Abner Rhizome writes:
My Whirlpool gas water heater is giving me the dreaded “four blinks” signal. That happened because I turned the heat dial all the way up. I turned it back down but now the machine is offended or something and won’t work at all. The Whirlpool helpline says I have to replace the gas valve. The thing is still under warranty for parts, but I have to pay shipping, and wait for it to come, and pay a plumber hundreds of dollars to install the f—ing thing. This would upset me less if I had hot water meanwhile!
I have a few questions about this:
- Who came up with the dumbass design that when you turn the dial to a normal, albeit high, position, it breaks the water heater? Wouldn’t it make more sense to not let the dial go that high?
- Is the designer still alive? If so, I want him shot.
- How can this have been going on for years and not have been fixed? This is the second time I’ve had to replace the valve.
- Why doesn’t Lowes carry repair parts for the water heaters they sell?
- Isn’t there any way to tell the gas valve to quit having a hissy fit and get back to work?
- There’s a little white reset button on the plate covering the combustion chamber, but that doesn’t seem to have any effect!?!
Abner, I will handle your questions in my own order.
> Who came up with the dumbass design?
I called Honeywell, but they wouldn’t tell me the engineers’ names.
> I want him shot.
This may be why they didn’t tell me.
> Why doesn’t Lowes carry repair parts for the water heaters they sell?
Because, when they shop at Lowes (and other DIY stores), people don’t always, every time, ask them, “You carry repair parts for this, right? And you also carry repair parts for other models that are now obsolete, right?” and then refuse to buy if the answers are not “yes” and “yes.”
But, don’t buy a water heater from the DIY in any case. Get a contractor model, jeez. You’ll save money and aggravation in the long term.
> How can this have been going on for years and not have been fixed?
I speculate it’s because they sell a lot more gas valves this way. Not only that, but people return their old ones, and parts of them at least can probably be reused in new hundred-plus dollar valves. In fact, not only have they not fixed the problem, some instructions I found online lead me to believe that they deliberately introduced this “feature” after the original design. I found instructions for how to reset the status light by turning the dial to “off” for five minutes, but that no longer works.
> little white reset button … doesn’t seem to have any effect!?!
The reset button only works if the overheating occurred in the heating chamber. In that case, the pilot light will not stay lit and you do not get the four flashes. Four flashes only happens if the water overheated, and there is no simple remedy.
> Isn’t there any way to tell the gas valve to [reset the error condition]?
Unfortunately, NO, there is not a way to reset the gas valve — or if there is, it requires special equipment and knowledge I don’t have. There’s a circuit board in the gas valve, and once it detects the water-too-hot situation, it writes something into static memory in one of its chips, and the valve will never work again. Deliberately, maliciously, and probably under the pretense of safety.
HOWEVER, you don’t need to pay a plumber to replace the evil valve. If you get a replacement valve, you can open it up and just swap the fronts of the valves, containing the recalcitrant circuit board, leaving the metal part that connects to the gas pipes in place. This does require one special tool, pictured at left. In case you haven’t seen one before, it’s called a “flat-bladed screwdriver.”
NOTE: Only do this if you’re sure that the problem that caused the overheating has been corrected. If you get it working and it overheats again, you’ll need to order yet another valve, or it will blow up, or something else you won’t like.
To begin, address the old gas valve. Say, “I’m going to rip you open, you dirty so-and-so.” See whether the light goes back to its regular one-blink mode in response to this threat. Probably not, but it was worth a try.
Turn off the gas, just to be on the safe side. Also turn the black dial to Off. This isn’t connected to house current, so don’t worry about touching any wires; you won’t get a shock.
Remove the ivory-colored plastic front of the gas valve from the back of the unit. As shown below, you must:
- Detach a black wire from a rectangular white plastic thingy. Pull on the wire below the thingy to separate them.
- Pull the black clips on the red and white wires straight outwards to unplug them. If you need to, stick the screwdriver in from below to lever them loose. The clips stay on the wires. There should be labels “red” and “white” on the gas valve to help you plug them back the right way. If they don’t match the actual wire colors for whatever insane reason, notice which is which.
- Unscrew one screw at the bottom of the gas valve.
- Two plastic clips at the top are holding the cover on. Press down on the plastic cover in front of the clips to release them. Depending on your levels of finger strength and determination, you might need the screwdriver to depress the tabs. Be gentle; it’s only plastic. If you need to look at the back to see how the tabs are arranged, look at the new valve.
- Pull cover straight out to remove it. It can’t flip up (actually it can if you try hard enough, but then you’ve probably broken it).
The cover is still attached to the back of the unit by a colorful ribbon of wires, with a plug at the end that connects to the circuit board. Tug gently, away from the board, to unplug the plug.
