DIY Water Heater Maintenance and Custom Drain Upgrade

It's been a year and a half since we replaced our aging water heater. The old one had become filled with sediment, rusted, and its elements burned up, destroying the unit. A water heater is an expensive appliance to replace. I don't want to do it again anytime soon, so I decided I'd do annual maintenance on it.

I also wanted to upgrade the cheap, plastic drain valve from the factory. With all the experience with soldering I've gotten this year as a Bernzomatic Torchbearer, I figured I'd craft a custom valve assembly that would allow me to direct a drain hose in a gentle sweep towards the out-of-doors. More on that in a minute.

The project is easy in concept, disconnect the unit (power and water), drain it, check the sacrificial anode rod, and replace the valve. Piece of cake , in concept. Disconnecting electricity was the easiest. I'd installed a simple shut off switch a couple years ago. It was an easy project that keeps me from running outside to shut off the power at the circuit breaker. Flip the switch and the unit is dead.

The water was also easy to disengage. When I'd installed this unit, I'd added valves on both the hot and cold water lines. (Of course, I'd reversed the red and blue colors for some pea-witted reason). I also turned on the hot water to the laundry tub, to empty the line a little.

Moving merrily on to the next step to drain the water out, I attached a garden hose and opened the valve with a screwdriver to let the water flow freely.      

Yep -"flow freely". Dang it. It was completely jammed up with sediment. I couldn't get a drop through the hose. Even with the valve removed, only a dribble of water seeped out. This would not be the easy, piece-of-cake I'd imagined. 

I started poking a piece of electrical cable in through the drain hole and twisting it around. I got a little water and oatmeal-looking sediment to come out. 

After a healthy bit of poking, I got water and crud flowing a little faster. There wasn't enough pressure to push all the way through the hose, so I used a handy drill-powered pump to suck the water out of the broiler pan I was using to catch the gunk (shhhh...don't tell my wife). I started making a pretty nice mess, too. 

Uuuughhhh...

When I figured I had enough water out of the tank, I opened the pressure release valve to reduce the vacuum in the tank. It helped speed up the flow. 

After a while, I was able to hook the hose up with a 6" threaded nipple and empty the tank. I turned the cold water back on and off a few times to flush the rest of the sediment out of the tank.

Temporary loose valve.

Finally, I got to start building my new drain valve assembly. I wanted a threaded 90-degree bend that was close enough to the tank to prevent tripping over. It also needed to be removable, in case I had another sediment clog.

I clamped and cleaned a piece of 3/4" copper pipe and a threaded fitting, preparing them for soldering.

TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD

A little flux on both sides of the joint and the first piece was ready for the heat.

I laid down the heat on the fitting side of the union causing the flux to sizzle and bubble. The TS8000 High Intensity Torch is the sweetest, smoothest torch in the Bernzomatic line. I love its one-handed operation and the ability to upgrade from propane to hotter MAP-Pro gas.

TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD

The Bernzomatic TS8000 High Intensity Torch

TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD

This particular torch is good for larger pipe. On this 3/4" stuff, it was an absolute breeze. With the flux quickly bubbling under the ultra swirl, high intensity flame , I clicked the torch off and touched the seam with the solder which melted and was sucked into the gap. 

TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD

A quick quench from damp rag and the piece could be safely handled.

Since this is going to be an exposed piece, I touched it up with a quick dash of sandpaper. Beautiful.

I've really come to enjoy the satisfaction of making a nicely soldered piece. It's actually fun, when you get the hang of it.

I'm really sold on the MAP-Pro with the TS-8000. It gets the piece hotter faster, really speeding up how quickly the solder will liquify. I think I'm sticking with MAP-Pro for my future soldering projects.

 I repeated the same steps as I pieced together the new drain assembly.

Clean and Flux

TS8000-HIGH INTENSITY TRIGGER-START TORCH HEAD

Heat the fitting side until the flux bubbles and sizzles

Melt that solder!

The custom drain elbow was competed with a cleanup and a few wraps of teflon tape to the threaded fittings. This custom piece is quite a bit longer on one end due to the extra thick insulation of our water heater. 

Back at my now soaked and spattered worksite, I threaded the new piece carefully into the drain hole of the heater. When I measured for the elbow, I'd marked the pieces to ensure that it would be parallel to floor when the piece was full threaded in place. 

