I spent a good chunk of this weekend being a handyman for friends--probably good practice for my ideal retirement plan of loading up a truck with my tools and driving around the country fixing up the houses of my friends.
On Friday, I got a call from P & D out in Burlington--I lived with them for a summer, when I first moved back to Boston. D. was taking the day off, then heard these noises from downstairs. She went down, and found that there was a geyser of hot water erupting from the top of the tank, spraying the basement with 120 F water. After finding the shutoff valve, they gave me a call, to see if I could come help them out--they had solicited my advice on tankless water heaters before, so it seemed to make sense to talk now.
So I got home from work home that evening, grabbed my plumbing bucket, changed into Carhartts, and drove out to their place.
Oh wow. Ouch. The output nipple sheared off inside the copper fitting. No, it's not a dirty word there--check out the link (SFW)--that's what you call a short length of pipe, okay?
I started to debride the wound of the water heater--I already knew it was going to be bad, given that the unit is 12 years old, and you could see rust pockmarks coming through from inside. But exposing the full damage was pretty bad:
Youch. Looks like there's been a leak there for a while. Don't let your water heaters get into this condition, people! But digging through the rust felt like <documentaryvoice>...after the artifacts were recovered from the sea floor, it was urgent to keep them underwater. The cold, low-oxygen conditions had previously preserved these items, which began to rust immediately after bringing them to the surface...</documentaryvoice>
There was still a broken-off stub of pipe stuck in the water heater. Hrm.
The judicious use of a pipe wrench and some abuse resulted in... grr, a busted off pipe still stuck in the water heater. Crap. Various valiant efforts were made--pipe extractor--unfortunately, my kit only has the wrong size, or the wrong type; I really need a 3/4" screw-type nipple extractor. Enough sniggering, you. Continued work included hammering with a screwdriver and ample foul language. No use. Then, I did the last-ditch effort of using a hacksaw blade to cut two weakening cuts in the "ring" of broken pipe, and did some more hammering and prying. Booyah!
I came back the next morning to finish off the install--it will limp along for a week or so--hope they can get a new unit installed by then.
After having lunch with them, I headed out to Sudbury, to help another set of friends--they are building a new house on their property (and will demolish the dumpy old place down the hill when it is done). They were working on hardwood flooring today; I helped them finish off a room. I've never put down ~3 or 4" oak flooring before--goes down a bit faster than the typical 2-1/4" stuff. They had a non-pneumatic nailer--it actually works pretty well; maybe two or three strikes to drive the nail.
We then hung out for the evening--they made dinner. A very nice evening. Unfortunately, Sudbury is right in the middle of the box bounded by 128/495 and Mass Pike/Route 2, so it's a bit annoying to get there.
This friend happens to be the former coworker who is doing an insanely all-solar house--all the great features I love to see, and then some. Both PVs (electricity) and solar thermal (both for hot water, and for storing energy for space heating), not to mention a lot of south-facing glazing (passive solar gains). He even went and climbed the adjacent trees to top them off, so they don't shade the array. He's pretty friggin' hard core (he's the one that used to bike in to Somerville from Sudbury, every day, rain or shine).
I've had the tour before--he's currently getting negative energy bills. Annoyingly, though, when utilities do net metering (i.e., paying you for what you generate) you only get 6 cents per kWh, instead of the 19 cents per kWh that you pay to buy juice. Their game, their rules, they win.