Engineers really know their stuff

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curtis cutter
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Engineers really know their stuff

Post by curtis cutter » Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:41 pm

Wife came home and went to the basement and called me in the shop and said "The carpets are all wet". Sure enough, the water heater had sprung a leak and soaked the place.

How can engineers know exactly how long a tank will last. The old one said 12 year warranty and it lasted 12 years and six months. Wow, they are really good.
Gregg
Just let go of it, it will eventually unplug itself.

John Hasler
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by John Hasler » Tue Mar 20, 2018 9:01 am

Tradesmen have their secrets ("Clockwise screws it in...") and we have ours.

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Mar 20, 2018 11:26 am

If engineers really knew anything, Home Depot would sell valves that shut off when water heaters leak. Not that this is painfully obvious or anything. I have electric valves on my sprinkler system, but putting one on a water heater is too advanced for this planet.

Maybe they do sell them. They certainly should, but I've never seen a water heater with an automatic safety valve. My water heaters have a great solution for leaks: each one sits in a plastic pan. How much does the water heater hold? Dozens of gallons. How much does the pan hold? Maybe 2. And a pan doesn't shut the valve for you. So here's what the pan really does when you get a big leak: it assures that in addition to severe floor and ceiling damage, you will have a big pan to empty with a paper cup.

I often marvel at the dumb things bad engineers do. The recent bridge collapse at Florida International University is a fresh example. Engineers designed it, approved the plans, helped build it, and inspected it. It didn't sag and gradually come down. It fell like a brick, all at once.

My upstairs air conditioner froze up, and the air handler filled with water. The water buckled an expensive hardwood floor. How much would it cost to install a switch that shuts down the unit when there is water in the air handler? About two bucks, which is cheaper than flooring repairs. I must be brilliant, because the forty million engineers who have worked on air handlers didn't think of that, and I did.

The system does have a system for alerting me to water leaks. I admit that. It's called a buckled floor. The backup is a falling ceiling. The final failsafe is a $30,000 mold problem.

My dad had a Hatteras yacht that had electrical terminal blocks for the bilge pumps about a foot above the bilge. Genius. They also built the boat around the refrigerator. They literally installed the refrigerator and then put the top half of the boat on. To replace it, we had to have a cabinet cut back. The Sentry battery charger for the boat worked great, unless the batteries were really dead. Then it would automatically shut down. That was pretty cool. I had to lug a car charger to the boat and plug it into one of the boat's AC receptacles. Worked fine. It woke the batteries up, and then the Sentry took over.

The engineering on the boat charger was very impressive. It cost something like a grand, and it wouldn't charge a dead battery. I know there's a good reason for that, because all engineers know what they're doing. And there is also a good reason why the $40 charger I took to the boat had no problem charging dead batteries. I'm sure of it.

Think of this. If I had been in the Bahamas with dead batteries, and I managed to get the diesel generator started with a portable jump starter, and the Sentry charger had been in perfect condition, I would still have been unable to charge the batteries and start the mains without a portable charger!

The boat was built without GFI protection. Wrap your head around that. You're in an engine room surrounded by grounded metal and salt water, and if there's a short, you have to wait for a cartridge fuse to blow before the boat stops sending current through you.

The boat was a 1978 model. The ground fault interruptor was invented in...1961. My guess: the engineer who designed the electrical system graduated in 1960.

My dad had another boat with low terminal blocks. One day it started to sink, and immediately, salt water shorted out the bilge pumps. Water started coming in the scuppers, which didn't have flaps installed as check valves. That was nice. I would love to talk to the engineers who designed that boat.

To get the bilge pumps to work, all you had to do was pump out the bilge!

My dad was a partner in a Bertram. Guess where Bertram engineers used to put diesel generators? Under the cockpit deck! Right under hatches that aren't sealed. Every time the boat gets wet--which is a real possibility even non-engineers are aware of--salt water drips onto the generators. I remember our first Bahama trip. Tried to start the generator. Nothing. Opened the hatches. Okay! Looks like we'll be using the cooler and bags of ice on this trip!