I'd chosen to install a threaded faucet rather than a soldered-on model so that I could remove it and spin the whole assembly off later. If I'd permanently attached it, the assembly would be too large to spin off in the event of another clog.

Done deal! The faucet I installed had a removable handle, so I could avoid having little hands messing around and spewing scalding hot water on themselves, flooding the garage. I hid the handle on top of the unit.

The last maintenance step was to check the anode rod. These are sacrificial shafts that stick into the tank from above and corrode over time. It's made from a material that is more susceptable to corrosion due to electrolytic action, so it gets eaten up before the lining of the tank. It greatly extends the life of the unit.

I'd picked up a rod when I was at the home center, so I was going to replace it regardless. It was a matter of popping a cap off the top of the unit, scratching some insulation out of the way and unscrewing it with a big 1 1/16 " socket, on a 1/2" drive ratchet.

It was a little chewed up, but would probably last another year or so. Still, I wanted to replace it anyway while I had the tank empty and the water off. Water heaters are expensive.

It was tough to get out because there was a low ceiling in that area due to a heating and air conditioning duct. I had to bend it.

The replacement anode rod was actually jointed, allowing it to flex in order to drop it into the tank. Handy, eh? Just a little teflon tape on the threads and screw it into place.

Note that this unit is an electrical model. I shut it down with the flick of a switch. If you have a gas model, you're going to want to turn off the heat before draining it. Check the manufacturer's instructions for a safe shutdown. Make extra sure there's no gas escaping while you work, especially if you are doing some flaming torch work in the area. 

I filled the tank back up, fired up the power, and cleaned up the tools. Maintenance done. Next time it will be easier if I don't wait for the thing to fill up with gross sediment. Plus, I have a nice metal valve to speed the process. I think I'll adjust up to a 6 month draining schedule, just to keep it ship shape. I'd 

autopsied our old one after I tore it out. I never want to see that absolute horror again. 

Maintain your heater and save serious money down the road. 

This is a sponsored post. I am a proud to be a Bernzomatic Torch Bearer, though all opinions expressed are 100% my own. I won't recommend products I don't believe in.

The Torch Bearers are a group of tradespeople, DIYers, culinarians, adventurers and artists brought together to create projects using Bernzomatic torches and share their knowledge and ideas with you. Check them out here and get inspired to create with fire.

Visit the other awesome Torchbearers and see what they are up to on the Bernzomatic Torch Bearer Site.

10 DIY Tips for Troubleshooting and Repairing Appliances

One of the best things about being a rabid (crazy) Do-it-Yourselfer is the confidence slowly gained to tear things apart and repair them (or attempt to). Home appliances are no exception. They can be expensive to replace or have repaired. Why not save some money and DIY it if you can?

I just worked through a repair and have some general tips that can help with whatever busted appliance you may need to tackle.

For the second time, our washing machine needed the fix-it treatment. Of course, a problem appeared right in the middle of the closet renovation project, so it was another weekend lost to on that project.

The first time I'd cracked open this washing machine, the inner drum had leapt off its hanger springs and smashed two of the three stabilizing pistons. It wasn't a physically easy repair due to the massive, heavy drum, but it wasn't all that complex to figure out either. It's been two and a half years and that fix is still holding.

This time, it was a leak, indicated by a peculiar, growing stain on the concrete. By the time we realized it was an honest to goodness leak and not a spill, it had destroyed a framed painting stored beside the stackable units.

Water Damage

I'm not the Maytag Repairman, or anything of the sort, but I do have at least four, serious household appliance repairs under my belt over the years. I've saved thousands of dollars in the process. As a result, I'm not afraid to take a crack at a repair, even if I don't know 100% what I'm doing.

Risk vs. Reward

When considering if I'm going to DIY a repair, I look at risk versus reward. In the case of the washing machine, I figured that a new, front-loading washing machine costs somewhere between $650 to $1,200. Home Advisor states that professional repair costs normally range from $120 to $500. My thought is that, as long as I don't damage or destroy anything worse than it is, I can still fall back and call a real repair service,.. and make an appointment,... and hope they show up,... and don't try to scam us. Of course, I could also just run out and pick up a new machine. After all, that is why we have credit cards, a right?

