Water Heater Pilot Light ...

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WoodWrangler

Jeremy
Senior User
I've been out of town this week and got the call yesterday from the LOML saying the water is all cold. Obviously the water heater wasn't warming ... and today I returned home to confirm no pilot light.

Now I don't know much about these things, but it look fairly straight forward. Put the knob into "Pilot", hold down "Reset" and push the ignition button. I have the gas on and can see a light trying to start, but then nothing ....

Any suggestions? If not, I've got to get someone out here tomorrow ...
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
On my gas log fireplace, I have to push in the knob, then press the ignition switch. Usually, I have to hold the knob pushed in for at least two minutes (at least at the beginning of the season) before it will stay lit. My previous gas water heater was pretty much the same thing. Not sure how long I had to hold it, but it always seemed forever.
 

WoodWrangler

Jeremy
Senior User
I just went out there and laid down to get a better view of the pilot light. When I press the "reset" button and then ignite, it gets a blue flame and is trying ... however, the second I let go of "reset" it goes out.

The instructions say hold for 1 minutes ... I tried 2.5 minutes, but still nothing.

Am I doing something wrong?
 

Glennbear

Moderator
Glenn
Cappilary tube may have a coating of gunk on it prventing it from heating enough to release main gas valve. Scotchbrite it gingerly
 

Bryan S

Bryan
Corporate Member
What Glenn said. As that tube directly over the pilot flame is heated it generates a small voltage (I think about 750 millivolts) to the gas valve. without that voltage to the gas valve it wont operate.
 

WoodWrangler

Jeremy
Senior User
Cappilary tube may have a coating of gunk on it prventing it from heating enough to release main gas valve. Scotchbrite it gingerly
Dumb question ... how do I get in there? I'm having to look thru a itsy bitsy little glass window about the size of a nickel. To do that, I need to "get in" there -- right?

(This is just not my thing ... obviously!)
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
Well, if you've ever had braces, you've seen those tiny brushes. Looks like a fuzzy maggot on a stick. Those are great for cleaning the tube. Not an easy space to get into, obviously. With the gas off, you could try a Q-tip with some denatured alcohol. Make sure it's ALL evaporated before relighting.

When it's cold, it sometimes takes a while before the gas flow is self-sustaining. Can you clamp the button and see if the flame will take after 5 minutes? (clamp may be easier on your fingers...). Of course, do not walk away, keep an eye on it.
 
M

McRabbet

I would suggest that you turn the gas control knob all the way to OFF, wait 20-30 seconds, turn to Pilot and depress as required and press the Igniter. Keep the knob depressed for at least a minute and ease it up. If it starts to go out on the way up, depress longer. As stated by others, there should be a copper tube that is heated by the pilot flame that must send a signal to the gas valve. When heated, it should keep the pilot flame burning when the control knob is returned to the undepressed position -- then it is turned to ON to allow full gas flow to the burner. If it does not work, the thermocouple tube needs to be replaced. Hope this helps.
 

Glennbear

Moderator
Glenn
Rob put it fairly succinctly, I did not realize you had an access problem I am used to being able to remove a friction fit shield that reveals more of the "burner guts" . You still have to do the "mash your face into the floor" thing though :gar-La;. Guess I am used to the less sophisticated BORG type water heaters.
 

Gofor

Mark
Corporate Member
I had a gas furnace in FL that was hard to get to light.

First, I resorted to "prewarming" the thermocouple with one of the bar-b-q style butane lighters.

I then realized the thermocouple had been pushed down too far into the flame, so it wasn't getting hot enough (Probably by the guy doing the annual furnace preseason check). Repositioning it up to the top of the bright blue flame cured the problem.

If this doesn't work you may need to replace the thermocouple.

Go
 

Gotcha6

Dennis
Corporate Member
Out in left field here, but my daughter just moved into a new home. They showed her how to light the pilot & that it would light. After closing, she had no heat. Serviceman came out & found gas line was plugged up - probably dirt. Just a thought. Those things can be fickle.
 

