Adventures with Propane Water Heaters

***Disclaimer***  Let me start by clarifying that this is not a How-to… it is a glimpse of my day through my I-do-not-understand-how-this-shit-works eyes. My husband may have a different version of what happened.


We bought our cabin a little over a year ago. We LOVE escaping Phoenix on the weekends. (ok, that’s an understatement)  Every time we leave to go back to the valley, my husband insists we turn everything off. He even turns the water main off at the road. I’ve been told that in doing so, we will prevent our house from imploding and being carried down the street in the rush of water that will flow for days without anyone noticing. I think that since the water company is actually at the end of our driveway, someone might notice… but you pick your battles… this is not the one I want to focus on. I have more pressing battles to have, like escaping Phoenix on a more permanent basis. But I’m getting off topic now.

The point is, for the last year, we have had to reignite the pilot on our water heater each weekend. It’s proven to be a challenge, more and more. It was an older unit, and we had to lay on the ground by it, repeatedly lighting the pilot and holding the button until it finally decided to stay lit. To give you an idea, that has taken about 30 minutes on average. Sounds fun right?  I’ve been saying, “hey, why don’t we just change it out.” To which the response is usually in the tune of , “why don’t you pay for it”… which usually shuts me up pretty quickly. Water heaters are not an accessory I can see myself having fun with. I’ll leave that to the boy.

This weekend was the first weekend that the kids are out of school for the year, so WOO! Long weekend in the trees! Not to get off subject again, but while we’re at 65 degrees… Phoenix is at an ass-burning 106, so nanny neener.  However, this time we ALL sat around dad as he laid on the floor trying to light the water heater.  After nearly an hour and one child nearly falling asleep, the Male said, “we’re going to get a new water heater tomorrow.”

We head out to meet the grandparents for lunch and with half hour to spare, we ran into the Lowes real quick to grab a water heater. Well… so we thought.

Here’s where I explain the background on this story and why it is a story. My husband is a General Contractor, Electrician, and overall self-proclaimed knower of all things.  But he is vocal about one thing… He does NOT like working with gas. Sure, he does…he’s been doing this for 20 years, he just doesn’t like to. Rightfully so, gas is deadly. He’s fine playing in a 250 amp electrical panel, sometimes while it’s on… but gas? No.

So, we stand in the Lowes, faced with what we thought was a simple decision. We were wrong. Thrown off by 2 little words… “Mobile home”.  2014-05-23 12.12.06
Yes, our little Tree house is partially ‘mobile home’. But technically, the area where the water heater lives, is not so much.  Also, stated on the unit made for mobile homes says that it must be installed in an area outside.  Why? And what’s the difference?

So, what do we do? We ask the people. If you know me, you know how much I HATE asking the people at hardware stores.  When asked… “Well, if you have a mobile home, you should have the one made for a mobile home”  Ok genius, but why? What’s the difference? And why does it say to install it outside, because that’s where we have the issue. “Yeah, you’re gonna need to talk to our plumbing expert” Oh good… cause a true plumbing ‘expert’, obviously works at Lowes.  So, the expert arrives and explains that it’s required for the insurance. But still no real answer as to  WHY… we were not sold by his ‘expertise’.  We left, figuring we’d do a little research during lunch and come back.

2014-05-23 15.42.45Our next stop was to Home Depot… why not.  We found a prettier water heater for the same price, and since they’ll accept competitors coupons… my vote was to go with the prettier one. Sure, it didn’t say Mobile Home on it… but we still couldn’t find any reason for that anyway.  So, we bring our pretty water heater back and immediately get working on the switch out. It was barely 1pm… we should have it done in an hour or 2 tops. Plenty of time to squeeze in game night with the kids and make it a great day.  Or not.

After about an hour and a half of trying to take the old water heater apart in attempts to salvage the expansion tank (don’t even get me started)… 2014-05-23 16.25.05we realize that we’re missing a part. Well, I volunteer to run up to the store to get the missing piece.  On my way, the male decides to do a little research and discovers that YES, we DO need the one for Mobile Homes.  Something about the intake venting. There is a hole in the floor under the unit, apparently that’s pretty important to us not dying a peaceful death overnight. So, ok… we go to take back our pretty water heater, and convince the cashier to dig our used coupon out of the till so we can take it to the next place. 🙂 That is how I roll.

Finally, we have our new, average looking, water heater… which reads “Mobile Home” in big-ass letters. Thanks for that. 2014-05-23 20.20.38
After MUCH work prepping the closet to prevent the household mouse from hiding his loot in the corners, we begin the process of installing the now NEW expansion tank (that’s just a whole other story), the pips and of course the LP conversion kit… (because of course it doesn’t just come ready for our special gas needs). We are ready to hook it up to gas and water… let it roar!

13 hours of shopping, research, more shopping, muscle tearing strength used in install (his, not mine) and what seemed like a never ending amount of tweaking, adjusting, trouble shooting, and not killing each other as we approached 2am… we have a new water heater. 2014-05-24 18.46.05Now, I can tell you why it was supposed to be installed outside.  Our new water heater is LOUD as a mutha, and seems to have a small campfire in it to heat the water.
But hey… it’s rated for a mobile home, and if something happens… the insurance company can’t say we didn’t do what they expected us to do. 2014-05-24 18.45.26

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