My usual approach is that I am at least going to try to DIY it first. I'm going to share a few of my tips that have led to several, money-saving success stories.

Tip#1: Clear the area.

Seriously, open up the area where you are going to work and give yourself some elbow room. Don't waste any mental energy worrying about bumping into or climbing over stuff. A cluttered work area wastes time, too. It's so easy to lose parts and tools as you mindlessly set them down on or around piles of stuff that are simply in the way.

Tip #2: Centralize your Tools

It's bad enough that I cannot do any  home improvement project without misplacing at least two tape measures per hour. I think half my time is spent looking for where I set them. It's the same for these repair projects, I set tools down everywhere, even leaving them in the kitchen when I go in to grab a snack. 

I've started keeping an empty tool tote under my workbench. When I'm off to another location around the house, I'll load it with what I think I may need and take it all with me in one trip. It saves a ton of back and forth wasted time. Also, I try to get myself in the habit of dropping tools back into the box every single time I set them down, instead of scattering them around me on every horizontal surface I can reach.

Tip #3: Turn off / Disconnect

Unless you are specifically testing a particular system (electricity / water / gas), turn it off and / or disconnect it. None of this stuff is good to mess with in an unknown troubleshooting situation.

Electricity: It's important to unplug an appliance before working on it. Electrical terminations inside are not always shielded from contact. It's usually a big, electrically-conductive metal box you're working on. Trust me, electrical shock isn't cool.

With your hands inside a machine, it's best that the chance the machine turning on be prevented. Surprise moving parts could cause injury. 

Water: At the very least, turn off the valve feeding the machine. There's no reason to be faced with a geyser of scalding, hot water. I disconnected the feeds too. I'd have to hook them back up later to ensure I found the leak, but initially, I wanted the area clear without stuff to tangle me up.

Gas: I don't have any gas appliances, but it stands to reason that it's a good idea to turn off the gas to an appliance before you start monkeying around inside. I can imagine a host of disasters that can be caused with live, flammable gas. 

Tip #4: Nothing but the 'Net

Nowadays, it's just the dimwit, living in a van down by the river, that doesn't do a little online research first. In my search, I found common sources of leaks for our exact brand of LG washer. The most likely culprit was a bellows looking piece of plastic in the drain area. There were even step by step videos and part numbers.

According to the videos, that repair could be done through the rear access panel, which meant I wouldn't have to disconnect and remove the heavy dryer, stacked above. That was one pain-in-the-ass maneuver I really hoped to avoid.

The access hatch to the detention level

Unfortunately, when I started poking around inside, I realized the water was not coming from that commonly failing drain piece in the lower front, but dripping down from above. It was coming from the vicinity of the water connections, but I couldn't see where.

The effects of gravity on water.

That was an awesome discovery. Just awesome, because,.. this...

Do it yourself back-pain.

Searching the web, I found the exact way to easily open the exterior case without breaking anything. Most appliances have a specific order of things that have to be done, like one of those wooden puzzle boxes. Trying to figure it out on your own is time consuming and can lead to busted plastic tabs, bent metal, a surprising amount of scraped knuckles, and the spewing of remarkably filthy language.

This particular front loading LG opens up by removing some screws from the back, sliding the top backwards a few inches, then swinging it up and off. With the right instructions, I didn't waste time taking too many screws off, just the couple I needed.

Tip #5 - Speaking of Screws... Don't lose them.

There is nothing worse than the losing small parts as you work.

Whenever I'm taking an appliance apart, I always use a magnetic metal bowl / dish thing.

to keep my small metal parts in. It's not a sexy power tool, but trust me it will save you more heartache than you can imagine by avoiding lost screws and metal parts. The one I use has a rubber padded magnet so it doesn't scratch a painted surface. I just slap it on the side of the appliance and toss the screws in it.

Tip #6: Sherlock Holmes time

Take your time and do a thorough inspection looking for clues to the problem. Take your time.

Think

If there had been a mechanical problem, I'd be looking for rub marks, dents, or something bent or out of place. Remember when this very same washer tried to self destruct? That didn't take much sleuthing with the drum laying on the floor of the case.

Read about that fun repair from 2013 here:

An Emergency Washer Repair Challenge.