I saw some neat videos about tanks. People praise the tanks German engineers created for WWII because they had nice armor and guns. Thing is, when a German tank needed repairs, it was out of the battle for good, because it was hard to work on. Taking a tread off was a nightmare because the wheels the treads ran on were staggered. Also, you could escape a burning Sherman in 5 seconds or less, but getting out of a German tank was like filling out papers at a German town hall. You would have 3rd-degree burns long before you got through the hatch. Shermans had dubious armor and smaller guns, but we were able to keep them running, and a tank that runs will always beat one that's in the shop. I was really surprised, because the traditional wisdom is that our tanks were no good.

The people who designed the boosters for the space shuttle Challenger let NASA launch it on a freezing day, with O-rings that had to be warm and flexible holding the fuel in.

I have a .22 with a sheet metal receiver cover with a scope dovetail on it. Ever mount a scope on sheet metal? I did. The zero moves about three inches with every shot. A scope makes the gun less accurate, which is unusual.

I have a Moto Guzzi motorcycle that came with the oil filter INSIDE THE CRANKCASE. The design has been around for decades. The engineers must think it's great. A company called Harper Moto Guzzi sells a brand-new crankcase with a external filter. The fuel filter is so hard to change, you might as well buy a new bike.

American engineers never figured out that a car should only have one key. Remember? Unbelievable. They finally stole the idea from the Japanese.

Engineers designed the help files for Microsoft Windows. If I start talking about that, I'm going to have a stroke.

God bless engineers. They always find ways to bring me joy.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Mar 20, 2018 11:33 am

Do you know why caulk tubes don't keep spewing caulk as badly as they used to? Engineers couldn't fix the problem, but a pimp did. My old boss represented him. When you apply caulk, the tube stretches. When you stop applying it, the stretched tube contracts, pushing caulk out of the nozzle. Caulk tube plungers used to have an interference fit. Now they have a slip fit. They move more easily. When you use a caulk tube now, odds are the plunger will move backward to release the pressure when you're finished.

The slip fit was the pimp's idea. He patented it and sued a bunch of companies.

The seal between the plunger and tube isn't good, but the pimp knew that was okay, because who cares about the two grams of caulk you lose around the plunger? Engineers must have wanted a perfect seal.

The inventor lost his case, unfortunately. But he proved that a good pimp beats a thousand bad engineers.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

John Hasler
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by John Hasler » Tue Mar 20, 2018 1:22 pm

SteveHGraham writes:
> The people who designed the boosters for the space shuttle Challenger let NASA launch
> it on a freezing day, with O-rings that had to be warm and flexible holding the fuel in.

Wrong. The engineers who designed the boosters told them *not* to launch. The NASA managers did it anyway.

Consumer products are designed to meet requirements set by marketing. Put in features marketing doesn't want and you get replaced.

As for Windows, not everyone agrees that programmers are engineers.

earlgo
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by earlgo » Tue Mar 20, 2018 1:36 pm

The water heater story reminded me of the 1965 Corvette I had. The dealer warranted it for 24 months. At 25 months I stepped on the brake pedal and one of the disk brake pads jumped/fell out and slid down the road beside the car. Fortunately I was on a side street because I was laughing so hard.
--earlgo (retired ME)
Before you do anything, you must do something else first. - Washington's principle.

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BadDog
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by BadDog » Tue Mar 20, 2018 1:54 pm

As with all such things, the biggest flaw in Windows security is the loose screw behind the keyboard that can't be bothered to be inconvenienced in the slightest. If a person won't at least lock the door, it's much more likely someone will just walk right on in! If modern NT Core versions of Windows were used in the same manner as *nix systems, real world consumer grade security is comparable. I myself have used "the internet" extensively from a Windows computer for decades. Haven't ran anti-virus since early 2000s, and haven't had a virus yet. But I use it more like the standard for using *nix systems (i.e. run with minimal privileges). I set my mother and some of my friends up the same way (later versions do much of what I did automatically), and they likewise haven't had problems, though I have had to repeatedly coach them on how/when to elevate privileges from time to time (as they forget from lack of need).

