Replacing the Fourth Water Heater Tank

I woke up early this morning to get ready to go snowboarding at Liberty. I went down the basement to pick up my gears. My paranoia told me to check on the brand new water heater tank we just installed a week ago. To my dismay, I spotted water all over the drain pan. I soaked up all the water from the pan and ran floor drying fan. I checked the pipes and pressure relief valve and they were dried. When I pointed the fan at the bottom of the tank water gushed out. I knew we were in deep shit. I had to cancel my snowboarding adventure. I came right back home after dropping my eldest son to school.

My only option was to replace a new tank. I couldn’t call Tilo (the previous installer) because it was not his fault that the tank leaked. I determined to do it myself. After two defected tanks, I was done with A.O. Smith. I went to Home Depot to pick up a Rheem tank. I also bought a hand truck to move the tank myself. With my wife’s help, we transported the new tank to the basement. When we cut the box open, the tank had big dent at the top. The screws were twisted. My wife told me to get another tank and I couldn’t agree more. When we bought the second A.O. Smith tank, it also had a dent at the bottom. In retrospect, we should have exchanged it for another tank.

I asked my wife to come with me to Home Depot to exchange it. When I told the customer service rep about the defect, I asked her if I could open up the box to make sure the tank was in good shape and she agreed. We brought the new tank back home as the old tank drained out all of the water. Obviously I turned off the power before draining the water; therefore, I just had to screw the pipes back on. The hot line went in fine, but the cold line with the shut-off valve wouldn’t connect to the new tank. No matter how many turns I made I couldn’t get it in. I went back to Home Depot to get another flexible pipe to connect the pipe with the valve to the new pipe. Since the new pipe is longer, I decided to remove two SharkBite connectors Tilo had put in. I wanted to simplify the connections. Trying to disconnect the SharkBite was a bitch. I tried tapping, pulling, and it still didn’t come out. I decided to just cut the pipe off.

After connected all the pipes, I turned the water back on to make sure nothing was leaking. After the tank was filled with cold water, I connected the electric wires. I flipped the breaker back on and I could hear the tank started to heat up. I am keeping my eyes on the drain pan and keeping my fingers crossed. I hope this is it after the fourth tank.

When I took out the O.A. Smith tank, there was indeed a crack at the bottom. I had to take it back to Lowe’s to return it. My whole day was wasted on installing the tank. Then again, I am now becoming proficient at installing water heater tank.

Parts

Replacing Water Heater

Yesterday I noticed water coming out of the water heater and I knew we needed to replace the tank. I called Ricardo, but he is in Mexico partying with his girl and won’t be back to the States until early next month. I called a friend and asked for a plumbing recommendation. He told me to get the specs from the current tank then buy a new one with the same specs. We installed an A.O. Smith water heater when we first bought our house, which was almost 15 years ago. I went to Lowe’s and brought the same brand with the same specs.

My friend told me Tilo, a contractor, would come around 11 am to replace the tank. Then I watched a YouTube video from Lowe’s showing how to replace an electric water heater. The process didn’t seem to hard and I could pull it off, but I didn’t have the confidence to do it myself.

Tilo arrived around 11 am. We went to Lowe’s to pick up some SharkBite connectors. He cut out the copper pipes to take the old tank out and reconnected them using the SharkBite connectors. Unfortunately, one of the pipes was bent; therefore, he took it back out. As he tried to pull the SharkBite back out, he bursted the pipe that was connected to the tank.

We headed back to Lowe’s to pick up a SharkBite that would connect the pipe into the tank’s faucet and another SharkBite connector. He accidentally picked up the SharkBite Check Valve. When he installed it, the arrow on the SharkBite Check Valve was pointing up, which blocked the water from entering into the tank. When he turned the water back on, he didn’t realize that the water was not filling up. When he turned the power on, we heard a loud pop. We assumed that the coils were burned. He tested the top coil and it was fine, but the bottom coil had no current.

It was already 2 pm; therefore, we headed out to Chipotle for lunch and went back to Lowe’s to pick up another coil. After replacing the bottom coil and filling up the water, we waited for the water to heat up. Nothing happened. He decided to take everything out, return the tank to the store, and buy another one.

Seeing him struggle with the copper pipes, I suggested the flexible pipes based on the video I had watched. The flex pipes were a big time-saver. He connected the water pipes in less than half an hour. We waited and waited, but still no hot water. It was already around 8 pm. I told him to go home since the manual stated that it could take up two hours to heat up the water. He charged me $250, but I gave $300 since he already spent all day. We still didn’t have hot water.

The Diagnostic Scam

The next morning, January 19, 2022, I got anxious and googled for a plumbing company and came across an ad from My Plumber Plus for a $49 plumbing repair diagnostic. I called to make an appointment. The technician came, looked at the water heater, gave me two quotes: about $450 for repair and about $650 for repair and parts. The only things he did were turning on the hot water at the sink and scanning the power line with non-contact voltage tester. I asked for the diagnostic and he said he just had to fix it. I thanked him for coming in and paid $49 for nothing. What a scam. I would steer away from My Plumber Plus.

The Fix

Tilo came back in the evening trying to figure out why the water heater was not heating up. He started with the power wires. One of the wires broke off inside the wire cap. He rewired it again and we could hear the coil working inside the tank. Luckily I didn’t pay $450 to My Plumber Plus for such a small fix. I should have kicked myself in the ass for not opening up the power wires to inspect, but I learned.

Learning Experience

From watching YouTube video, observing Tilo, and helping him installing the water heater, I gained valuable experience and gave me a peace of mind. I kept having the recurring fear that the old tank would just bottom out on me one day. Now I can be reassured that I can minimize that risk. Furthermore, I will be able to replace the tank myself in the future. Being a homeowner, I have to be responsible for so many things in the house. With the except for the HVAC unit, I can handle almost everything in the house. Being a handyman would cut down the cost of fixing and replacing things around the house, which make me enjoy living my house more and not having be in constant fear.

