Monday, May 12, 2008

The Dude.

The following post is in response to "I'll Call Baila's" superlative praise for the Israeli "dude shemesh" (solar hot water heater) ...

Erev Shabbat at the Muqata residence.

One by one, the kids shower, and get ready for Shabbat.

Plenty of time...always plenty of time. (Read the link if you haven't seen the story before)

[insert Jaws shark attack music here]

10 Minutes before Shabbat, I'm the last to take a shower. It's late, but I can make it....and then...there's no hot water left.

Not even lukewarm. Nothing.

The "Dude" was on for hours, but 7 kids will empty out your hot water supply quick enough.

We tried the "Gush Katif Always Available" hot water system.

Alas, it caught fire.

I climbed into our attic to see why there was no water pressure and saw smoke coming out of the "new and improved always available water system" -- I spent the rest of the day on oxygen in the emergency room.

Needless to say, that was disconnected.

The problems with the "dude" are many. Unlike in the US where the hot water boiler is usually in the basement, in Israel, the dude is usually in the attic or on your roof. That's convenient for the (optional) solar panels which warm water using the sun (saving electricity/gas, etc), but inconvenient when it comes to maintenance.

And maintenance is part and parcel of the dude. Following is my personal list of possible problems with your dude...

1. The most common of all is the "Guf Chimum" -- the heating element. Israel's water supply is based on "hard water" -- our water supply is rich in minerals, specifically calcium. The problem with calcium is that when heated, it bonds with metal, causing all sorts of problems. The electricity based heating element in the dude dies every 2-3 years and needs to be replaced.
(example of a guf chimum)

Its programmed to die on Erev Shabbat, usually in the winter, and usually when you have lots of kids around -- the more kids who need showers, the more likely it is your dude's "goof chimum" will die when you need it most. To replace it, you need to remove the old one...which requires all the water in your dude to come splashing out. Of course, your dude is probably in the attic -- and my house doesn't have a concrete floor under the dude -- just rafters and plaster, so I need to be careful that the water doesn't damage the plaster (and cause the whole floor/ceiling to collapse).

While I personally don't recommend replacing a guf-chimum on your own, here's a short video for the very brave (or foolish). Keep in mind; replacing it may cause your dude to leak, and then you'll need to completely open it up again to fix the leak... While I consider myself rather handy, I try to avoid dealing with the dude.

2. The Thermostat. Mounted underneath the dude -- these have a life expectancy of 3-5 years and can cause 2 problems. It can die, and not allow your dude to heat any water. Or, it can die and allow the dude to heat itself up as hot as possible. Without a fail-safe pressure valve on your dude, it could explode (see #3)

3. The Dude Split. The life expectancy of a dude is 10-15 years. The seam of the dude may start to leak, giving you an early indication to quickly replace your dude. The longer you wait -- the more dangerous it gets. A neighbor of ours was lucky. He went into his attic to examine his dude, and a minute after leaving the attic he heard a massive explosion upstairs. Outside his house, neighbors thought a bomb went off -- also because of all the smoke coming out of the roof tiles -- but it was steam. The dude exploded due to a faulty thermostat and a small split in the dude seam (and a possible broken pressure valve). My neighbor benched gomel in shul, having narrowly avoided getting burned to death by the exploding dude.

4. The Leaker. The seals around the dude's feeder and exit pipes (cold water going in, hot water going on) erode over time and need to be replaced. Similar to replacing the guf chimum, this requires draining the entire dude.

5. The Deep Freeze. When cold winter nights hit Israel and its around 1-2 degrees Celcius (or 32-35 degrees Fahrenheit) outside, if you don't leave a small trickle of hot water running, your dude's solar heating "koltim" (outside panels) run the risk of freezing...and exploding.

So, while it sounds like a great idea, these hot water boilers are rather high maintenance....and extremely inconvenient when they break down on Erev Shabbat.

There are other solutions, like the "heat water as you go" gas system...and some claim to have miracle systems which keep calcium/lime from accumulating on the guf chimum.

I don't believe in miracles. Well, not if they have the word, "dude" in them.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Anonymous said...

Life in suburbia- not as boring as one would expect...

One of the first rules told to us in yeshiva last year was, "DON'T EVER TOUCH THE SWITCH FOR THE DUD!!!"

We used some weird gas-based system instead that worked fairly well, but required going out to the side of the house to activate the system and leaving the "hot" water running for a while before the water reached a desirable temperature. Not the most efficient system. We also had to deal with cold water and wait for the "gaz" refill periodically.

Jack Steiner said...

Dude, sounds like way too much work.

Baila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Baila said...

Baila said...
I am very, very afraid. And glad that, for now, I live in an apartment that I don't own. And that I know a dude named Dudy who is a dude repairer extraordinaire.

Livin' the dream is hard. But it's still livin' the dream...

Thanks for the link

Commenter Abbi said...

Hmm, I think you need to differentiate between a dude shemesh and dude chashmal. Some people only have the latter and not the former. dude shemesh= koltim. Chashmal= guf chimum (although it's very common for them to be combined.)

Junkers= gas based system (my brother has it and it does seem annoying).

We had a guf chimum go out on us last winter. It was annoying but I would never dream of replacing it myself or having my husband do it.

