Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Saturday, November 13, 1999

Water heater in condo
may need repair

Question: The water heater in our condo unit does not provide enough hot water. It just fills about one-third of the tub, barely enough for a quick shower but not for a good bath. Our hot-water heater is stored hidden under our kitchen counter beyond our reach. What can we do? Besides, we are told that by law, we are supposed to keep our water-heater heat low so as not to get scalded. Is there really such a law? It sounds ridiculous that a law would tell me what is too hot for me. Anyway, where can we find a small water heater which fits under the kitchen counter and would provide enough hot water?

Answer: First off, there is no state law requiring you to set your water heater at a certain temperature.

The factory-recommended setting for gas heaters is 120 degrees Fahrenheit, according to The Gas Co., while Hawaiian Electric Co. recommends that the temperature be set at 120 to 130 degrees.

If you have a dishwasher that does not have a booster heater, then you may consider setting the heater at 140 degrees, said Heco spokesman Fred Kobashikawa.

If not enough hot water is a problem, one solution may be to use a low-flow shower head, which can use up to 50 percent less water, Kobashikawa said. He speculated that your heater may just need to be cleaned or repaired. There may be a build-up of minerals on the heating element, for example, he said, which could affect its efficiency.

We randomly called Air-O-Smith, a company owned and operated by Martin and Louise Smith, which we found in the telephone Yellow Pages.

Not knowing details of your situation, Louise Smith said it sounds as though you need to get your heater at least repaired, if not replaced.

Most condo units have water heaters that hold 30-40 gallons, she said.

"Thirty gallons of hot water is plenty of water," she said, enough "to take a shower. You should be able to get a decent bath and wash your dishes."

But there may be mitigating factors, such as the age of your heater; how many people live in your home; if you take baths and showers back to back; or if you take a shower and wash dishes at the same time; etc.

Check pages 1,203-1,204 in the Oahu Yellow Pages for a slew of companies that specialize in water heaters. Any one should be able to help.

Q: My elderly parents are interested in drawing up a living trust. They would like to know if document forms advertised in the newspaper (saying a lawyer is not needed) will be acceptable legally. Is it true that the law does not require use of a lawyer to draw up a living trust? What is the usual cost for drawing up a living trust by an attorney?

A: You do not need to have a lawyer draw up a living trust, but you might want to at least consult with one, depending on how much is involved.

"Costs can range from a few hundred dollars on up," said attorney Richard J. Sakoda. But he estimated that, for a couple in Hawaii, an average might be $1,500 to $3,000.

"The more property you have, the more expensive it gets," he said.

Sakoda's law firm, Sterling & Tucker, deals mainly with estate planning, wills, trusts and probate law. "A living trust is the centerpiece of most estate plans," he said, although it might not be appropriate for some people.

He suggested talking to friends or colleagues to get the names of experts in estate planning, then find somebody you're comfortable with.

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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