[HOUSE AND HOLMES] In Hot Water

Rob Loos, Ledger Columnist

I am constantly in hot water when it comes to fixing anything around the house, but this month I was literally out of hot water.

Our water heater used to be a tank that was bolted to the wall of our “California basement”—a subterranean room that’s only slightly big enough to fit the water heater, a furnace, and one small Californian.

Since the old tank could barely heat up enough hot water for our family, we switched to a “tankless” water heater.

How does this work? The way I understand it is that a regular water heater is kind of like a teakettle on the stove. The tank is filled with water; it’s heated by gas and stays percolating until you need it.

A tankless heater is kind of like those hot coils that make your K-Cup coffee machine work so quickly—it super-heats the water on demand.

Everything was great for a few months after we switched.

Then came the fateful moment when we had visitors in the guest room, and there was no hot water to be found in any of the showers or sinks.

I investigated and saw a gas line going in and a water line going out. That seemed logical. Then why wasn’t it working? I was stumped.

I was hoping to solve this problem on my own, without bothering my exceptional contractor friend Dave, but no such luck.

I reached Dave on his cell phone while he was finishing up a tennis lesson. I explained my situation while he hit backhands at his pro.

“Is it unplugged?” he asked.

“What?” I answered.

“The tankless water heater needs to have electricity to work,” said Dave.

I walked outside and noticed that there was an electrical cord leading to an outlet that I hadn’t noticed before.

Sure enough Dave was right. I plugged the tankless water heater back into the electrical power and we are once again basking in hot water.

All of which once again goes to prove, “If I can’t figure it out—and I know that I can’t—my friend Dave can.”

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