Regarding those hot water pans, most have provision for and are intended to be used with gravity drains or sump pumps, potentially combined with alarms. When I bought my current house, the water heater sat on it's own in a closet in the garage. Works well for efficiency when the garage is over 100*F ambient much of the year, but when it let loose, it damaged a bunch of storage boxes also residing in that row of closets across the front of our garage. Anyway, the replacement is of the best quality practical, and sits in just such a pan. However, the whole arrangement was elevated on a small platform, and I bored through the risers on the shelves to provide a 3/4" PVC gravity drain across the garage and out the wall. It drains on the sidewalk, if it should drain, so as to be quite readily visible. I elected to forgo an alarm as it would have to fail catastrophically to exceed the drain capacity. The only real concern is perhaps getting plugged, but I have flushed it a few times with no problems detected (yet). Sometimes it's up to the consumer to close the deal.

Regarding caulk, that works if you remember to release the plunger. If not, you still get the drool. And certain types/brands I've noted still drool even with the gun released.
Russ
Master Floor Sweeper

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:06 pm

Shortly before the launch, Thiokol engineers did recommend delaying the mission, and that is a very good point which I ignored because one of my sorest buttons had been pushed. However, they did design the thing badly in the first place, and they knew about O-ring erosion from hot gases long before the launch.

They were working on a new joint design before the disaster. One of their engineers said the O-ring issue was an "acceptable flight risk," and NASA decided to keep launching shuttles without waiting for the new joints. I'm just a lay person, so I am not competent to judge, but there is no way you could get me on or near a vehicle filled with rocket fuel, knowing hot, explosive gases were going to leak out of it.

My uncle worked at NASA at the time, as an ME. He claimed hiring preferences were to blame. He said that in the past, outfits like NASA and its contractors hired the best people regardless of what they looked like, but that changed when quotas came in. He said the new people did inferior work. Don't know if it's true.

As for consumer products being designed to meet marketing requirements, well, that explanation is not appealing to me. A lot of great products have come out of the pipe over the years, before consumers knew they needed them, and when they were introduced, they sold themselves. If consumers didn't love unforeseen products that solved their problems, we would still be riding around in buggies and reading by candlelight. I can't tell you how many times I've hesitated to buy something because I heard a better version was just about to come out.

Very often, invention leads the market. For example, no one was clamoring for the iPhone's features before it came out.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:16 pm

earlgo wrote:
Tue Mar 20, 2018 1:36 pm
The water heater story reminded me of the 1965 Corvette I had. The dealer warranted it for 24 months. At 25 months I stepped on the brake pedal and one of the disk brake pads jumped/fell out and slid down the road beside the car. Fortunately I was on a side street because I was laughing so hard.
--earlgo (retired ME)
I had a 1978 Camaro with alloy wheels. Shortly after I got it, a mechanic was driving it, and a rear wheel fell off. The torque values for alloy wheel lugs were higher, supposedly, and the people who prepped the car didn't know it. I was very unhappy to see the mechanic walking home without my car.

The sad water heater story has me thinking about my air handler and water heaters. It should be relatively easy to fix the air handler; that's just a switch activated by moisture. I don't think I can do much about the water heater. I forgot about something: even if a supply valve closes, the water above the heater's leak will still drain out. If the leak is high up, you're fine, but if it's down low, you have a major problem.

It would be very simple to put water heaters in little areas with their own floor drains, like shower stalls. You could divert the overflow out through the household pipes or even out onto the ground. I wonder why no one does that. So cheap, compared to having walls and ceilings replaced.