Also, NEVER rely on the koltim to heat up enough water for shabbat for a FAMILY OF 9!!!. We have a timer on our chashmal part and there is always hot water in the morning and the evening. Works like a charm, except when i forget to set it on friday afternoons in the winter for shabbat.:(

Yes, I do miss those American style boilers where there's always hot water, no matter what you do or don't forget to turn on.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Abbi: I'm not sure that Yunkers (Junkers) are what I had in mind -- I think that's more of a boiler system than the quickly heat the water system....

I think I can fix some stuff around the house...but the dude is too depressing. During the summer, the koltim and electric solution usually has enough hot water, provided the kids start showering early in the stagger the hot water usage.

Commenter Abbi said...

Junkers is gas. I know the system you're talking about, it is completely different. And scary sounding. I don't think i'll be installing that anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Junkers works, but costs an arm and a leg in all of the gas burned to heat the water.

The best is to have an ugly dud and koltim on the roof - that way it isn't dangerous, but it don't look nice, and the roof can't be used for anything...

Anonymous said...

And I thought the erev Shabbat not hot water thing only happened to me!

Rafi G. said...

be a man! Take a cold shower and stop complaining!

Gee a Moron said...

I live next door to a Chromogen (one of the better brands of dude) installer. Not for me to touch!

Our dude failed (leaker) after 17 years of faithful service and a few goof chimum changes on the same day that the roofer was on the roof putting up aluminum siding. The tile roof came apart and the old dude went out/new dude went in from above.

Again, not for me to otuch. (And I'm the one who installed our new washer, gas dryer so I know something about appliances...)

Gee a Moron said...

Another way for a dude to fail is for the timer to turn the electric backup heater on during a water outage - a not uncommon occurrence in Hashmonaim. I don't know why - because there is water in the tank but it seems to burn out the goof chimum.

I no longer have a "shabbat clock" style timer on our dude. Instead I put a spring wound "hotel heat lamp" timer that you turn on manually - having made sure that the water system is working - and it turns itself off after the desired 1-2 hours so you can't forget and leave it on till it steams.

I also just put a nifty contraption on my son's bathtub faucet: a battery-operated temperature sensor device that glows blue when the water is cold changing to purple, red, flashing red as the water gets hot. Since the water is not held in the dude at a constant temperature you cannot use a predetermined setting for hot and cold water to get what you want or what is safe for the little kids. The visual aid helps my six year old grandson shower safely by himself.

Tzipporah said...

Now I know how I will get rich and live in the luxury to which I would like to become accustomed.

I will create the dudette - works longer and smarter than the dude, and doesn't complain. For less pay. :)

Anonymous said...

My dude froze and cap blew this winter, my friend bought me a new cap from the local arabs at 5 shkalim and replaced.. but the freezing broke the guf chimum and there was a leak. My plumber guy fixed it at 125 shkalim total not bad.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

AbuTor: Our Dude is underneath the roof and the only thing exposed are the koltim which lie on the roof shingles. It doesn't look that ugly (I'll provide a pic soon).

tzipporah: A dudette in Israel? Now THAT shounds scary :) [perhaps the 'frecha' would be a better name ;-)

Anonymous said...

our dude kept blowing the circuits in the entire house -- this went on every year for three winters before we realized that it was not normal -- we only use the timer in the winter for very short intervals just to heat it up, and switch completely to sun in the spring/summer (unless we anticipate heavy pre-shabbat usage, like when we have guests). it turns out that the plumber we used was only replacing the blown guf chimum, without cleaning out the whole appraratus, leaving it to fill up with more and more avnit.

when it blew again this past winter, our regular guy was unavailable so i called someone else who needed to replace THE WHOLE THING for a lot more money. when i asked him why it was so expensive, he brought down the whole tube that he had replaced which weighed a ton because it was rock-solid-filled-to-the-brim with hardened avnit! the previous guy just kept pulling out the element and shoving the new one in there without removing any of the previous buildup!

we'll be now looking into installing a salamander to dissolve the even.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Nikki: we'll be now looking into installing a salamander to dissolve the even.

There are multiple issues to keep in mind with the "salamander" -- if it's on your main water line going into your home, and your home's pipes are steel, then as the avnit will disappear -- it will cause all sorts of problems with the pipes (leaks, burst pipes, etc). Unless of course, you have plastic pipes...

I wish, wish, wish we had installed plastic pipes instead of steel. One of these days we'll need to replace all our plumbing.

Anonymous said...

oh great. i'm sure we have steel pipes -- our house is circa 1970's.

Unknown said...

We have 8 kids (by now some have moved out) so when we went to install a dood shemesh ("dude" really looks funny to me) we paid extra and got... 200liters! (the standard is 120).

We NEVER run out of hot water. Well.. except in winter when there was no sun for a few days and the water is luke anyway, then it chills quickly when you start to use it.

We do not use the built in electric element - and never have - because we still have a dood-chashmal in the apt from before we bought it (actually I believe at some point it died and we replaced it).

This means that when we need to heat electrically we heat a smaller (120 l.) tank, which is more protected from the elements.

All in all, we are happy with the hot water situation. :-)

ProfK said...

May not be a permanent resident of Israel, but I still remember my "dude" experience. We were visiting family and went to shower for Shabbos. Our aunt handed us a pre-set timer and said "You have three minutes." I thought I was hurrying but then the timer went off. A few seconds later a hand reached into the shower and turned it off. We may not have many, but that is surely one advantage to the States: hot water heaters.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shimon: We have the 200 litre version...and 3 koltim. During the summer its not bad. During the winter it's a disaster.

ProfK: I'm sure we do have good hot water solutions here...I just haven't found it yet. Don't let that stop you from making aliya!


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