Grandma Zohner brought me a lot of good luck. Every year Grandma would put butter on my nose for good luck as part of a birthday custom. Of course, everyone knows that butter makes the child too slippery for bad luck to catch on! At least that’s what those that practice this old custom believe.

Research indicates the custom to butter the noses of kids on their birthday comes from various cultures. It seems Atlantic Canada (Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, etc.) and also those of Scottish descent claimed to have started greasing the nose of kids for good luck. Grandma believed it was a German custom.

Regardless of who gets credit for the custom, all I know is Grandma laughed hard after buttering my nose on my birthday. She would quietly sneak up behind me with about a tablespoon of butter in her hand and hug me as a diversion tactic before quickly covering my nose with butter. She was skilled in carrying out this custom!

Of course, our family was watching during the whole ordeal because they were in on the game plan. They had a great laugh before the butter was wiped off.

We can rely solely on butter on our nose for good luck, or we use good luck in conjunction with careful planning to help stack the deck in our favor. For example, last week there was a cut to the core on a tire on my Jeep. It was good luck to have that cut pointed out by a friend with a keen eye, but it was careful planning to have that tire replaced immediately to prevent a blowout.

Running out of hot water during a shower is in some ways good luck if you have a water heater with new energy-saving technology because it could be a harsh reminder the air inlet screen needs to be cleaned. Failure to keep that screen clean can cause parts like igniters and thermocouples to fail.

It’s better to avoid that cold shower in the first place with basic maintenance by cleaning the water heater air filter on a routine basis every 60 days or so.

Every water heater has specific maintenance needs. One common maintenance practice is draining the chemical hardness buildup at the bottom of the water heater. This practice improves equipment life and energy efficiency.

The reality is few people drain their water heaters, but that’s not a good option today because water heater technology has changed dramatically, and maintenance is required. Why not avoid predictable problems?

Removing water hardness buildup in the bottom of the tank will improve the average equipment life of water heaters and efficiency. A water softener will also help to improve equipment life.

It’s fairly easy to drain the loose hardness particles out of your water heater. This draining process only takes 15 minutes or so. Step 1 is to hook a short ¾” drain hose to the boiler drain valve at the water heater tank lower area. Step 2 is to hold the discharge hose over a 5-gallon bucket. Step 3 is to turn on the boiler drain slowly while avoiding getting burned if the water heater is set above 130 degrees. Step 4 is to shut off the boiler drain when the water becomes clear. Disconnect the hose and drain it into the bucket.

You may be surprised by a large number of chemical hardness particles in the bottom of the bucket that accumulated in the water heater.

It’s also important to check the condition of the flue pipe on the water heater to make sure it does not have leakage issues and is hooked up properly. Brown particles on top of the water heater below the flue pipe may indicate a dangerous backdraft condition. It could indicate high levels of carbon monoxide that need to be professionally checked out.

To reduce your worries about a water heater leaking, there are inexpensive water alarms ($14 or so) that can be placed near the base of the water heater. If a leak occurs they produce a shrill whistle sound. Hopefully, you are home to hear it!

We can put butter on our noses for a little extra fun and good luck, or we can use maintenance to improve our odds. I recommend both because maintenance works and the butter custom provides great memories.

Thanks to Grandma Zohner for those memories!

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