About 3-4 months ago, our 40-gallon gas water heater passed
away. Services were held with a mop and bucket; appropriate
curses were heaped on the souls of people who would design
and sell a heater that only lasted 5 years. . . even with
proper flushing. I've always done my own plumbing and
repair, so it was off to Sears to get myself a new
50-gallon gas heater. As my dear wife, Mrs. Nonnymus, was
waving her hankey as I drove away, a good neighbor stopped
me and asked if I'd get TWO heaters, since hers was the same
age as mine and would surely pass away in a similar fashion
within minutes. That gave me a reasonable assurance of what
the balance of my day would be like. Only grabbing a
freshly sweated pipe joint, dropping a sledge on my foot or
falling off a ladder could improve my day over what was in
stock for me.
Well, to make a long story short, I got both heaters
installed by mid afternoon and they were happily doing what
Mr. Sears intended for them to be doing- making hot water.
I was a hero to the neighbor and slightly less idiotic in
the eyes of my dear wife.
Two weeks ago, my neighbor told me that Sears had been out
to repair her heater already. The repair guy had told her
that the reason she had no hot water was the pilot was out
and that was due to a bad pilot sensor that was common on
that run of heaters. I'd been out of town, and was very
glad that I wasn't the one who had to pull and replace the
pilot assembly for her. That is what a warranty is for, anyway.
Well, a day later I got up at my normal time- about 8:30a-
since I'm a derelict. I prefer that word to retiree. I
brushed my teeth while the water got hot in the shower.
Thank GOD that I still have a few neurons firing in my brain
and have learned years and years back to test the water
before stepping under the shower. I would have scalded my
privates and everything above and below them. . . the water
was at least 500f or more. It would have to cool down to
become steam. Actually, I got out my IR thermometer and
measured 190f. I went, stark buck nekkid downstairs and
shut off the water heater's gas; it was slightly glowing in
the IR spectrum, but had no firing burner. I checked the PT
valve and it had not tripped, but the touch of my hand on
the lever was enough to cause it to open and dump water
outside, where it had been plumbed. Thankfully, code here
has water heater PT's plumbed to outside the house and not
onto your face or foot.
Well, I went back upstairs and did take a shower- but one
with the cold tap fully on and with just a tiny bit of my
800f water mixing in. I figured, "Why should I tackle this
mess? Why shouldn't we let Sears send out a repairman?
After all, it IS a warranty problem." With that, we called
the Sears 800 number, where we became intimately familiar
with their telephone system, background music and (finally)
a very nice lady who wanted to help us. Unfortunately, she
wanted to help us 6 days LATER, and not immediately. We
scheduled the repair, but I was leery. I've been around
water heaters long enough to suspect that an overheat
condition trashes the regulator. In fact, Mr. Sears even
says that on the side of their gas valve/regulator. There's
also what appears to be a fusible link in the pilot
assembly, which sure looked unfused to me. We called the
nice lady back at Sears, relearned their telephone system,
caught some really cool tunes while holding and then told
the nice lady that we needed the technician to bring out
both a new pilot assembly and a gas valve/pressure regulator
for the heater, giving her the water heater numbers and the
numbers off the old valve assembly.
I then learned to "enjoy" cold showers. We could do dishes
by heating water on the stove and could take sponge baths
using stove heated water as well. However, I couldn't get
comfortable with the idea of Mrs. Nonnymus dumping a bucket
of hot water from the stove over the shower door onto me.
Over the years, I've accumulated some bad Karma with her,
and this would be too good an opportunity for her to pay me
Did I mention that we were having company come to the house?
They were due here the day our Sears technician was
supposed to show up with the parts I'd said he would need.
Our company was 3 former classmates who were all retired
from teaching. They prefer the term "retiree" to my
favorite of "derelict," however. These were ladies who
would not be amused taking cold showers in the morning or
washing dishes in water heated on the stove. They all three
had husbands at home who they had trained over the years to
provide certain amenities to them that were not negotiable,
and expected at least the same from me as well.
