I think anyone that lives in the upper Midwest will agree with me when I say that waking up in the morning, when it is -30 degrees outside and your house is freezing, is one of the worst moments of the day. How I cope with this misery is by sprinting immediately into the bathroom and turning on a scalding shower. While it doesn’t help fight the cold outside, at least it makes the process of getting ready in my chilly house a bit more tolerable. So when I awoke a few weeks ago on an especially frigid morning (oh, around -30), that steamy shower was the only motivation to get out of bed.
I eagerly turned on the hot water and hopped on in. Fabulous. Unfortunately, my enjoyment was short lived. Within a few minutes my hot water slowly began to dissipate. Quickly, I turned the nobs to suck out as much hot water as I possibly could. To my horror, the cold water was completely off and the hot water was cranked up as high as it could go.
Everyone knows that a cold shower can turn even the most pleasant of individuals a little cranky. But a cold shower on a Monday morning, when it is -30 degrees outside and your house as ice on the windows, turned me into an absolute demon.
Moments later, after skipping the conditioner, I was shivering by a heater wrapped in about every blanket we had in the house, waiting to regain feeling in my fingers and toes. Okay, yes, I’m being a bit dramatic, but it was really really cold. When I finally thawed, I poured a bowl of cereal, made a cup of coffee, and began to ponder what to do.
Here’s what I knew: The hot water heater wasn’t completely broken because there was indeed some hot water. It was super cold outside, so maybe the water just felt colder because it was -30 degrees outside.
Here’s what I didn’t know: Is it possible for a hot water heater to “sort of” work? How much do plumbers cost? Do plumbers even fix hot water heaters? Where’s my hot water heater? (Kidding. Sort of…).
Not wanting to sound like a clueless female stereotype, Blake kindly “volunteered” to call a plumber and explain our situation. A few hours later I was standing in the basement, next to our hot water heater, with a super patient plumber. Our conversation went like this:
Plumber: “So, what seems to be the problem?”
Me: “Well, usually we have a lot of hot water. And today when I showered we sort of had hot water. But it didn’t last very long. So, we called you.”
Plumber: *after touching the hot water pipe which I totally knew existed* Well, you definitely have hot water. Have you taken the panel off to check things out?
Me: “Uh, panel?”
Plumber: “Right. Okay. So, probably not?”
Me: “Yeah… no.”
Over the next few minutes, he patiently (let me stress how much patience this guy had with me) talked me through the process of turning off the electricity to the hot water heater, shutting off the water, removing a panel, explaining what was wrong (an element was burned out– and I’m pretty proud I know what that means now), and offering me a few options. Throughout this process, I was told that our shut-off valves on both the hot water heater and the entire house water shut-off were corroding. He highly recommended replacing them with shut-off valves from this century in order to avoid flooding our whole house in the future. I quickly brought out my mental calculator and began adding up how much everything was going to cost. Here were my options:
Option A: Only fix the hot water heater and ignore replacing the shut-off valves, but risk water leaking onto the ELECTRIC hot water heater in the future.
Option B: Fix the hot water heater and the shut-off valve for the hot water heater, thus avoiding water leaking on my electric hot water heater. However, do not replace the master shut-off valve that controls the water for our entire house and risk having a much greater problem in the future (ahem– flooded basement round 2).
Option C: Fix everything, avoid floods, be responsible, and pay a lot more money than I was originally planning on spending.
I have to mention, throughout this whole internal reflection process (and a panicked phone call to Blake), the plumber was incredibly understanding and I never felt pressured a single time. He did not treat me like a female stereotype and I would totally hire him again (FYI- Home Heating and Plumbing in Fargo).
Okay, so I was left with one of those obnoxious adult decisions. Do the responsible thing that costs a lot more and may never pay off in the future but create peace of mind, or do the less responsible option that would save money but may cause a bigger problem in the future. Needless to say, we picked option C.
While I would like to say I felt a sense of relief and pride in my responsible decision, I didn’t. Swiping my credit card and paying $250 more than we were planning on spending was super painful. Canceling New Years dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant because we had to fix our hot water heater instead was not enjoyable in the least bit.
In the end, I know we made the right decision, but the right decision really sucked. Sometimes being a responsible adult is super irritating and it’s times like this where I think: maybe renting an apartment and building no equity BUT being able to spend money on date nights instead of plumbers would have been a better option.
So, as we curled to watch the ball drop in our sweat pants, with our home-made french toast and $5.00 bottle of champagne close by, knowing I’d have a hot shower tomorrow, I glanced around our cozy living room. The funny thing is, I wasn’t thinking about how I wanted to be at a fancy restaurant or questioning my plumbing decision. I was exactly who I wanted to be and exactly where I wanted to be: a responsible (temporarily broke) adult, sitting in my home, ready to ring in a new year. (Ok– well maybe not the temporarily broke part.)
Homeowner lesson #593: Spending an extra $250 to have peace of mind is probably worth it, even if it means canceling dinner reservations. And don’t underestimate french toast and cheap champagne.