Mexico: Our Experience Getting Our Water Heater Replaced

Our water heater that broke (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

One night, Linda was taking a shower when the water suddenly ran cold. She yelled for me to check the propane water heater located in a utility closet next to the kitchen. As I approached the closet, I noticed a steady stream of water coming out from under the door. I’m not a plumber by any means, but I deduced this might be the problem.

When I opened the closet, water was pouring out of the bottom of the water heater. I turned off both the water and the propane before yelling, “I found the problem and it looks very expensive.”

Linda sent some text messages out to friends on Whatsapp and it wasn’t long before we had a recommendation for a repairman and an appointment.

House Call

The repairman promised to show up at 1 PM, but to tell you the truth, we were a little surprised to hear the knock at the door at precisely 1 PM. Over the last two years, we have become pretty accustomed to businesses working on “Mexico time”, which is a nice way to say that people are often late.

The repairman took the unit apart and discovered that the internal mechanism was clogged with minerals and sediment. This caused pressure to build up inside the unit to the point that one of the internal pipes ruptured. Looking back, the failure may have been the result of our hands-off approach to performing routine maintenance. Apparently, the popular advice of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t apply to water heaters.

The repairman said that he couldn’t repair it and that we needed to buy another unit. In case you were wondering, he doesn’t sell water heaters so his assessment of the unit wasn’t a clever ruse to get us to buy one.

This is the part of the story that makes it worth telling. When I asked the repairman how much we owed him for the house call, he responded in Spanish, “Nothing because I didn’t fix it.”

That’s something you’re unlikely to hear from anyone making a house call in the States.

We felt that he had earned something and tried to give him money. He politely declined to take it; however, he said that he would be happy to install the new unit when we bought it and that we could pay him for that.

Finally Repaired

Getting the water heater took about a week because we couldn’t find anything locally that we wanted. We were working with a small space and we wanted something roughly the same size. We ended up buying a unit directly from a manufacturer and having it sent to us. The new water heater cost around $226 USD — not too bad.

As promised, we called out the same repairman and he installed it. He did a meticulous job and carefully checked all gas and water fittings for possible leaks.

So, how much did he charge us for his second house call? Only $300 pesos, or around $15.38 USD. He did such a great job that we included a good tip.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Since moving to Mexico, we’ve had several things repaired, built and/or painted. Every time, the person has been very professional and has never tried to overcharge us. In fact, this is the second time that someone has refused to take money because they felt that they did not earn it. Positive experiences like this one serve as a constant reminder of the strong work ethic and moral compass of the Mexican people.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget. In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times.

38 Comments on "Mexico: Our Experience Getting Our Water Heater Replaced"

  1. HA! That’s nothing! Mine was $1350!!
    Wait…. that’s like having the high score in golf…..
    Nice story!

  2. Barb Elliott | January 4, 2018 at 8:34 am |

    Can you share the name and contact info of this repairan. Thanks. Love yor blog

  3. Paul, It is LuLu here. I would greatly appreciated this repair man’s name and phone number please. You never know when, and I would like to be prepared. Also info on the new unit you purchased. Thanks amigo.

  4. I had the same thing happen $165 for the heater and 200 peso to install 🙂 We give him 300 peso and he was very happy 🙂

  5. Ethel aka Fran | January 4, 2018 at 8:44 am |

    How ironic!! We woke up January 2nd to no hot water and also have a gas water heater. A new one was installed yesterday, but doesn’t work because we are told TECO gas needs to up the amount of gas to operate the new one, but TECO says not so and we are in the middle; still no hot water. It is very frustrating having to boil water to bath, but this too shall pass.

    • Sorry to hear that, Fran. It’s terrible not having hot water. We were lucky because one of our neighbors who was away let us shower at his condo.

  6. Cristina Esparza | January 4, 2018 at 8:57 am |

    Love your story! You are so correct in that Mexicans have a strong work ethic. Can’t wait to experience this ourselves. Our unit should be completed this month.
    Thanks Paul for your great post.

    • Thanks, Cristina. I’m sure you’re excited about your unit getting finished soon. We’ll be sure and get together the next time we’re all in the area at the same time. 🙂

  7. Love this and the people of Mexico

  8. Anne Walmsley | January 4, 2018 at 9:36 am |

    Great story and a testament to the pride the Mexican people take in everything they do

  9. Good one. And realizing that water is quite hard, preventive measure of flushing tank with vinegar each 6 – 8 months and checking inlet screen would be wise.

  10. I have a similar on demand gas heater in my laundry room and have heard of this mineral build up issue but I have had no problem YET. I was curious since my house originally had a regular gas heater on the outside of my house, I removed it and installed this type with venting to the outside but I still smell gas smells in the laundry room. I keep a window opened and the door from inside the house to the laundry room closed do you think this is normal? I realize you said you weren’t a plumber but just wondering if you have the smell in your closet?