Note which color is on which side. Because of the shape of the plug, you won’t be able to plug it in backwards, but it’s quicker if you don’t have to try the wrong way to find that out.
Slide the ribbon of wires out of the clip on the housing, and the front of the gas valve is free. Free! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!
Repeat these steps with the new gas valve. Keep track of which front is which!
Reverse the above steps to mount the new front onto the old back that’s still hooked to the water heater. The result:
Make sure all the wires are connected, turn on the gas and follow the steps in your water heater owner’s manual to relight the pilot light. Set the dial to a reasonable temperature that won’t upset the finicky little thing, and you should be good to go. It may take a minute or so before the heating element comes on; be patient.
While you’re waiting for the water to heat up again, you might want to take a red sharpie and write a big “NO!” next to the top position of the temperature dial.
Note: You might be tempted to remove the circuit board and look for a reset control on its front. Don’t bother; there’s not one.
Dear Tyler (writes Woody Desmond of No Particular Place):
I saw from your FB that you have become a Quantum Mechanic. Is much training needed for this? I’m interested in a career change esp. if there’s money in it.
The field of Quantum Mechanics is new, and pretty wide open at the moment. All you really need are a few tools, arrogance, and a certain amount of confusing jargon.
To begin, the right tools are essential. Refer to the diagram below.
- No-one can be considered a proper Quantum Mechanic without a quantum spanner. “Spanner” is just British for “wrench,” but which one sounds classier, eh? Pictured here is a class 6 device. Most people’s idea of a q.s. is the class 8, as seen on TV, but the class 6 is more useful all around. You might want to keep a class 8 in the truck, in case you’re ever called on to work on a flux inversion system, but folks who use those tend to own their own tools. If your time machine breaks down, it’s a real drag to have to wait for the telephone to be invented so you can call for a tow. And have a class 3, of course, in case of reality striation, but I’ve never needed mine.
- Spin detection goggles. Possible spin values are 1, 0, -1, 1/2 and 1/3.
- Red-blue glasses to detect incipient trans-universe portals and other dimensional instabilities.
- The Particle Identification Handbook published by the International Association of Quantum Mechanical Engineers. I prefer the nth edition.
- Hilbert space manipulator.
- 16 oz. rubber mallet. Of course you could just whack recalcitrant machinery with your hand, but remember that the idea is to project authority. A mallet is much more official.
- Dosimeter. Quantum Mechanics should track their exposure to radiation and temporal distortion, and should maintain a medium to high level of caffeination.
The jargon doesn’t have to be too precise so long as it’s spoken with confidence. If other people don’t understand it, well, they don’t expect to, so that’s just as well. Remember, it’s unlikely that anyone in the vicinity will be in a position to contradict your assertion that someone’s quarks are misaligned or their strangeness is out of balance. This is the same effect that lawyers, plumbers and psychics rely on. Use the words quanta, quark, neutrino, field, fractal, dimension, unstable, intermittent, temporal, polarity, spin, charm, invert, reverse, align, extend… in appropriate combinations, the more the merrier.
If anyone does presume to contradict you, the following responses may be useful:
- “Well, sure, if you ignore the uncertainty principle.”
- “Back off, man, I’m a scientist!”
- (Contemptuously) “Amateur.”
- “I see you haven’t kept up with the latest papers coming out of Russia.”
- “Well, yes, that’s the establishment view.”
- “I don’t have time to go into the mathematics just now.”
Remember, it doesn’t matter if one person knows you’re full of shit. It’s their word against yours, and the person whose opinion matters is the one who pays you. You are never uncertain. You are never wrong. Go get ‘em!
Dear Tyler, (writes Ferdy Johns of Ely MN)
I’m not an early riser by inclination, but the last few mornings, I’ve been awakened by a tiny red squirrel who shows up at sunrise to throw pine-cones onto my roof. I’m far enough out in the country that nobody would be bothered if I just shot the little rascal, but he’s awfully cute and I’d hate to do that. Do you have any other suggestions?
Two things tell me that you must be new to rural life: that you’re not an early riser, and that you hesitate to shoot a squirrel, even if it’s a cute red one.
First, face facts. Your days of sleeping in are over. Your furry neighbors aren’t in the habit of wasting daylight, so even if you dispose of this pest, some other creature will pick up his fallen standard and charge onward, onward, under the motto, “Wake up you lazy slob!” If nothing else, you’re certain to eventually collect one or more dogs and/or cats – it’s kind of the same theory as whales and barnacles — and they’ll have tasks for you to perform early in the day, involving food, water, play, and doors.
To a city dweller, squirrels and other wildlife are generally rare and innocuous enough to be treated as a novelty (though I know lots of people in the suburbs who wish they were allowed to shoot deer in their yards). But squirrels in particular are rodents, with big gnawing teeth, and they’re a menace. You understand, there are probably hundreds or thousands of squirrels living on your property. Imagine what would happen if they teamed up.