Parts

Labor

  • Installer: $300

Total

$952

The lowest quote I had received from a dozen of plumbing company was $1,700. In addition to saving about $750 from hiring a company to install the water heater, I learned the hands-on experience.

Don’t Warm Up Your Car in the Winter

Erin Jones and Mauricio Chamberlin Verify:

Yes, warming up your car before driving in cold weather could cause long-term damage to the engine. Most vehicles built after 1980 no longer need to warm up before driving, and experts say driving after 30 seconds to a minute after starting your car is a best practice.

Good to know.

Replacing Headlight Bulb for 2011 Toyota Sienna

Replacing the dead headlight bulb is super easy. Once again, YouTube rocks for these type of DIY. I followed this short video. I bought a new bulb from Toyota dealer for $38. I should have bought the two-pack from Amazon for $24. Oh well, lesson learned.

2018 Toyota Sienna SE 48,000-Mile Service

As the winter approaching, we will be traveling to ski resorts; therefore, I wanted to make sure our 2018 Toyota Sienna SE will be in good condition. We have been driving it for almost 50,000 miles and we haven’t done anything other than changing oil and tires. I took it to Khang Auto for the following services:

  • Front & rear brake pads
  • Transmission fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Air filter & cabin filter

Total cost: $540

This was the first time I used Khang Auto. He’s a nice Vietnamese fellow and his price was reasonable. I will definitely come back again.

Fixing Water-Running Toilet

The Kohler Highline Classic toilet I installed in 2018 has minor issues here and there, particularly its canister flushing system. The latest issue was that the water kept running and would not stop. From searching YouTube, my initial fix was to replace the flush-valve seal from the canister. That didn’t resolve the problem.

When I opened up the cap on the adjustable fill valve, I suspected the fill-valve seal had worned out and it turned out to be the culprit. I replace the seal and the problem went away. The fill-valve seal was $4. I could have reused the old flush-valve seal and saved 8 bucks, but I just left the new one in.

I am not fond of the canister flushing system and thinking of replacing it, but I am starting to see how it works. It’s not bad.

Replacing Brake Pads and Rotors for 2011 Toyota Sienna

I took the minivan to the gas station close by our house for inspection. It was failed because of brake. The technician gave me a quote for $960 plus tax to replace all 4 pads and rotors. I called another auto shop and the price was $900 plus tax. I called the dealership and the price was $1,400 plus tax. I placed one more call and they gave me a quote for $780 with tax included and they would also throw in the inspection sticker.

Ravensworth Auto Service, runs by Vietnamese folks, is the shop I had used many years ago. I stopped because location was not convenient for me. Now I work remotely on Mondays and Fridays, I can just drop my car off and walk to a fast-food spot nearby to do my work. Their price had always been reasonable and they had done good jobs. I will be returning to them in the future for car services.

I told my wife that I am done with cars. When this minivan becomes too expensive to fix, I will get an electric bike.

Replacing Rear Wiper Blade for 2011 Toyota Sienna

I took my 2011 Toyota Sienna to Ourisman Fairfax Toyota to get an oil change. We’re clocking in 160,000 miles. The service staff who checked me in asked if I needed anything else besides an oil change. I figure I should get a new rear wiper blade. Obviously I had to pay for the part, but he also charged me for the installation. I told him to cancel the service. I just wanted to pay for the part ($18).

The trick to replace the rear wiper was to turn it on. When the blade wiped half way through, turned of the engine. From there, I just popped off the old wiper and replaced the new one. A YouTube video shows how to that in 1 minute and 7 seconds. Ourisman Fairfax Toyota was going to charge me for this, how greedy?

Toyota Sienna 2011 AC Recharged

It has been hot as hell driving the Toyota Sienna 2011 in the summer since the A/C no longer blowing out cool air. The dealer wanted to charge me $189 to fix the issue. I recalled someone told me about AC recharge, but I could not find anything on YouTube. On Saturday, my wife told me about the product called A/C Pro ACP-100 Ultra Synthetic R-134a Car Refrigerant Kit, 20 oz and I picked it up at Walmart for $37 yesterday.

Then I found the official video on YouTube on how to recharge your car A/C. The process took about two minutes and I had my A/C back. The kids and I were rejoiced. We went to the skate park to rollerblade and Tea Do for boba teas and Street Fighter. I am not really a fan of Tea Do, but it has some classic arcade games for free. The kids loved Street Fighter.

Productive Saturday

I slept with a sore throat last night; therefore, I couldn’t get up early. I got out of bed around 10 am, grabbed a quick bite, and headed to the skatepark. Half an hour later, I headed to Home Depot to pick up a vinyl siding and ready-mix concrete patch. The Home Depot I went didn’t have the vinyl siding; therefore, I had to drive to another Home Depot. Luckily, someone just returned a piece for $10.

I went back home and replace the cracked vinyl siding. It was easier than I had imagined. The house’s foundation had a big crack somehow I hadn’t noticed. I just patched it up with ready-mix concrete. Then I washed the front siding and windows. I used a rag mop with a bit of detergent to wipe down all the green molding from the tree instead of using the power washer. I just sprayed off the soap with a regular hose.

After that I went up the roof to hammer in the nails that held the gutters. For the trims, I used screws years ago to make sure nothing would fly off anymore. It was so hot up there and I am definitely an acrophobia, but I had to do what I had to do.

It was quite a productive day. Now that all the works are done, I am now heading to the skatepark for the second time to relax.