Bathtub! It’s so gratifying to learn that some of you are worried about this issue. Especially now that it is 50 degrees out and falling fast.
Well, we didn’t “fix” it, per se, but we did figure out what the problem was, and we found a work-around. After calling every plumber in town and being told they wouldn’t come out for such a small job (?!), one plumber finally said they’d send someone. I was at work, so my old man had to be in charge of staying home to deal with this. I heard it all from him later.
The doorbell rang, and it was a kid.
“like, an actual kid.”
“What do you mean, an 11 year old?”
“No, he was probably like 22.”
Anyway, they sent a full-on apprentice, a kid just learning the ropes, not yet a proper plumber. He was very nice and practicing his good small businessman skills (handshake; eye contact). He didn’t really know what he was supposed to do, so my old man showed him the issue, showed him what he’d already figured out about the pipes, the boiler, etc. The kid at first said we didn’t have the boiler turned up high enough, which we knew to be untrue since the water in the kitchen sink is scalding-ass hot. But the kid turned it up to 220 degrees. The old man said the house filled up with hot steam and it was alarming. The kid called his boss and Gary could hear the boss being like “you turn that boiler down NOW.” Kid was rolling his eyes at Gary, making the “blah blah” gesture with his hand. Delightful!! Gary and the kid really liked each other. After awhile the kid started poking around with the hot water heater, which I gather technically he was not supposed to. Gary says we really benefited from him not knowing what he was and was not allowed to do, because his poking around actually is what made the lightbulb go off in my old man’s head.
It turns out the issue is very simple and not all that big a deal but I will document it here for those of you who have a similar problem: our hot water heater is great, but it only makes 2 gallons of hot water a minute. Normally this would be fine, but our old clawfoot tub fixture puts out much more than 2 gallons a minute. So this means the hot water heater can’t keep up with specifically just that one fixture, so the water immediately goes cold. The old man figured out that if you just turn on the hot tap, very low, it will stay hot forever. So now we can shower no problem–with a very mildly reduced water pressure, but not to the point of being shitty–and even take baths although it takes awhile to fill the tub because of the water having to come out so slowly. It is confusing to explain to guests but otherwise not an issue. You just never use the cold water tap at all; if you want cooler water, you turn the hot tap HIGHER (so more water is coming out, thus the water heater doesn’t keep up with it, so the water gets cooler).
Amazingly complicated yet stupidly simple! I was so happy when I got home and the old man said I could take a bath. I stayed in there for an hour, steaming up the whole room, reading my Neal Stephenson.