    • We have a pipe that goes through the ceiling and there is a venting screen in the dryer room. Even so, we can smell some “exhaust” or “gas” when we start running hot water. We’re always sure to shut that door before taking a shower.

  11. Charles Benfante | January 4, 2018 at 10:16 am |

    Had to have a thermostat replaced in mine = $36.00 USD – parts and labor

  12. Paul Rouquie | January 4, 2018 at 10:38 am |

    A wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it. I’m forwarding it to my previous HVAC guy to see if it makes him feel remorseful!

  13. Brought a tear to my eye! What great people the Mexicans are!. Thieir humanity and compassion! Who ever heard of a repairman not giving you a bill for not fixing something in the States? And the cost of a heater would probably cost more than a thousand USD ! We have a maintenance man
    here in our building that goes far and beyond to make sure everything is okay for us!
    What a wonderful life we are experiencing, and we have only been here about three months! Evelyn

  14. Carla J Duffy | January 4, 2018 at 11:25 am |

    Hello Paul, Can we see the new water heater you purchased. We will be needing one in a couple of months

  15. That is a great price!! We had to buy a new gas heater last year and it cost us about $800.00 That included the gas heater and installation. Go Mexico…

  16. Rebecca Cope | January 4, 2018 at 11:59 am |

    Can you share how you got your order shipped from the US? We are in the mountains where there are fewer gringoes. We are building our house and want to have some items shipped in. Any tips would be most appreciated.

  17. I, too am thinking about moving to the Yucatan. Could you advise me on what area is the best part. I love Chelem. I would love to build. Do you think I could make a profit if ever I had to sell. I’m no SPRING CHICKEN. I can’t afford to make a mistake. I would appreciate your opinion since I will be the only person there since my husband passed away.
    Thanks
    Debbie Wilson

  18. Marsha Pare | January 4, 2018 at 2:40 pm |

    Thank you very much for your posts…they are quite informational and interesting. I have given your email address to others and they have been most grateful and enjoy the tremendous amount of information you are sharing.

    Gracias!!

    Marsha Pare
    Orange, CA

    • Thank you very much for sharing our link with others. Our advertising budget is zero, so we rely solely on word-of-mouth. Have a wonderful day.

  19. Rick & Flower Plourde | January 4, 2018 at 2:53 pm |

    Great story Paul,
    We are so excited to move to Mexico at the end of the month and this just makes another good reason why we are moving from the U.S.

    Heck, now we can look forward to breaking things just to experience the Mexican service and work ethic.

    hahaha !

    • Hahaha, let me know when you’re done breaking things and we’ll send some nice folks your way to get them fixed.

  20. JoAnn Jackson | January 4, 2018 at 3:52 pm |

    Several months ago we had a similar wonderful experience in Northern Baja. We were having our propane tank refilled. When the gas delivery person went to reheat the pilot light in our outdoor covered water heater, he found that it had completely rusted through and let us know. We called out handyman who was here within 1 hour. W
    ithin 3 hours. he had purchased a new one at our local Home Depot, taken the old one out and hauled it away, installed the new unit and we were back on our way to having hot water. Now to the best part. Cost of the new water heater = 251.35 USD. Installation and haul away charge = 500 pesos (about $27 USD). I LOVE Mexico and its wonderful and hardworking people. When I had to have the hot water heater replaced in my home in the US a two years ago it was over $1200 USD.

  21. Paul,

    Thank you for all your blog articles. I am happy for you that you enjoy a great life in Mexico with all the great experience. You must be living in a LaLa land 😉 LOL

    Yes indeed there are kind Mexicans as you wrote and many great things to talk about like in your other articles, I don’t mean to spoil the party but not everything is so rosy (well, that’s true everywhere right? except in Lala land).

    I hope you will publish balanced views, stories, and experience, positive and negative, the good, bad and the ugly so that your readers will have balanced views of what living in Mexico is like. Not everything is so rosy, not everything is so ugly.

    Just a thought.

    Thank you and happy new year to you!

    S

    Balboa Hospital Leaves a Bad Impression on Canadian Tourism

    https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g150792-i257-k10065609-Balboa_Hospital_Leaves_a_Bad_Impression_on_Canadian_Tourism-Mazatlan_Pacific_Coast.html

    Ontario couple’s Mexico attack a ‘common’ scam
    Security consultant advises tourists in the country to avoid most taxis

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ontario-couple-s-mexico-attack-a-common-scam-1.1151252

    24 Most Common Tourist Scams in Mexico

    http://travelscams.org/north-america/common-tourist-scams-mexico/

    • Hi, Steve

      Admittedly, I have had a long string of good experiences since moving to Mexico but it has a lot to do with the fact that I spent 25 years as a law enforcement officer in a busy jurisdiction in Florida. So, I dealt with robbers, scammers, gang members and dangerous individuals on a regular basis. That’s why we have been successful at avoiding them here in Mexico (knocks on wood).

