In hot water

Kacey and I moved into a new house over the weekend.

I use the past tense there very loosely. There’s still a lot to be done — unpacking, painting, installing molding. Figuring out how to install ceiling fans. The list seems endless, and probably is.

It didn’t take long for the stark realities of home ownership to confront us. During the hectic unpacking process Saturday, no one thought to check whether the hot water worked. Why would we check that anyway? This is one of those things you take as a given, especially when moving into a brand-new house. But Kacey found out Saturday night, as I was arriving home from work, that only cold water would come out of the taps.

So we went into troubleshooting mode. My MO in these kinds of situations is to check the manual (or Google) before doing anything else. Kacey prefers to push buttons. Problem was, we didn’t know where the manual was, or even whether there was one. And the heater didn’t have many buttons.

I tried shutting it off and turning it back on a few times. We called Kacey’s dad, a professional builder, and described the situation. The hulking gray cylinder sat there silently, its small turquoise light blinking the Morse Code of hot water heaters:

Eight blinks, three-second pause, eight blinks, three-second pause. Ad infinitum.

On  a sticker hidden on the heater, plastered on the wall side and in a place where basically no one would see it, Kacey found the answer to the code.  The heater has a vapor sensor preventing it from operating when fumes are detected. This sensor had been tripped at some point, probably when the garage walls were painted. We had no idea how to reset it, and it was past 10 o’clock at night.

As Kacey went to heat a pot of water on the stovetop and take a bath the old-fashioned way, I ventured out into the common driveway. There’d been a small party going on a few houses down. Maybe a neighbor would know something about water heaters. I didn’t know any of those people, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

As I discovered, though, there are better nights to inquire about home maintenance issues than on the night Baltimore hosts an Ultimate Fighting Championship event. I was offered some vodka. There wasn’t much left in the bottle. One person proferred:  “Call BGE and tell ’em you got a gas leak. Say all the windows are open. They’ll come out real fast.”

On that note, I headed home.

It turns out that the warranty company classifies these things in terms of urgency, and lack of hot water falls under the low-priority “Wait till Monday” heading.

Fortunately, there were plenty of other things to do before the hot water was finally turned on yesterday afternoon.


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