If it was a suspected electrical or electronic problem, I'd be looking for heat damage, burned wires, scorch marks, or damaged circuit boards. Years ago, I found what I think was a over-heated sensor, obviously burned-up in a dead dryer. I replaced it and the problem was solved.

This time it was a leak. I was looking for the highest point I could find any evidence of water, because water is always going to flow down right? It could of course be a red herring, if I found moisture too high in the case. It was possible that there was enough pressure from a leak to spray upwards. 

A flashlight and and inspection mirror are handy in this step. Even sticking a cell phone camera into out-of-sight areas is a good trick. Snap photos and zoom in on them to see hidden problems.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

In this case, right up at the top, I noticed some discoloration in the metal on one of the parts. It really didn't look right, compared to the other pieces in the area,

That had to be it. I re-attached the water lines and turned the water on, thinking I'd run a test wash cycle.

As soon as the water was on, the leak appeared. This thing leaked under standard household water pressure,

constantly. I hadn't even plugged the machine in yet and rivulets of water were already streaming down the side of the plastic cylinder.

Tip #7: Decision Making Time - To DIY or Not to DIY?

Up until this point, I'd just opened up the outer shell and poked around. No real parts had been monkeyed with yet. 

This is the time for a gut check and decide if it's time to call in the professional. It's a decision you have to make for yourself, based on your level of confidence, tolerance for risk, and understanding of what you've found.  If you decide to call in a professional, no shame in that. 

At least (in this case) I'd located the problem. I could snap a photo and show it to a repair technician, lessening the time they'd be troubleshooting. Heck, I could even email photos to repair companies and ask for a quotation. 

Of course, my loyal readers know my tolerance for this stuff. Be it confidence or stupidity, I reach for the tools and start pulling stuff apart. In this case, it was a couple screws that held the part in place.

With the part in hand, I had the advantage of my brief career as an electrician to recognize it as a "solenoid."

A solenoid is a simple concept, it's simply an electromagnetic plunger. Basically, some control function sends a flow of electricity to a coil of wire inside the part which magnetically drives a piston in one direction or another. Usually there's a spring holding it down in an unpowered situation. This particular manifold of solenoids had control wiring to each one and a rubber water line leading away. All three were grouped against the cold water source. So this little bugger was supposed to be pushing down on a small water valve keeping water from flowing through until it was needed for whatever part of the wash cycle that needed it.

With water leaking out of it constantly, the part was in a condition known amongst the well informed as "broken" or "messed-up." I'd have to replace it. I popped the simple little wiring harness off and headed back inside to find the part online.

It didn't take too long to learn that I could not buy a replacement solenoid after all. I'd have to buy the whole cold water inlet valve assembly. I found them all over the place with various prices and shipping options. 

This time I made a couple calls and lucked out and supported my local economy. I guess it doesn't help to give Art's Parts  a shout out, since they are closing the location. They were great though, staying open a few minutes late, on a Sunday! with the part waiting for me when I got there.

Tip #8: Label, Label, Label!!!

When you are taking stuff apart that can go back together in different locations, it's a good idea to label it so it doesn't get crossed later. I like to number them from left to right.

I took a sharpie to the wiring harness clips.

I did the same with the water hoses as I removed them. I could read the black marker on the black tubes,...

while it was fresh. In hindsight I wish I'd wrapped them in masking tape to write numbers on. 

Tip #9: Plan for the mess

Water spills, greasy hands, steaming capacitor juice , or just trash, it's good to think ahead for the mess. I try to have a trash bucket nearby, some rags, and, as in this case, a catch cup for removing water lines. 

With the wiring and hoses disconnected, the act of removal was a piece of cake that took about one minute. I just had to take out a couple screws holding the assembly in place. 

Tip #10: Double check new parts

If you didn't take the old parts with you to the store, or you ordered your parts online, it's always good to make an eyeball comparison of  old and new before opening the package. If you open the packaging, you may not be able to return an incorrect part.

Even out of the packaging, I make a good comparison. There's no sense in installing an incorrect part that might cause problems.

Refresher: Remember that Label, Label, Label thing?

The black marker on black hoses disappeared of course. Even though I could see it when I wrote it, it was gone by the time I got to putting everything back together. I really had to make a guess, fitting them back on by length and the existing curves in their shapes. I got lucky.