      My jurisdiction was home to over 50,000 Mexicans, so I was no stranger to the culture or the language. Again, that goes a long way to keeping us safe and happy here in Mexico.

      Police work has a tendency to leave people cynical, jaded and distrusting of people in general, I am certainly no exception. Many of my former coworkers, especially those who used to work under me, would laugh that you think I paint things in too rosy a light. I was certainly not known as “that guy” at all.

      Admittedly, my experiences with people in Mexico has helped to restore my faith in my fellow man. People have been absolutely wonderful here.

      That still doesn’t mean that I lost my cynical, distrusting side. I still visually scan every person in the vicinity looking for possible threats. There are dangerous people anywhere that you go in the world. The key to avoiding being a crime victim is to be able to discern the wolves from the sheep and to guide your actions accordingly.

      As far as the way that I write posts on the blog, my style is heavily influenced by my experiences dealing with the Press over the years. I had a ringside seat to major “newsworthy events” and tragedies on a daily basis; however, when I read the paper or watched the news later, I was often left shaking my head. The reports were often inaccurate or spun in away to make the incident seem more “sensational”.

      The Press in general hasn’t changed much since I hung up my gun and badge back in 2015. They write stories to sell papers or get “clicks” and drive traffic to their site. I suppose I could do the same thing and write about lone incidents of people being scammed or robbed, but I prefer to take a different approach to it.

      I prefer to write about ways that people can avoid being a victim of a crime or taken advantage of by an unscrupulous vendor, hospital or hotel. I have written about common consumer violations, ATM frauds, frauds at gas stations etc. I even created cards with consumer rights that tourists can present at a restaurant or bar that tries to overcharge them or that adds a mandatory tip to the bill.

      One of the links that you posted was about a bad experience that some tourists had a hospital. I have a couple of articles in the works to help people better deal with those situations.

      Since this a blog and not a newspaper, I also write articles about our personal experiences dealing with people and situations in Mexico. This article clearly fell under that category. I assure you that If the experience had been bad, that would have been reflected in the post.

      Whatever we are doing, it must be working. The site gets over 100,000 organic views a month, which I’m told is quite a lot for a niche blog that doesn’t spend a single cent on advertising.

      Have a happy new year, Steve.

      Paul

  22. Byron McCulloch | January 5, 2018 at 9:35 am |

    Your experience with the repairmen not charging anything because he didn’t fix anything mirrors my experience in Playa Del Carmen. In this case it was after visiting a doctor for what I suspected was a severe ear infection. Although the doctor spent considerable time trying to complete a thorough examination he was unable to access my inner ear. He explained what was preventing the examination, provided me with ear drops and recommended I return after a few hours. I expected a charge for his time, the ear drops and his examination but his reply was the same as your repairman’s. He didn’t fix anything so he didn’t charge anything. (I did return later in the day. He was able to complete the examination at that time. He diagnose the infection and provided both an antibiotic injection and antibiotic capsules all for a very reasonable cost.)

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your experience, Byron. It shows our readers that experiences like ours are not unusual in Mexico. 🙂

  23. David Skinnell | January 5, 2018 at 11:43 am |

    I have lived in Mexico for 8 years, and an expat since 1988 in various other countries. Never felt in danger. The US is much more dangerous. Kids get killed in school, people get killed attending a concert or going to church, and yes, sad to say, but cops kill innocent people. There is bad stuff everywhere, but I’ll be damned if I am going to be paranoid about it and look for sources of danger.

  24. Tracey & JP | January 6, 2018 at 9:40 am |

    Here’s my Canadian (Ontario) perspective. Hubby and I are very close to retirement and are looking to buy a property in the Baja area of Mexico. Enjoy the Carribean side of Mexico but have issues with the higher humidity and bugs we experience there…guess I’m a Cactus kinda gal. We both work in the Plumbing & HVAC industry and have for about 30 years. We never charge customers if we don’t fix their problem….couldn’t sleep at night if we did. That said, to replace a gas fired on demand system minimum $2500 plus our 13% tax…..yep, pretty much have to take out a small loan!
    BTW it feels like -37 degrees Celsius here this morning. Sooooo looking forward to Playa, Xcalak, Cabo and LaPaz Feb 1-21ST….26 more sleeps.

    Downside for us will be stretching our retirement Canadian dollars when in Mexico. Hubby may have to bring his tools with him so he can make a little beer money

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