Saturday, January 22, 2011

I feel a saga coming on

   The first morning back in our house in Costa Rica, we were savoring the warm weather out on the balcony, eating breakfast outside, a miraculous sensation after leaving Wisconsin in January.
Suddenly the peaceful scene was ruptured by a loud whooshing sound and a cloud of steam coming out of our kitchen cabinets. Under our sink there is a 6 gallon/ 22 liter electric water heater and Mr. Rududu turned it off without getting burnt by steam.
   The water heater's pressure release valve had done it's thing and released excess pressure that had built up after the water heater had been on for about 20 minutes. (Our house sitter had opted to turn if off to save the electricity; most Costa Ricans wash their dishes in cold water. Brrrr.) So there we were standing in a large puddle of water on our kitchen floor wondering why so much pressure had built up.
  The water heater is actually very simple. The only parts besides the tank itself are a heating element, a  thermostat to turn the element on and off, a pressure valve in case it gets too hot, and a sacrificial anode. The sacrificial anode was the main player in our water heater saga last year while we tried for months to get a new one. We know more than most people do about sacrificial anodes and now another learning experience is upon us. Darn.

  In our little town it's really good if you can fix things yourself because it's really hard to find people who know how to do it for you. Here's what we know so far:

The themostat is not shutting off, so the water gets hotter and hotter. We could make the valve release again if we wanted to fill our cabinets with water again. But if held against a pan of hot water, the thermostat does shut off. That suggest the thermostat is OK. Here was an early set up for testing a thermostat. (Holding it up to the outside of a pan of boiling water is a better test.)
The hardware store doesn't have a thermostat and nor does their distributor and the time estimate for one to come in is 2 weeks. That could mean months.

Costa Rican friends are great. One sold us an extra thermostat he had on hand. But we can't get the water heater to work with the new thermostat either. Something we don't understand is going on.

Perhaps because of excessively hot water, our pipes connected to the heater have started springing leaks. Slow ones, but when you have 5 different leaks, it starts to add up. It adds a bit to the frustration level.

The final thing I know and have known for ages is that Mr. Rududu is very persistant about fixing things and for the most part enjoys it. Thank goodness.

Meanwhile, we can turn the water heater on for a few minutes at a time and have hot water for dishes. Our guest bathroom has an electric shower head and we can take warm showers. Could be worse. Meanwhile, we have a new hobby.

Update, January 23:
After a mere 5 days of working on it, Mr. Rududu triumphed and the water heater is fixed. It turns out that hidden behind a second access door and covered by plastic and insulation that needed to be cut away was a second thermostat that was failing. Now he just needs to fix all those leaks...


Trudy said...

Sacrificial anode? Your readers beg for more on this mysterious combination of terms.

TECHknitter said...

Would it be helpful to send you something from here in WI? From the Ace H'ware store? Just say the word...

Carolina said...

Inquiring minds need to know: a sacrificial anode is a bar of metal made of an allow (such as magnesium, aluminium or zinc) that corrodes before the metal the tank is made of. If you replace the anode when it is corroded, then you don't end up with hot water leaking out of your electric water heater and all over the floor.

Carolina said...

Thanks Techknitter! It's fixed so we don't need help right now.

Trudy said...

Thanks for the explanation, Carol It makes perfect sense and the term is fitting!