We went mano y mano with the Big Round Thing today. I'm not sure who won. Perhaps I should declare victory. The victory is hollow. Here's what happened.
First, we turned off the power and then turned on the hot water taps and then drained the water heater. Oddly, no sediments came out of the hose end. Hum...that's weird.
By and by, the 50-gallon unit was fully drained. Then we took off the top of the unit to expose the input wiring. Hum...no ground is visible. We called our electrician--he said it was grounded through the metal pipes. He verified he was pretty certain that it was 12 gauge wire. He also verified if we had to put in a new heater, we'd need to upgrade to 10 gauge wire.
Then we popped the access port to the lower element. Bad news. The element had shorted out and badly burned the insulation, the wiring itself and the plastic base of the heating element. Opps. Luckily, we were able to crack the element out of its thread and gingerly pull it from the heater. More bad news.
The bottom of the heater is totally filled with compacted flakes of calcium. One giant brick of sediments! Even more bad news. The lower element was destroyed. One whole side was completely burned away from its base. It was badly bent and useless. We're lucky the water heater didn't burn the house down!
I got back on the phone to the electrician. He said cut off the dangling part of the element, remove the burnt wire, tape up and protect the "hot" wire, teflon tape the element base, screw it back in, refill the tank and use the top element. He said he would come by at 3:30 pm Tuesday and redo the wiring. That gives me some breathing room to get the new water heater purchased and wrangled down into the basement.
I put it all back together as instructed and then filled it with all four hot water faucets wide open. After they stopped blowing air and everything seemed truly full, I turned the power back on at the breaker box. So far, so good, no apparent leaks and the breaker hasn't tripped. In an hour or so we will know if we have some minimal hot water to get us through to Tuesday afternoon. Cross your fingers.
Meanwhile, I called Jeff S. who is in Boise this weekend and he agreed to help Tuesday afternoon. We are marshaling our forces for a final assault on The Big Round Thing. Something tells me we are going to win this war and win BIG! It's ain't over until the hot water fills the bathtub. In the meantime, we can hope.