Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pressure Balance

This summer we had the greatest shower on the face of the earth. It might not have been the biggest or fanciest or prettiest or cleanest, but none could compare with the water pressure. IT was glorious. You really didn't even have to use soap because the force of the water would just knock the dirt right off of you. If you stood alongside the stream of spray you could feel the wind it produced. Heaven.

As the weather got colder, we realized that we may have a few flaws. The temperature of the water would begin to decrease after only a few minutes in the shower, so you'd constantly be re-adjusting the hot/cold ratio. We got a new shower curtain and the breeze created by the spray would pull it a little too far into the shower, usually getting it stuck to your legs.

This weekend all of that changed. We did some research into the hot water problem, draining and inspecting our hot water heater. It's a 50 gallon tank, so that shouldn't have been the problem. We drained it and discovered it wasn't full of lime or some other contaminate. We removed the temperature & pressure valve and peaked inside. We thought we saw the problem. We couldn't find the fill tube, the piece of pipe that makes sure the cold water gets to the bottom of the tank and isn't forced out the top along with the hot water. We put it all back together, thinking we knew what we needed to do from there. We were wrong.

After we turned the water back on, the Temperature and Pressure valve blew - spraying water all over the floor. This valve is designed to prevent injuries from occurring if the temperature in the tank goes above 210 degrees or the pressure reaches 150 psi. (Normal house hot water is 120-140 degrees. Normal pressure is 50-60 psi.) We turned off the water, reset the valve and turned the water back on - it blew again. Again. Again. Again. We went to the store and got a new T&P valve and (because of my hunch) a pressure gauge.

We got home and hooked up the pressure gauge to the basement sink. We turn the water on and watched the psi on the gauge. 10 - 30 -50 -80 - 110 - 150! At that point the T&P valve blew. It wasn't broken, it was finally working. Our house had well over 3x the recommended water pressure for a house! No wonder we broke so many faucets. No wonder we had 3 hoses explode this summer. No wonder the toilet tank refills so fast.

One more trip to the hardware store for a new pressure regulator and our house is now "normal." We still have some work to do on the hot water, but our faucets don't leak anymore and the noise of water running through pipes doesn't fill the whole house. And I'm pretty sure our water bill won't be nearly as high as it was before.

Pressure is an fickle thing. The plumbing in your house requires it to work - that's how water that comes into the house downstairs winds up in the sink upstairs. Without pressure, we'd still be using wash basins. But pressure is also dangerous. It can burst hoses and cause faucets to leak.

In Genesis, Judah was Jacob's second oldest son. When the brothers rose up against Joseph, Judah was among them. It was Reuben who said, "Don't kill him... let's just throw him in this pit." Fast forward years and years - when Joseph in disguise has ordered the brothers to bring Benjamin to Egypt - Judah and Reuben both accept the pressure. Reuben says to Jacob that he will put his own sons up as collateral for Benjamin's life. Judah says that his life will be forfeit for Benjamin's. The pressure of being the oldest wasn't enough - they raise the stakes and pile on the pressure by including their own lives and that of Reuben's sons.

It would seem that this was a good thing to do. After all, look at the outcome - the family is reunited and they all live happily ever after. (Well, happily until a new Pharaoh comes around and they all become slaves.) But imagine what is going on in Reuben's mind when Joseph plays the trick with the silver cup. He plants it in Benjamin's bag. We don't hear a thing from Reuben. He's paralyzed with fear and dread. He's failed. He's given up the lives of his sons. Judah is the one who does all the talking. He's the one who stands up to Joseph. A little less pressure - a lot more result.

But neither of these guys is the hero of this story. That's Joseph. What pressure did Joseph have? He never puts his sons up as collateral. He never puts his own life on the line. He's not putting pressure on himself by looking for someone else's approval. He simply follows God and seeks his will. In the pit, in Potipher's house, in prison, in the palace. A whole lot less pressure, a whole lot more result.

Taking a shower at our house isn't so great anymore. We miss the pressure. We got used to it and thought we needed it. But, we still get clean, we don't have faucets breaking and there is a lot less chance of a catastrophe. A lot less pressure is tough to get used to, but that's how things were designed.

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