Squirrels get good press; it’s possible they’ve pooled their resources to hire a good PR firm (though it’s not easy to find one that takes payment in acorns). But when you come right down to it, a squirrel is exactly the same as a large rat with a bushy tail.
The tail is a big part of their charm, and the other part is their name. As an exercise, right now, use your best baby-talk voice and say, “Ooh, look, a squirrel!” How did that sound? Plausible, right? Okay now, same voice, but this time say, “Ooh, look, a rat!” Hear the difference? Would you believe that was said sincerely? Based simply on its name, a rat cannot be cute while a squirrel can. But in fact, they’re members of the same union, and guess which one is more likely to chew through your siding so it can live (and poop) in your attic along with its extended family.
The fact is, there’s an ongoing, age-old battle between squirrel and man. The squirrels all know it. If you don’t, it puts you at a disadvantage.
So, go get your .22 rifle if you’re so inclined, but in the long run it won’t make a bit of difference. There are far worse things that squirrel could be doing than throwing pine-cones onto your roof. At least this way you know where it is and what it’s up to.
Corinth Terwilliger, of St. Paul MN, writes:
Is it OK to make up new words?
It’s a power that, like any, can be used for good or evil. All words were new once. Long ago, humans had no words, and if none had been invented, we would still have none. There are times and situations that might make that seem preferable — political campaigns and the ravings of conspiracy theorists spring to mind as examples — but I think we’re better off overall for having words.
It is, however, possible to go too far. We have a lot of words already, especially in English, so there’s not a severe deficit of expressive power. Except from the perspective of Scrabble players, it’s a waste of brain space to add words for which perfectly adequate terms already exist. (BTW if you do want to create words for the benefit of Scrabble players, be liberal in your use of Z, Q and J, don’t be too much of stickler about putting a U after the Q, and remember that W can be a vowel).
William Shakespeare, whom some people confuse with a porcupine, is known for making up lots of words1 (as well as being fairly creative with the spelling of his own name). For many of these words, it’s hard to understand how folks ever got along without them. Gossip, elbow, lonely, bump… what else were we supposed to call these things?
Which is kind of the point. Ol’ Bill made up words because there wasn’t one that meant just what he wanted (plus there was only room for one more syllable on the line, and it had to rhyme with “rump”). Making up words just to be different (from one’s parents, say) is an annoying affectation; making up words that actually have something new to say, when we already have so many, is sheer genius.
So for instance, whether or not you agree with Stephen Colbert’s political views, if you’re fair you have to admit that his word “truthiness” really gets the point across.
1 Some would dispute Shakespeare’s claim to the position of premiere word inventor, but I’m still using that example to make my point because, you know, it has truthiness.
Conrad Zero, Dark Fiction Author from Minneapolis, MN, asks:
I’ve been working on a novel for years now (at least 2) and it’s almost finished. In my novel, the protagonist dies. but my story does not end there! She goes to what I call the “spirit world” and she must fight her way back into the real world! My beta-reader (my Mom) suggested to me that this concept of the “spirit world” may have been used in literature before. Some online research revealed she might be right. According to this site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descent_to_the_underworld the Romans, Egyptians, Christians and Alice Sebold have already used my idea!
Clearly this is the work of time-travelers and/or psychics. Is there any legal recourse for me to complete my novel and then retroactively sue Romans/Egyptians/Christians/Alice Sebold for stealing my idea before I actually had it?
As was discovered by a gentleman who wants to reverse Jesus’ conviction by the Roman Empire, it can be hard to find a court that has jurisdiction to pass judgment on those long gone to dust. Unless you have a time machine yourself, of course, but then you end up dealing with the laws of that time and place. And since penalizing the infringers would mean changing the past, most prominent authorities in time travel would recommend against it. Also, you would need to learn the language, so.
So, my suggestion is that you let it go. But do consider trademarking the term “spirit world,” so that you can sue the pants off any future miscreants. As Games Workshop has shown, just because lots of people have been using a particular term since long before you were born, doesn’t mean you can’t claim it as your own invention.
Qwerty in Baton Rouge asks:
How do turtles communicate? Pheromones?
No — turtlephones. One of the nice things about being a turtle — I don’t know this through personal experience — is that one’s shell provides a handy place to mount various devices that can’t then get lost, as well as plenty of space to affix solar panels. This is why, when you see a turtle, it’s usually sitting on a sunny log, topping off the charges of its electronics, sustainably. Most turtles are very ecologically conscious.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My wife and I enjoyed this book enough to pick up the sequel. The snappy dialogue and narration of the independent-minded heroine is a big plus here. The setting is creative. The plot is well-formed.
