This Was Embarrassing

This morning . . I already told you  . . the water heater wasn’t producing hot water.  I checked it and the pilot light was out.  I re-lit it and watched to be sure it was working.  In my head, I knew there was no reason for the pilot light to be off and I wasn’t going to get off that easy.

As I was washing the lunch dishes, I realized . . there’s not much hot water.  Pilot light was off again.  I thought . . maybe I didn’t hold that button down long enough that you’re supposed to hold down for a few seconds after the pilot is lit so I lit it again.  Then I went outside and played in the garden and when I came back in about 3:30 . . yep, the pilot light was out again.

Vince was in a meeting and I didn’t know if he wanted to work on it himself or if he wanted to call a plumber.  I left him a message and he called a plumber at 4 and he was here before 4:30.  Can’t beat that.

See that slightly bent metal pan under the water heater.  No one ever told me that you should vacuum it out . . clean it every once in a while.  Seems as though our little pan was full of dust and lint and the bottom of the water heater has a screen/filter.  Every time the water heater tried to fire itself up, instead of sucking air in to fuel the flame, it was sucking lint up to the screen/filter and blocking off the air supply and choking off the fire.

Caution:  Please read your instruction booklet before vacuuming under your water heater.  Ours was OFF when he vacuumed it.  I would not recommend vacuuming with the flame burning.  Do not do this without being sure it is safe to do so!

All wasn’t lost though.  The plumbers were quite confident in their witching ability.

Plumbers Witching

They were so sure they found the spot for our new well.

Plumbers Witching

The real witcher is supposed to be here tomorrow so we’ll see if they were right.


  1. 1

    Rosalie says

    I had the same thing happen, but with a space heater…..I disconnected it and took it to the propane company to repair….just dog hair clogging the air intake….who knew? Now I keep that area vacuumed and swept better and check that first if it goes out! Good thing the safety features work.

    • 2.1


      Vince says he’s never had a gas water heater and it’s been at least 30 years since I’ve had one and I don’t remember having to clean under it. I know now.

  2. 3

    Lee says

    Well, I’ve just learned something new too! I would never have thought to vacuum, let alone clean at all, under the water heater – and we don’t have one of those pans under ours – wasn’t required to my knowledge 10 years ago when we replaced the water heater – it may be now!

    • 3.1


      The pan probably isn’t required . . it’s a drain pan in case the water heater leaks. It’s mostly for your convenience. Only if you have a gas water heater, it’s probably an inch or so off the “ground” and you need to clean under there every six months or so.

      Not required with electric water heaters.

  3. 4

    Peggy says

    We have a gas fire place that my Dad always thought a very small spider would build a web during the summer over the oxygen sensor. It was always a pain to try to get one fireplace lit of the many gas heaters in the house, garage and green house. We don’t use them now due to other heating methods.

  4. 5

    Cheryl L says

    I haven’t seen any one witch for water since my dad did it when I was still at home….over 40 years ago. He was right, too, but unfortunately it was sulfur water….really rotten smell and taste. They were so glad to see rural water come a few years later. I’ll look forward to your next witching post.

  5. 6


    If anyone wonders why I don’t move that dilapidated box . . it’s full of rocks that Vince took out of the trench he dug. He is going to move it but we never think about it til we’re over behind the garden and then we’re busy doing something else. Another reason we like living in the country with no neighbors to complain about abandoned boxes of rocks in the yard! 🙂

  6. 7


    LOL, Ooops!

    I was sure you were going to say that the water heater ran on propane and that your propane tank was empty… Glad it’s all vacuumed out & you’ve got hot water again (after it heats up)!

    BLM 🙂

  7. 8

    Jerzydeb says

    I am smiling about the water heater, but laughing right out loud thinking of how that conversation even went for the plumber to know you needed a water well witcher !

  8. 9


    Well, you probably saved someone a similar expense in the future if they read your blog. I never knew about that either – although I do know enough to get my furnace cleaned every year! I wonder why the “witchers” think there is water in that spot? Could be the strand of trees – tree roots need water! I used to have a big property with many underground water pipes – and when there was no pressure you KNEW there was a leak “somewhere”. I had a guy come with a device that looked like a metal detector and headphones and he would walk along the pipe lines and tell me where he thought the leak was – he was almost always right so well worth the money! Cheers! Evelyn

  9. 10

    Helen Koenig1 says

    I didn’t know you had to vacuum under the water heater! Like you, I’ve got a gas water heater (so do the tenants upstairs)! Now I know what to do! Every 6 mos you say????

    Re water witching – I learned how to do that years ago. Funny story was that when I did – I found what was the buried septic tank! which was NOT where I thought it was!

  10. 11


    It would make sense that there would be water where the trees are. As for the water heater, we have gas water heater and i doubt that DH ever vacumns the part you showed and I knwo I never had!

    • 11.1


      I wish it were that easy. Trees are no indication of a good place to dig a well. The former owners drilled several before hitting water. A witcher is our best bet.

  11. 12


    I have NEVER heard that before!! I have two gas heaters sitting out in the garage (where I’ve lived for 10 years) that have never had their pans cleaned!! YIKES! Also lived a couple of other places where I had gas heaters and never had an issue so never heard about cleaning the pans there either. You truly do live and learn.

    • 12.1


      If yours are in the garage, the wind when the doors are open may blow the dust out. I saw the dust for myself. After the plumber vacuumed it out, our flame stayed lit. That’s all I can say.

  12. 13

    Pat C in Washington says

    My late husband used to say that many tradesmen have perfected the art of Standing Around and Frowning Thoughtfully to make you think they are thinking deep thoughts about your project, when really they are probably just thinking “what am I going to have for lunch?”

    • 13.1


      Well, all I can say is . . my water heater wasn’t working when he got here and it works after he left so I’m very happy.

  13. 15

    Sandy says

    Vacuuming around the water heater is a new idea to me! I guess I should go out to the garage and get to work. I sure do learn a lot reading your blog, Judy!

  14. 16


    I got to thinking…where, or where, is the water heater in this house? Wracked my brain. This is a one floor house so where was it hidden? Oh, how dumb! It’s a whole house instant water heater and it’s hanging on a wall in a utility room off the garage. No vacuum cleaner needed. Whew!

  15. 17

    Claudia says

    Have you given any thought to a solar water back-up system for heating water? I know they can be expensive initially, but our house in CA came with the system already installed, and we LOVED it! It would get up to 160 deg in the summer and we fought over the cold water in the shower. I can’t remember if our primary system was gas, but I never vacuumed it.
    I also have a friend that can water witch and it is fascinating to watch. He handed me his “witching rods” and said, “Here, you try it.” Nothing happened. I told him I didn’t have enough testosterone.

  16. 18

    Rebecca says

    Well, we know that isn’t indicative of your usual housekeeping! I never heard that, either. It may help explain why the gas heater in this rental is up on a wooden crate.

  17. 19


    I had something similar like that happen except it was a reset button on our furnace. Apparently I was hitting the wrong button. The furnace guy came out and pointed it out to me . Talk about embarrassing!
    My grandmother was a great witcher! I thought that art was dead and gone. Good luck with the new well..