Tip #11 Test and Check BEFORE Closing Up

I was fairly confident I'd put everything back together the way I'd found it, but there was a possibility that the new part was faulty, that I'd damaged a water line, or screwed something up. I hooked the water lines up and turned the valve. 

With full, city water pressure pushing against the repair, I spent a few minutes closely watching and feeling around for leaks. Now would be the time to find a problem, not after screwing everything back together. In this particular configuration, I certainly didn't want to go through the hernia inducing, back-breaking act of stacking the dryer back on top if I wasn't sure the fix was a good one.

Luckily, it was a good one. Thank goodness, no more leaks. Before I sealed up the case and restacked the two units, I left it overnight with a big floor fan blasting downwards. Both the concrete floor and the washer guts needed a good drying out. This repair was a success.

Tip #12 Know When to Throw in the Towel

Despite my successes, I've had failures too. I've also decided to purchase new, rather than attempting a repair.

I've irreversibly destroyed an expensive Keurig coffeemaker by poking around inside trying to find a blockage. Now, we've switched over to exclusively using distilled water in the replacement Keurig, it simply does not get clogged up. 

I've torn into an old refrigerator too, without ever being able to find anything obviously wrong. I don't know anything about refrigeration and I certainly don't have the specialized tools. The unit was old enough to be worth replacing anyway. I posted it on Craigslist for free and got rid of it.

I've cracked open an old water heater to find the damage too extensive and beyond my skills. Even a professional would recommend replacement.  After I replaced it, I performed an autopsy  and confirmed I'd made the right choice. The thing was toast.

That's it, tips for my approach to repairing appliances. Again, I'm not an expert and I'll certainly call in the pro's when I'm uncomfortable. 

In my home-owning life, I've saved thousands of dollars by tackling these repairs myself. I've fixed more than big appliances with this approach. I've repaired garage door openers, video game controllers, a vacuum cleaner. a treadmill, a vehicle audio jack, and other stuff. I have a friend that even repaired a flat screen TV, just by figuring out which circuit board had a burned spot on it and replacing it.

Let me know if you have any luck, next time an appliance threatens an early demise.

Installing a water heater shut-off switch

Last time, I mentioned I couldn't quite get to a water heater maintenance program without doing some repairs first. I figure step number one is to bring the electrical up to snuff. I decided to install a disconnect switch by the unit, so I don't have to trudge to the outdoor electrical panel every time I want to shut the unit off.


Before I could get going on this part, I had to replace the breaker. My predecessors had installed two, single pole breakers, rather than one double-pole 30 amp breaker. Not cool my friends.
_________________________________________
AZ DIY Guy's Scary Warning - Electrical Edition: Don't mess with electrical, unless you know what you are doing. 120 volts of household current can kill you just as dead as much higher voltages, it just lets you suffer longer, and folks can still recognize you in your casket. Plus, electrical issues can do a heck of a job burning your house right to the ground. When in doubt, get a professional electrician. If you do the This project is a snap for someone who's trained; it shouldn't cost too much. Even if you know what you are doing, I recommend you work it like it's live, even if it's not. Research legal requirements in your area before making changes to your electrical system. Finally, don't take my word for this stuff, I might be some random idiot on the internet. 
_________________________________________ 


No. Not cool at all. Those are separate breakers.
I picked up a breaker at Home Depot for about 13 bucks. It was an easy swap; just a matter of turning off the main breaker for a minute while I slipped the two originals, popped the new one in, and re landed the wires.


Of course it couldn't go perfectly. I noticed, for the first time that this particular circuit's wiring was aluminum. I hate that I have aluminum wiring. More on that later.

Cool. Very cool indeed. 
I turned off the new 2 pole circuit breaker and moved inside to open up the junction box to find,... a gob of black electrical tape, discolored wire and nicked insulation (clockwise below). Not good signs.


Since I don't trust ANYTHING in this place, I like to do a quick check to see if the circuit is still live. Especially if there's some sketchy looking wiring where I'm about to stick my fingers. Idiots could have easily landed one of the hot wires to the wrong breaker; it could light me up. No thanks. It's time to reach to the Bat Belt for my trusty non-contact voltage tester.
.
Apparently, It's pretty serious.
Ahhhhh,... sweet silence. The circuit is dead.


