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A Second incident with Code Enforcement – my water heater

September 12, 2012

My home is forty-something years old. My water heater is right at 10 years old. About a year ago, we thought we were going to have to replace it due to a leak.

We called our plumber and asked him if he would put the water heater in if we purchased it and had it delivered to the house. He said he would. The water heater we were looking at was about $450 and the plumber indicated that he thought he could get the old one out and have the new one installed for about $120 or so. He thought it would take 2 hours, but expected that would be on the high side. We were willing to do that and set about getting the hot water heater ordered.

Before we purchased the water heater, we got a call back from our plumber. He informed us that he had talked to the City and that permits would need to be pulled and paid for. Not only would we need permits, but we’d need to bring the location where the hot water heater was going “up to code”. He started describing the changes necessary and I sat there with my mouth open amazed at the level of lunacy.

To start with, the platform that the water heater was sitting on, was going to have to be raised to 18” from the about 12” where it was now. The water and gas connections were going to be need to be moved. I don’t remember the details now, but however they were, they were going to have to be exchanged. If the water was on top, it was supposed to be on the bottom. Same with the gas. A hole was going to need to be put into the bottom of the attic and metal conduit put in so that as the gas burned, the combusted product would be vented into the attic. The louvered doors would need to be replaced with solid ones or the louvers covered.

The new additions to the project took it from being in the $500-600 range to $1300-1400 range, more than doubling the cost of the project.

So, here’s my take. We were able to resolve the leaking issue without replacing the water heater which bought us some time. However, this house has been occupied almost continuously since it was built almost 50 years ago. There’s never been an incident with the gas or ventilation or any other such thing. So I’ve got to make all of these “improvements” for what? So some elitist punk who’s not paying the bills can feel better about themselves? I’m not buying it. As the property owner, if I’m willing to continue to trust that we’re not going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning, I should be able to take that risk. Let’s say that the risk were significant, a claim I have found no justification for, but for the sake of argument, let’s go there. Is the only way to mitigate that risk to spend another $600 on construction costs? I think not. A carbon monoxide detector can be purchased for less than $40. Why should some bureaucrat make that decision when he’s got no skin in the game. I think if the city wants to dictate to me what level of safety I MUST have, then they should pony up the bucks to get it taken care of.

For now, the extra cost of waiting on the hot water heater is something that I wasn’t willing to take on. Knowing now the extent of the “fixes” which will be required to replace the water heater, we’ll be nursing this thing along until it blows up.

So, is the end result more safety? No, as a matter of fact it’s not. It’s a far greater risk to my family than a new one, but we’re forced to endure with the old one because I’m not willing to jump through the hoops to spend another $600-800 that I don’t need to.

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