Water Heater Repair, Part 3

This post is where I expand on step 3 from my earlier post on how to fix a water heater.

The water heater heating elements are tightened very well by the factory. I could not get that thing to budge.

I had read that there are special wrenches/sockets made for loosening water heater elements, so I bought one ($5).

picture of a water heater element wrench

It has a hole drilled in the non-business end so that you can get some leverage. It is not a very big hole, so all I could find to fit in it was a large allen wrench or a screwdriver.

I tried for an evening to take out the element. No luck.

Someone suggested Liquid Wrench to help loosen it. Maybe it had rusted or corroded in place.

One evening of that. No progress.

Another evening of that. Still no progress.

Then I decided that I needed more leverage. So I strapped a crowbar to the wrench. I used about a two-foot length of 10-gauge steel wire. The allen wrench was still through the element wrench, so I wrapped the wire around the allen wrench and crowbar.

picture of a crowbar strapped to water heater element wrench for leverage

The element came free on the first try.

Leverage is your friend.

picture of a crowbar strapped to water heater element wrench for leverage

I think I didn’t need Liquid Wrench at all, because the threads were fine. If you are trying to loosen water heater elements, your first step should be more leverage, not special solvents.

Especially because you don’t want those solvents in your supply of drinking or cooking water.

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Matthew 18:18

Annual Baseball Game

The older two kids went with me to a baseball game this past weekend. They appreciated the game in two different ways.

picture of child looking through binoculars

Beta watched as much as he could and enjoyed it, asking when we could come back. This was his first baseball game.

picture of child reading a book

Alpha read as much as he could and enjoyed it. This was his third baseball game.

And they both ate as much as they could, despite the fact that we had a regular dinner just before leaving for the game.


All the home-team players get introduction songs. Whenever a player comes up to bat, the stadium operation plays, at full volume, a particular song for that player.

I noticed that they are all hard songs. Not difficult hard, but edgy hard. Hard country, hard rock, hard rap, etc.

I decided on what song I would want, should I ever become a professional baseball player – Christmas Eve in Sarajevo.


Next on the list: football. We’ll probably start with a local high school game, since college and pro tickets are a bit expensive.

Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.

1 Chronicles 15:16

Water Heater Repair, Part 2

This post is where I expand on step 1 from my earlier post on how to fix a water heater.

You need a multimeter. You must be able to measure resistance somehow. I know, it’s futile. Just ignore the bellowing guard.

Here goes:

Check for a failed element

  • Disconnect both wires from the heating element. Measure the resistance across the element (from one screw to the other). It should be a dozen ohms or so.

    picture of a multimeter measuring resistance of a good water heater element

  • Repeat for the other element.
  • If either one is zero or a large number, that element is bad.

    picture of a multimeter measuring resistance of a bad water heater element

Read the rest of this entry »

SOS – Save Our Schools

… from their own mission statements.

Of course, no one is perfect. But, if a school district is going to put its mission statement on its website for the whole world to see, you would think they would make it a good one.

For your reading pleasure (and because Arby has me looking for typos now) (and because school is starting so I’ve been looking at official school information), I present to you eight different mission statements from various school districts in the area.

  1. ___ Schools are committed to providing a quality educational experience for all students in a safe, orderly, healthy, and nurturing environment.

    Nothing too bad there. Although if I were nit-picking (which I am), I would note that the schools are not committed to providing a quality education. Rather, they are committed to providing a quality experience.

    Me: How was school today?
    Child: Great! I loved it!
    Me: What did you learn?
    Child: Nothing! But I had a great experience!

    Oy.

  2. Realizing that each child is unique with varied experiences and opportunities, we will strive to promote an intrinsic desire to learn and gain the skills necessary to achieve academically. The ___ school community will nurture a sense of self-worth and self-discipline for all students to provide an excellent educational environment.

    A lot of fluff, although I suppose it could be worse. Plus, what else do you expect in a mission statement?

    If you look at what they are really saying you see that all the district wants to do is to cause your children to desire. I don’t see that the district wants to actually educate the kids.

    We don’t want your kids to learn – we want your kids to want to learn.

    No, wait… They don’t want to cause your children to desire; they just want to promote that desire.

    No, wait again… They don’t want to promote that desire; they just want to strive to promote that desire.

    Let’s see how far we can go here:

    • “we aim to strive to promote desire” …
    • “we work to aim to strive to promote desire” …
    • “we yearn to work to aim to strive to promote desire” …

    I think I’ll stop there. I’m sure the committee meant well when it produced that mission statement.

    One more thing: the child is going to “achieve academically.” I really dislike the intransitive use of “achieve”. Some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive, but there is usually a good implied object for the intransitive case. Why not “achieve academic success”? Just put a noun in there for an object – the sentence would be much better.

    Okay, the sentence would be a little bit better.

  3. Read the rest of this entry »

Water Heater Repair, Part 1

You may recall from an old blog post that I had some water heater trouble. I paid a plumber $90 to press the reset button on the water heater.

At least it fixed the water heater.

For a few days.

Then the water got cold again. But I knew what to do – go press the reset button.

Ahh, hot water again.

Then the water got cold again. Reset button… still cold water.

Hmm… circuit breaker?