This is scary. The wire nut inside the tape glob is completely destroyed. Worse yet, where is the rest of it? There were no fragments or pieces of more than half of it, not in the tape, not in the junction box. To me, this means some mental giant actually knew this was busted and wrapped it in electrical tape, rather than simply installing a new wire nut. This could burn a house down to save the effort of installing a cheap wire nut. Jackassery! I think it's especially unsafe in that it's an aluminum to copper wire junction.

That's an identical, complete wire nut on the right. 
Back over to the workbench, I set up to prefabricate the switch assembly. Here's the stuff:


  1. Diet Coke Lime  The lime is important. I can't find the reference exactly, but it's in the National Electrical code somewhere,...promise.
  2. Square Box Extension Ring. This will extend the in-wall box allowing for more room to fit the switch and wiring.
  3. 4 In. Exposed Work 1 Toggle Switch Cover 
  4. 30 Amp, 2 pole switch I chose Leviton's extra heavy-duty spec-grade.
  5. Anti-Oxidant Compound This gunk is required when you tie copper to aluminum wiring.
  6. Screws: 8/32's to screw the window box, and one ground screw to ground it. (... to rule them all!)
  7. Wire Nuts ..you know,...to nut wire.
I clipped the ears off the switch, so it would fit nicely behind the plate.


I pulled the existing 6/32 mounting screws out of the switch, since they're not needed here. Next, I stripped some new #10 copper wire and installed it behind all 4 termination screws, the line side (the "home run" to the breaker) on the black screws, load side (to the heater) on the brass.

No, the WD-40 and the big ol' bottle of blowin' bubbles are not necessary.
I like to put a wrap of electrical tape around the device, leaving a folded, courtesy tab for easy removal later.


Pop the cover on with the two short 6/32's (included with the cover) and we're ready to install. 


The extension ring installs on the wall, screwed to the back box in the wall.


The stripped, bare copper and aluminum wires got a good bit of the anti-oxidization goop. Man! I wish we didn't have that aluminum wiring. At least it's only on a few circuits in the house.


All wired up and sealed in place. I slipped on a 90 degree flex connector, pulled fresh new wire to the heater, terminated it, and sealed everything up.


Flip the breaker and power it up. We should be in business, just in time for the next laundry cycle. Now I can shut the whole thing off whenever I'm finally able to drain it for maintenance.

Look good?
To check the voltage, I popped off the front cover, peeled out a piece of insulation, and exposed the internal wiring terminations for the the heating element. Careful, careful,.. 120 volts from both of the hot conductors to ground and 240 between them. Done!

240,...243.7, whatever it takes.
Next time kiddies, it's on to plumbing. I have to repair or replace that corroded, seized shut-off valve. I'll have to do some research on that one. 

Before servicing the water heater...

A friend of mine told me about struggles with black water coming from all the taps in her house. It appears that it may be a water softener issue, but her heater is half-full of gross sediment. In discussing the water heater as a possibility, it really woke me up to my own lack of maintenance.

I found that water heaters should be drained and  flushed as much as  twice a year?!!!  and the sacrificial  anode rod replaced as much as annually?!!!  Lovely. We're on year 7 and I've never touched the thing; heck I've never even looked at the water heater, even though I pass it entering and leaving the garage. There was a receipt on top, showing that it was purchased at Home Depot 2001. I bet it's never been drained or had the anode replaced in all this time.

What a great opportunity for a blog post on water heater servicing right? Drain it and check the rod, piece of cake. Let's do it this weekend kiddies!!!

Nope. Because of this stuff I need to deal with first.



1) Electrical: As I understand it, code requires an electrical disconnect: 
A) within sight,... or
B) capable of being locked in the open position (power off) position.
Our electrical panel is outside, as is common here in Arizona. Technically, we may be ok, since the breaker can be locked out (if I buy a lockout kit). It's fuzzy, the locking means is supposed to be there even if it's not locked. Either way, I don't like it. Electrical code is minimum. I want better in my own home, so I'm going to install a switch.

Just to spice things up a bit, I just found another little Inheritance from my DIY Predecessors. Instead of the 2 pole, 30 amp breaker, they installed two 1 pole 30 amp breakers. Not cool, IMHO. The two pair in the yellow circle should look like the three in the blue below. It's not safe to turn off or trip half a 240 volt circuit, both should turn off together.

