be back in business.