Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Great Water Heater Caper: Chapter 2

Where's Chapter One? Chapter 1 will follow Chapter 2 as the first Chapter is kinda boring compared to the second chapter--hence Chapter 2 is more fun to write.

Chapter Two begins in Lowe's late Monday afternoon. Home Depot won't install water heaters here but Lowe's will. They charge $250 for installation and the clerk painstakingly took me through the "other charges." He ticked off all the various parts that had to accompany the installation and then he said, "And you will need your permit." "Permit?" I mumbled. Yeah, the guy said it was a law you had to have a permit. I sure hadn't heard that one before--ever. Meanwhile, the guy summed up all the costs and pegged the total bill at $600 for a cheap $200 water heater. WOW.

I stumbled out of Lowe's with my head spinning. Yesterday, I resolved to check into the permit gig. It was kinda later afternoon when I got around to going to City Hall's Planning & Building. Yep, the smiling guy said, "You definitely need a permit." He was a little slow on the uptake and admitted I was only the 3rd person he had ever helped to actually get a water heater permit. Hum...that made me wonder. Meanwhile, he called out from his desk, "You're installing this yourself, right?" I stupidly said, "No, I'm gonna have somebody do it." And the guy says, "Well, I think you should do it yourself." I asked why and he said that if I was gonna have somebody else do it, I'd need their name before I could get the permit and that they would have to have a city and state license and bonds and insurance and all of that. He said that if I said I was going to do it, he could issue the permit on the spot and then I could change it later. Nice touch. After paying him $24.55 cents, he gave me all the paperwork.

I noticed right away at the top in bold letters the word "INSPECTION!" Opps. So I asked, "Does it have to be inspected after it's done?" "Oh, you betcha," the guy replied. Well, I did a real long pause and then quietly asked, "Well, what does it have to be inspected FOR, I mean what will they be looking to approve?" Suddenly there was a long pause on the guy's part and he looked at me and said, "Gee, that's a good question, I don't know!"

Both of us kind of stared blankly at each other for awhile and I finally said, "Wel, don't you think it would be a good idea if I KNEW what the inspector would be looking for?" And the guy says, "You know, that's a really good idea, let me go find somebody to talk with you."

Luckily, the city's legion of inspectors had come in our of the cold and were surfing the internet in their cubicles. The guy I talked to was reading a forum called "This Old House Discussions." He had a nice collection of antique plumber's tools in his cubicle. He was real nice--we've seen him walking on the Greenbelt--and we hit it right off, especially when I quizzed him about "The Rule of Tens."

He ticked off all of the things he would be looking for when he came to inspect the water heater installation--some very important stuff of which I had no idea such as: earthquake straps. Hum...earthquake straps--who knew? The real biggie was the wiring. He'd flunk anything less than 10 gauge wire. Well, I know this one has 12 gauge so there's another chapter in the making right there. He also cautioned me to use a new relief valve and not attempt to reuse the old one or I would flunk. Good stuff he told me.

Meanwhile, we chatted Greenbelt stuff and parted ways. I went across the street to the leather shop and left my paperwork on her counter top. Dummie! Later, I was able to go back and get it. Meanwhile, Susun was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in their office. Her Supervisor is the realtor who helped us buy this house--a realtor who's been around the block a lot and knows just about everything. The realtor didn't even know that Idaho Falls requried a water heater permit. Ah, so NOW I know why the city guy had written only three of them! Heck, nobody bothers to get a permit and nobody knows whether oyu've done it or not. It's a stealth repair job. See what you get for trying to follow channels?

Meanwhile, I went to the city's Electric Power Division. They finance water heaters. No kidding. Three years, no interest--you get billed on your monthly city bill that includes trash, sewer, water, electricity and VCR repair. Just kidding. I asked teh lady for information and she didn't have any and just said, "Well, what do you want to know?" And I replied with the freaking obvious: "Well, how do you sign up?" And she said, well just go to any place that sells water heaters and they have all the paperwork and know what to do and you don't have to do anything and they do it all and it just shoes up on your bill." Gee, somehow, I imagine that's another chapter in the making, too. Hum...

Meanwhile, our existing water heater is limping along on one element. We can take showers but there's not enough hot water for a full bath. I don't take baths--just showers but baths are essential to Susun's quality of life experience. We're talking one of the Top Five essentials of life itself--things like coffee, chocolate and bubble baths. Uh, huh.

I'm sure this particular Storybook will include numerous chapters. Heck, I;ll bet there's at least five or six chapters just in the "pre-prep" aspect of the story. I'll betcha the installation will be a few chapters all by itself, especially since "The Rule of Tens" is certain to come into play. We will discuss that rule in a separate blog post.

As I said in a prior post about my Monday visit to Lowe's: "I learned more about water heaters than I wanted to know." Something tells me the water heater is only the tip of an iceberg. I suspect the water heater and its cousin issues will be regular visitors to this blog. Boring? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Unavoidable? Yep. Might as well get used to it--The Great Water Heater Caper is here to stay.

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