We’re on week 3 with no running water.

Portland recently had a very cold spell that froze our water heater causing the internal coils to burst. We came home from a Tiny House Mixer one night when temperatures finally rose above freezing to find water gushing out of the water heater. So we shut off the water supply, went through a bit of homeowner shock and depression, and assessed how we were going to fix this. Our plumbing is currently set up so that all running water goes through the water heater; with it out of commission, so is the water flow to our sink and shower.

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It didn’t help that our builders installed an INDOOR water heater outside our house. They assured us they followed protocols for installing a water heater that was supposed to be outdoors (they told us this during the time we still trusted them). It was the reason why we have a dead spot in the corner of the “L” kitchen; we attempted to design the kitchen to contain the water heater indoors, but the builders said, it has to be outdoors.  This is the model that broke. It states clearly on the website “indoor tankless water heater”. And that “I” in the model name? Yep, you guessed it: INDOOR. Not that we need more evidence, but add this to the many reasons why we would not recommend Tiny Smart House Llc as builders.

It has been stressful to shop for a water heater when you really need one. We want to take our time, do research, not make an impulsive (expensive) purchase, and we want to purchase a product that will work in our climate. Plumbers have (shockingly) given estimates from $2,000-$3,000 to replace and install a water heater. Ecotemp, the company that makes our current, broken water heater, offered a discount on a new outdoor model, but they were honest and said their products work best in Florida and Hawaii and even their outdoor models don’t withstand freezing temperatures well.

We were close to upgrading to the RV-550 which we’ve heard rave reviews about and could probably retro-fit into the house by cutting out a hole and using the ‘dead’ corner space, but the $1200 purchase price scared me away. There’s even a cool youtube video on how to install.

In the end, we decided to go with a water heater our friends and tiny house neighbors have which got them through the cold snap with no problems. The Rinnai V53E ordered from here for $600 (inc shipping). We’ve learned that exterior water heaters have an internal heating system to keep the coils from freezing and breaking. This won’t prevent the hoses coming in/out of the heater from freezing, we’ll still have to winterize those, but it would keep the internal coils from breaking. The water heater won’t ship until late next week due to the holidays so until then we’re patiently (okay not so patiently) waiting for our new one to arrive.

In the mean time, we’re buying gallon jugs of drinking water and filling up empties with hose water to boil and use to wash dishes. I’m showering at the gym and Tomas is relying on friends to lend a shower. It has been inconvenient and costly, but my money’s on 2014 to be a fresh start with fewer home repairs!

We’ll update with the installation process!

Update: In a moment of genius inspiration, YouTube searching, and one Home Depot trip we now have running (cold) water! Tomas saved the day when he came up with the idea to install a “copper push-fit end stop” to keep the water from flowing into the ‘hot’ section of the water heater. Who’s ready for a cold shower!!

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Cheers and happy holidays to all!

Audrey

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