Ahh, hot water again.

After a few days of pressing the reset button and resetting the circuit breaker EVERY SINGLE DAY, I decided something must be wrong. The water heater should not trip the circuit breaker (or blow the fuse). But I already spent $90 on this problem and I was not going to make it $180.

I looked up instructions on the internet for how to fix an electric water heater. They looked simple enough. And they worked!

All I spent was about $30, and now I will share the wealth of knowledge with you.

Before I fixed the water heater, I was intimidated by water heaters. All I had heard before was horror stories about how so-and-so’s water heater exploded and blew the room to smithereens. So I had avoided them and feared them.

But they’re not that bad – nothing to fear. It is just a big bucket of water with two resistors and two switches. (for non-engineers, replace resistors with heaters)

Note: These steps are for electric water heaters. I still fear gas-fired water heaters.

All I had to do to fix it was find which resistor or switch was bad and replace it.

picture of a set of heating elements and thermostats for electric water heaters

The resistor is a heating element and the switch is a thermostat. I looked up the model # and stuff for the heater and found it had two heating elements of 4500 watts each. Lo and behold, the local big-box store had a set of two elements and two thermostats, and it was only slightly more expensive than a single heating element.

I bought the set because then, no matter what was wrong, I would have what I needed.

The symptom I was experiencing was that the water would be hot but not for very long. All the how-to sites said that meant the upper element was bad. If the lower element had been bad, I should have had not-so-hot water but more of it.

The amount of heat remains the same:
upper element = concentrated,
lower element = diluted.

If you’re a non-engineer and still reading this – don’t worry, it gets easier.

Now on to the steps. If you want pictures, come back for the next installment of writing about this water heater project.

Step 1: Find the bad element. WAIT! Turn off power to the heater. Then find the bad element. This is the trickiest step, so come back for more details in Part 2.

Step 2: Drain the water out of the tank. Believe me, it is a lot harder if you skip this step. Note that the water supply should be turned off before you start this step.

Step 3: Replace the bad element.

Step 4: Fill the tank back up and turn power back on.

Step 5: Run the water for a while because you will have stirred up sediment and your water may be gray or cloudy for several minutes.

And that’s all there is! How to fix your water heater in five easy steps!

It took me about 15 minutes for step 1, 3 hours for step 2, 1 hour for step 3, and 45 minutes for steps 4 and 5. That’s a total of 5 hours, not including time at the store buying parts.

Step 2 took a long time because I had to do it twice. Learn from my experience – if only the upper element is bad then you don’t need to drain the tank all the way. Do it in half the time by draining only half the tank.

Step 3 took a long time because the element was very stubborn. So stubborn, in fact, that it gets its own blog post (Part 3).

To be continued . . .

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.

Revelation 3:15

Some Web Theme

That’s some web theme there.

Or rather, here.

It’s the change of seasons again, which means it’s time for a change of my WordPress theme.

It’s not really a new theme – just changing the backgrounds a bit and tweaking the layout.

I will be fixing some small things as we go along here, but I can already tell this one is going to be much easier on the eyes than that last one.

He has built his house like the spider’s web,Or as a hut which the watchman has made.

Job 27:18

Big Ten Division

College football is about to start, but people are already looking ahead to next year.

Because next year is when things change.

Significantly.

And maybe I’ll resume using complete sentences and paragraphs.

As you should all know by now, the Big Ten becomes the Big Twelve in 2011. And the Big Twelve is reduced to the Big Ten at that time.

And the Big Ten has assigned its members to one of two divisions, and there will be a conference championship played between the winners of each division.

The big story is that Michigan and Ohio State are in separate divisions. The Big Ten Conference floated some ideas out there and got a bunch of criticism from alumni.

So the conference’s decision was to still have Michigan and Ohio State play each other on the last game of the regular season just like they do now. But since the division winners will have been determined at that point, the game won’t count for much.

As a Michigan fan and blogger, I am compelled, nay bound, by the laws of blogging, to add my opinion to the internet.

I don’t like it.

No, not the internet. Or my opinion. I like those. What I don’t like is the Big Ten Conference’s decision. But, since I am not an alumnus of either school, I guess the Big Ten doesn’t give my opinion much weight.

I think that the Big Ten couldn’t win at this one, no matter what they did. But they could have done better.

If I were in charge, I would have put them both in the same division. The game would still be at the end of the regular season, but it would matter. So what if you don’t have a solid anchor team on the other division? It’s not like Michigan has been pulling its weight anyway and will be the automatic winner of its division every year. I think some of the other teams would be fine anchor teams for a division, and a division could be healthy and competitive without UM or OSU in it.

But since they didn’t do that, they could at least move the game. I don’t mind rematches; I do mind back-to-back rematches. In the case that Michigan gets its act together and wins its division, it could play Ohio State twice in a row. Sure, there might be an extra week or two in between the games, but it would still dilute them. A matchup early in the season (and that counted for the conference results) would make for a better game and season.

The Big Ten chose the second-worst possible scheduling format for Michigan and Ohio State. The only worse one would have been not playing each other.

Thus says the Lord GOD, “This shall be the boundary by which you shall divide the land for an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel; Joseph shall have two portions.

Ezekiel 47:13