Maybe a tankless unit is the way to go. I really don't want another mold problem.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

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BadDog
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by BadDog » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:31 pm

SteveHGraham wrote:
Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:16 pm
It would be very simple to put water heaters in little areas with their own floor drains, like shower stalls. You could divert the overflow out through the household pipes or even out onto the ground. I wonder why no one does that. So cheap, compared to having walls and ceilings replaced.
I did, see my post above...

As to why not normal, why not dozens or hundreds of other niceties that don't cost much in a house (or car, or ??)? Simple answer is, if it's not something that's on the mind of the buyer that directly translates to more profit, it's something that can be eliminated in favor of more profit. It's just understanding and expecting "enlightened self interest", which goes a long way to explaining most of our current societal ills. But on the heater itself, it's no worse than putting split unit Evaporator units in the middle of the house. I had one in my previous home. Basically built the house around the damn thing. When it went bad, I had no good options. Cut a hole in the roof to crane in a new unit, then seal up. Or disassemble and reassemble inside as a correctly sized unit was too big to physically get to the part of the house where it belonged. So I disassembled and removed the interior unit in pieces, and had a non-split unit put in place. Oh, and to my point, before it failed completely, it had flooded the house substantially on *2* separate occasions. One when the lift pump for eliminating condensate failed, and another when the drain line apparently got clogged up with some sort of green mossy growth some 30 feet behind the lift pump (somewhere in the attic headed to the outside drain). On the new house, I have 2 split units with evaporator heads in the attic. Both had catch pans, but the PVC drain lines had bowed down between supports due to unsupported length combined with heat. They basically had become "pea traps" that then self clogged, which I found out the first summer hear when I had a chunk of ceiling pucker up. I replumbed them with steady drops and supported by inexpensive bits of steel flashing (2" "L" pieces) to support the spans. No more problems, and the AC guy that I had out for an unrelated issue loved my solution, saying he was going to steal it for his future installs (more on that, via drain options, but not relevant here). He also said almost every single drain he saw was bad, but nobody would pay him to fix it until they had a failure. Go figure...
Russ
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warmstrong1955
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by warmstrong1955 » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:36 pm

It would appear you are forgetting that we live in a price driven market.
A water heater could be built, that would last forever. It would be big....heavy...and probably inefficient....but would last 100 years.
Or, by design, if it did fail, it would not leak into the house. Or, would have a secondary containment tank, and shut of the water into it if it leaked.
And any leakage, would be diverted to Oklahoma.
Problem is, any feature like that, ain't free, and therefore, what would people buy? Folks are cheap. What is out there, proves what people will buy.

Nothing stopping you from putting in a contained area, with a drain, and a pump if required, with a place for any overflow to go without damage is there? You can design it, buy the materials for it, and insatll it. Why don't you?
Simple answer, it costs money.
The fact is, that most people would rather spend that money on a boat, or a new car.....and deal with the consequences should their water heater blow a gasket.
That makes you, and all of us, part of the problem no?

Price driven. Simple as that. Ain't nuthin' for nuthin'.

Bill
Today's solutions are tomorrow's problems.

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Engineers really know their stuff

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Mar 20, 2018 3:16 pm

BadDog wrote:
Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:31 pm
I did, see my post above...
I was thinking more of a shower pan built into the house.

I have water heater in a closet in the garage, against an outer wall. Rigging that one up for disaster shouldn't be that tough, but the other one is in an upstairs closet several feet from an outer wall.

The house was built in 2000, which, to me, is "new." Everything works, and the power bills are okay because it wasn't built back when people didn't mind air conditioning their whole neighborhoods. Nonetheless, the inspector told us the water heaters were well up in years. I wonder how likely it is to rupture before the heating bits go bad.

I looked up the tankless jobs, and I found out that the one thing they can't take is hard water. I have a well dug in Florida limestone. Going to see if there is a way around that. I don't know anything about water softening. I suspect it involves adding more junk to the water without really removing the dissolved limestone.

A new conventional heater with an alarm and shut-off valve would run a grand or so, plus installation. Close to the price of tankless.
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

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