Thursday, January 31, 2013
A tale of two repair jobs
My dad's electric water heater started acting up. It produced hot water, but in very limited quantities. Right off I suspected the lower heating coil had failed. The top of the tank gets hot, but the bottom stays cold. If the top coil had failed, the bottom coil would struggle to heat all the water by itself. That would result in a tank full of not quite hot enough water.
Much to my surprise, my dad had no experience trouble shooting water tanks. He's installed them, but never had to repair them. I took the lead on the job.
We killed the power to the tank, shut off the feed water, and drained the tank. Dad decided to change both heating elements while we were at it.
It's not all that hard. There are two cover plates to be removed. Then the wires are disconnected from the heater coils. The coils are unscrewed using a big socket wrench. Then the new ones are screwed in and the rest of the process is reversed.
Cost of the job? $22.
I don't always do my own work. The very same day, I brought my bicycle to a local shop to have some work done. While most bike work is well within my skill set, truing bent rims is not one of them. Sure, I tried, but was not satisfied with the result. The shop has better tools and a lot more experience.
It would not pay for me to buy shop quality tools and spend the time learning how to do it. It's a specialized skill. Water heater repair fits in with a much larger set of skills: plumbing and electrical work. Those basic skills can be used on a wide variety of jobs. It might be necessary to do a bit of research in a manual or on-line to get the finer details of a specific project. It's just a matter of gaining a bit more knowledge on how to apply existing skills and tools.
Had I not been around, dad would have figured out the problem and how to fix it. I just saved him a bit of time and wrench turning.