Alas, this fine, Shakespearean  penmanship is not mine to claim.
2) Water: To drain the water heater I need to turn off the cold water coming into the tank. It's handy that there is a valve here. Of course this particular valve isn't handy at all. It's completely frozen, crusty with corrosion. AWESOME!! I'm going to look into replacing the parts so I don't have to cut into the pipe and mess with soldering ect. I'll just have see if that's a possibility. (I checked Home Depot; they don't sell the kit, but they referred me to Ace Hardware).

Crust is good on apple pie, not on plumbing. - AZ DIY Guy
3) Dissimilar metal corrosion: This steel fitting tied to copper on the cold water feed is corroding. Eventually, I suspect we could suffer a breakdown here, probably timed for 5 minutes after we depart for a long vacation. There's nothing like spewing water left unchecked for a week.


I'm not quite sure what to do here yet. I'll start researching it.

I suppose I'll start with the electrical. Hopefully, I don't discover anything else shocking. Check in next time as I head towards eventually getting on a regular maintenance program.

PS - Do I at least get points for making it through the whole post without calling it a Hot water heater?
_____________________________

Update: I crossed step number one off the list and repaired the electrical portion. Yes, I found some scary stuff in the process. Check it out! Installing a Water Heater Shut-Off Switch

The best laid plans...

Why is it that when you need consecutive weekends dedicated to a big project (like replacing all the doors in your house) that the rest of your house goes haywire? We've been buried with scheduled obligations lately, so the time allotted for serious weekend-warriormanship was already limited. The door project was going really well; I could see then end in sight. I was knocking one door out each weekend, no problem-o.

Then BAM! The washing-machine self destructs. Gotta drop everything and fix it. Tear down and rebuild.

Frickin' frackin' rubble bumbin' mumble mud...
...then, BAM! Just like the front yard, the irrigation system bursts in the back.  Gotta be fixed.


 
... then, BAM! The Pool Filter gets clogged up, right as the temperature rises. The pool turns into a swampy-green, scale model of the planet Dagobah, without the diminutive Jedi Master.  A total tear-down and rebuild is in order, with a diminutive mud-pie master.


...then, BAM! The awesome Baracuda Zodiac G3 robot pool cleaner-dude finally wears out it's rubber parts. A total tear down and,....you know the rest. At least I found better pricing on Amazon and saved about $150 vs. our local pool shop. Still, it's not the fun kind of tool I want to be buying parts for.

Baracuda Zodiac G3

... then, BAM! The guest bath exhaust fan gives it's death rattle. Inside, it's an unholy fossilized mess of rusted metal. Carbon-dating analysis puts it's installation in the long bygone era of 1979. I think the only thing holding it together is the rust.

This weekend's recreational activity.
I even managed to fit time in to break my shop's dust-collector while changing the bag. Enough with "BAM!" already. It's killing progress, and tearing an unwelcome, good-sized hole in our checkbook. 
 
What's next? 

Considering a counter depth refrigerator

Refrigeration Madness
I've just become aware of counter depth refrigerators.  This just might be an excellent design solution for our cave-like, U-shaped kitchen. We've been considering recessing the 'fridge through the wall, to set it flush with the cabinet faces, but that is one big invasive, load-bearing wall mess I'd prefer to stay well clear of if I can help it.

I understand those massive Sub-Zero beasts with cabinet panels are counter depth, but much wider than normal. They're also scientifically classified as "spendy" and thus beyond our humble means.

A casual visit to Lowes turned up four models, a couple side-by-sides and a couple of the awesome French door style, with the freezer drawer below. It seems that they all are about a 23.5-ish sq. ft. size, smaller than our current side-by side. The French door style seems to make more efficient use of space, so maybe it would be a good trade off. Samsung's current line looks pretty good. We'd probably try to buy all the appliances at once, to ensure a matched style, and hopefully get a volume discount.

We're going to flip the 'fridge location to the other side of the room. Either way, a full depth fridge cuts into the entry of the kitchen, physically and visually. It's even worse when I have the door open and am staring slack-jawed into the treasure trove of temptations.


The Cavern of Doom
Anyone have any thoughts or experiences with this class of refrigerator?