The Sears fellow arrived at 8:00a, right on schedule. He
assessed the situation and said that he had neither a pilot
assembly NOR a gas valve/regulator on his service truck.
He'd used the last on the previous day. I was not comforted
when he told me that a LOT of these 50 gallon heaters were
having problems. I told him I'd called and specifically
told the nice telephone lady what we needed. He said that
only a qualified technician can make such an assessment, so
they just ignore that kind of call. He told me that he'd
call the other 3 gas/water techs in town to see if they had
parts on their trucks. None did. By now, Mrs. Nonnymus and
the three former teachers (all desiring a hot shower) were
standing in the garage with us. The tech said to not worry,
he'd call the parts people "downtown." You can guess the
answer. For those of you who can't take a guess, in our
town of 2+ million people, Sears didn't have a single gas
valve/regulator or pilot assembly for their most popular 50
gallon gas water heater.
More calls discovered that a pilot assembly could be found
in California and a brand spanking, new, gas valve/regulator
could be found in Virginia. Both were to be sent overnight
by Fed Ex and he would return the following afternoon after
they'd arrived. Both boxes arrived around 10:00a the next
morning. The Sears technician never showed up.
The following morning, he DID show up and immediately began
installing the new valve. When the old one came out, I
instinctively looked at the parts and model numbers, because
I'm that kind of a guy. They didn't match. The technician
agreed and called "his people." He was told that all was OK
and to install the different part- it was close enough.
Over my objections, he installed the valve and new pilot
assembly. The pilot lit, held and the main burner lit- man,
did it lite. We had the nicest little roll-out condition
you ever saw, and If it had stayed lit, I bet that we could
have heated that 50 gallons of water in a matter of minutes.
With that, the Technician withdrew, saying that he would
have ANOTHER valve sent to the house in just a "matter of
days," and we'd soon have hot water.
This would have made the repair AFTER my company had been
here and left- 3 women plus Mrs. Nonnymus plus me, all
enjoying those cold showers for slightly over TWO WEEKS with
no hot water.
By now, the ladies were becoming miffed, Mrs. Nonnymus had
decided I could do nothing right, and even I was starting to
think that Sears was just not that good about servicing its
water heaters under warranty. Remember, this was a 3-4
month old, brand new heater. There wasn't even any dirt on
top of it, yet.
Well, the decision was made to turn the gals loose on Sears.
While this wasn't a very Christian thing to do, I was mad
enough at Sears that I felt that they deserved what 3 angry
school teachers and Mrs. Nonnymus could dish out. The gals
took turns and by the time a half day had passed, they had
been up and down the Sears warranty/repair food chain a
couple times and had generated some sympathy. It all ended
when the most reasonable of the gals got hold of a
supervisor who called the local Sears store and also got
hold of the technician who'd visited our house twice. After
some talk, we were told that Sears would have an independent
plumber out at our house at 8:00a the next morning with a
brand spanking new heater, and would install if for us.
This was the first time in my life when I've had a real
life, genuine, plumber come to the house to do something,
and I was really upset that I might be slipping in my old
age. I explained this to the lady next door, who I'd
installed the heater for, and she assured me that, "It's OK,
you can have a plumber come to your house and still consider
yourself a man. It's just that your ba**
s get a little
Well, the rest went like clockwork. Just as I was pouring
my coffee at 8:00a, (Yes, the gals also had decided that no
respectable man should sleep as late as I liked, so they
made sure I was up and about when they felt proper.) the
plumber's truck rolled up and a nice fellow about 7 years
old got out. Within an hour, he'd removed my old water
heater and installed the new one. While he was doing this,
I was out in the driveway with my wrenches stripping off
everything I could from the old heater, except for that
interesting blast furnace gas valve. He'd said it was OK,
since his next stop with the "old" heater would be the
dumpster behind his shop. For all my suffering, I got a new
pilot assembly, slightly used burner, PT valve and plunge
tube/anode. I'm still waiting for that third gas valve to
show up, but am losing hope that it ever will.