The Curious Case of the Water Heater

You may recall that we’ve had some trouble with the water heater. Tuesday, that trouble returned. The machine is a propane-powered unit that hangs on the wall. It’s generally fairly efficient when it’s working.

But that is just the problem. There have been times when it simply doesn’t function. I narrowed the problem down to a piece that controls the propane valve.

When hot water is called for, a signal is sent to this piece, initiating the electromagnet to pull back the plunger and allowing propane to flow. Except the signal isn’t strong enough to make that happen.

I thought maybe the electromagnet wasn’t working, but a friend suggested that the computer board sending the signal may be the problem.

Coincidentally, the water heater at the other house is identical to ours. I went up and snitched the valve doohickey and replaced the one here. Still no success. I believe that narrows it down to the little board with all the transistors, resistors, blisters, and sisters that the signal passes through.

So, I think I know where the problem is coming from, but now what? I opened the little blue box causing the grief and tried staring very forcefully into it. Unfortunately, that made no difference.

There is a number on the heater for technician help. I didn’t try to call it. I can’t even explain this problem accurately in English. There’s no way I could explain the problem in Spanish. So, I took the number to Rafael on Wednesday and asked him to call.

The fellow answered. He is in Lima, but he gave us a number for a technician in Cusco. We tried that, but the call wouldn’t go through. Rafael said he’d try later. I came home discouraged.

I don’t like the helpless feeling non-functioning electronics give me. It all feels a bit like black magic. I know next to nothing about how these things work. Maybe you picked up on that.

Anyhoo, I decided to see if the heater would work Wednesday evening. I turned the water on, and Ta-da! It works. Why? How? For how long? I have no idea.

If we can get a technician out, what will we do if the machine is working at that moment? It surely needs to be broken in order to be fixed.

For now, we have hot water again. We’re very thankful for that. And I feel I need wisdom to figure out the next right step. I suppose we wait for it to break down again.

A frightening picture
The electromagnet doohickey that will not electro or magnet–sometimes.
The service number. You can call and discuss your opinion of the problem with them.