On the negative side, I thought there were too many words; too much exposition. To be fair, there’s a lot in this world to be explained — but I kept thinking, man, if I were doing this, I would’ve just left that sentence out, because we can already see that based on the dialogue. Or, the information in this paragraph could easily have been condensed to a couple of sentences, and see, there’s a character who needed that explained to them anyway, so it didn’t need to be done in narration. The narrative voice is pleasing, so that’s not a fatal flaw, but it did make things drag just a little, for me. Might just be my inability to turn off writer mode. The fact that we were reading aloud to each other on a car trip might’ve also had something to do with it.
In response to my article about playing video games with your cat, Leann Arnett writes:
Umm what if your on your iPod and can’t get the games and you have no other devices but a computer and its not touch screen also the game cost money and doesn’t exist on a iPod?
Oh my god, Leann, seriously? You can’t nickel and dime this thing — and it seems you’re on an even lower budget than that. The laborer is worthy of his hire, and all that, but here you are, apparently saying you’re only willing to delight your cat if it’s absolutely free.
What part of two screens, 3D, mouse on joystick and all that, made you think I was giving instructions on how to chintz out your poor cat? If you don’t have the right hardware, get the right hardware. Plus, iClone people lack the independent spirit we expect in cat associates. Go Android, it’s the only way. I’m not sure you’re worthy to host a cat in your home.
Also, please consider how you’re really paying for so-called free games. They pretty much all have advertising, don’t they? You think your cat will tolerate ads popping up in the midst of their simulated carnage (even if it’s relevant advertising, like say for canned tuna, videos of 100 epic dog fails, and mouse clamps)? No. He will hurt you. You are warned. If you can’t pay $2.99 for an app for your cat’s sake, do it for your own sake.
Hey, do you be liking your Prius? Cuz I am thinking about shopping for one, and I see they have all kinds of models and blabbady blah. Do you have complaints or things you wish they had done differently, that I should watch out for in different models?
I haven’t looked at the different sub-models of Prius. I only wanted a hatchback.
No car is perfect. I do like the Prius, overall. I have the ’07 model. It gets great gas mileage. The airfoil thingy on the back is stupid, if they’re still doing that. The visibility out the rear window is not the greatest because the window’s kind of small and has a big bar through the middle where the airfoil thingy is. Rebecca says it’s uncomfortable for her to sit in. I say it’s not ideal in that respect but it’s no worse for me than any other car I tried. It’s stupid the way they design the seats with a curve in them and then the headrest pushes your head forward, so you’re forced into an uncomfortable posture, but they all seem to do that nowadays.
The Prius has a reasonably quiet ride; however, practically any hatchback will be louder than a car with a trunk. It’s nice that you can make the whole back big open space for hauling things, though it’s occasionally been inconvenient that the hatch opening isn’t 4 ft wide because a lot of things from the DIY come in that width. You can’t put a trailer hitch on it.* When we were looking for Rebecca’s car (she chose a Corolla) I got a decibel meter app for my phone so we could tell which was quietest. It’s hard to compare car models because you forget which aspects you noticed were in which car. Keep a chart. One thing I really like about the Prius is the keyless entry and ignition, which isn’t specific to Prius. Rebecca doesn’t like it because it’s spoiled her for her own car where she, annoyingly, has to actually take out her key to open the door. The screen display isn’t a huge benefit, but it’s kind of fun and R likes it and wishes she had one. It’s entertaining at first to watch the battery charge up and so on, but the fascination fades. The backup camera is occasionally useful, though not as much as I’d thought it would be. The sound system is okay. I like that it has an AUX plug though I guess they pretty much all have that now. The AC works well. I wish there were a USB port on the dash for charging things. I think the running lights should come on automatically; they don’t. I don’t like how, when I want to go somewhere, I have to actually direct the car there manually instead of just telling it where to go; it makes it hard to read. The built-in bluetooth in R’s car is very handy and I wish I had one too. The glove box in the Prius is well designed and roomy. I like the secret drawer. If you ask the car dealer to show you the secret drawer and they can’t, it’s because it’s that secret. When I discovered mine, it still had stuff in it from the previous owner because the dealer apparently didn’t realize it was there and needed to be cleaned out. The secret drawer isn’t in the glove box; I just realized I may have given that impression. It’s elsewhere. I won’t tell you exactly where because then it wouldn’t be secret. I wouldn’t get the light gray again, silver or whatever they call it, because it’s a little boring, but it’s what they had on the lot, used.
* Technically, you can add a trailer hitch, but I’ve found that when you ask someone to, he screws up his face and sucks breath in through his teeth and says he doesn’t know if he’d do that, if it was his car. I may be overgeneralizing. But technically, it’s not recommended, anyway.