Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The limits of DIY, or precious, precious hot water

Some days we hit the limits of what we can make or repair on our own.  This can be a disheartening experience for homesteaders, as we rely on our wits and ability to learn for so much.

Our biggest case of this was our septic tank crisis, which we couldn't fix, and couldn't avoid.  It ended up costing a bigger-than-car-sized amount of money.

This week, another, if smaller such event.  Our hot water heater failed, once more.  The awful thing liked to fail whenever the wind was high, or the temperature was low, or for inscrutable reasons of its own.  Each time we wrestled with the complex, snarled, cobbled-together restarting apparatus; each time we had to pay for a home visit from a company tech.  (Happily for us, each experienced, hard-working tech spent up to an hour on this task, which made us feel less like dolts)

This week we had enough, and voted to replace the monster.  We'd asked the propane company for this, many times, and they always failed to sell us a new one - which does sound foolish on their part.  Instead Ceredwyn contracted with a local plumbing team which always did terrific work.  John Fuller and Son obtained a new heater, fought their way to our house through snows, got rid of the unlamented fiend, and installed a new one in record time.
What does this mean, besides greater assurance of hot water?

Part of our homesteading practice involves earning money through our professional work, mainly through Bryan Alexander Consulting. That money goes to powering the many things we can't provide for ourselves: medical insurance, some tools, the house mortgage, etc.  Now we know it also goes to pay for 20th-century technologies we need to live at a basic level.

Readers may note that this tank is a propane-fueled heater.  It plugs into our house propane tank.  We would have preferred a solar heated one, but still can't figure out how to clear enough land to hold a solar collector big enough to heat water.


stevenkaye said...

Well, first you set up a giant mirror...

We had our own hot water heater issues a few months back. Turns out, if the landlord goes for a cheap heater, it'll fail. Go figure.

Bryan Alexander said...

The mirror idea is tempting.

Does your current heater work?

stevenkaye said...

It does, though part of that is we don't have it set to heat quite so hot. Third heater since we've been living here.

Bryan Alexander said...

3! Over how many years?
I have to rethink hot water heaters as something nearly perishable.

Iggy O said...

In this in-between time, we have to make do by "calling some guy" from time to time. I can't fix the speedo head in my '70 El Camino, either! But I found a cottage industry run by a husband/wife team who refurb older car gauges.

We found that for items like water heaters, the same applies: a good local installer puts more money back into the community that one from the big orange or blue box in town.

Bryan Alexander said...

Good point, Iggy. Going local is almost mandatory up here, since there aren't many franchises on the ground.