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 back.
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 smaller."
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.