WoodWrangler

Jeremy
Senior User
Well, it's fixed. Here's the deal ...

Roto came out and determined it was the thermocouple. It's a Whirlpool and he said that is a constant problem with that brand and very typical. However, after taking the old thermocouple out, he realized Whirlpool does things 'different' and he didn't have the part. A trip to Lowes and some calls around ... and he couldn't get the part. So ... no hot water so far.

Next I called Dickerson plumbing and told them what was up. They said they had the part and could fix it ... so I said come on out. About an hour later they appeared and sure enough ... installed a new one and viola, we have flame!

HOWEVER ... and OF COURSE ... he looked at my unit right before he left and told me he couldn't leave with it running and was required to turn my gas off to the water heater. WHY? Because he said I had a unit that must be vented thru the ceiling/roof, however the configuration I had vented it thru the side wall. He told me I must either vent it up, or buy a new unit that was "direct" exhaust (something like that). So I let him leave, and I turned the gas back on and started it up myself. This might not be the smartest thing, but it's been working this way for 5 years (the age of the unit) and I've not had a problem. I keep a carbon monoxide detector in the garage and it doesn't register anything, so I assume there isn't much in the way or exhaust in the garage -- BUT the service tech STRONGLY felt that there would be and told me "everyone would die one night" if it leaked (hope not!)

What are your opinions? What's involved in venting it up? Should I be concerned?

And by the way ... Both companies charged an UNREASONABLE amount in my opinion ($160-$180) for about 20 minutes of work and one replacement part (the thermocouple).
 
M

McRabbet

I wouldn't pay the first guy for anything other than the minimum service call charge because he didn't fix it.
 

JackLeg

New User
Reggie
Jeremy, my condolences about the bill. Those weekend calls are something, aren't they?

When we built our home in 99, I ran into the same deal. Inspector said "side vented, must have a forced air system." That is just a kit with a fan that sits on the stack immediately above the heater and is wired to the flame control, I think. So---when the heater lights, the fan comes on and forces the exhaust out of the basement through the wall. It's just a piece of 4" PVC pipe with an ell turned down outside the wall. Hope this is of some enlightenment. If not, well I didn't charge for it!!

:biggrin::wwink:
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
Jeremy, you said TWO MAGIC words- Whirpool and Lowes. Many of their "Flame Loc" heaters are subject to a class action suit over the pilot light. The wife got a notice for the one she bought for rental house, but I have installed several for customers, and gotten no notices. Do a google for "Whirpool water heater class action suit." You may find relief there. Ours hasn't failed, but I have another that has failed that is listed in suit.
 

ScottM

Scott
Staff member
Corporate Member
Because he said I had a unit that must be vented thru the ceiling/roof, however the configuration I had vented it thru the side wall. He told me I must either vent it up, or buy a new unit that was "direct" exhaust (something like that).
I am not sure the service tech told you this but that "direct" exhaust feature adds roughly $200.00 to the cost of the new water heater. :eek:

[PIE]Been there[/PIE]
 

Gotcha6

Dennis
Corporate Member
My dad's electic water heater failed 2 weeks ago. The plumber he called recommended against buying a replacaement @ BORG. He said the big box stores all sell national brands, but built to their own specs, usually a lower standard than used by the same manufacturer to sell to plumbing supply houses. That way they can undercut their prices. Manufacturers don't care because they're making product. Warranty isn't usually an issue 'cause most people nowadays are so transient they move before something like this gives trouble. It's what is known as the 'Wal Mart Effect'. The marketing strategies as practiced by the Barons of Bentonville have pervaded the housing industry on a grand scale (habla espanol?). Cheaper price yields more sales - never mind the long term consequences.
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
I am not sure the service tech told you this but that "direct" exhaust feature adds roughly $200.00 to the cost of the new water heater. :eek:

[pie]Been there[/pie]
Not only does it add to the cost of the heater, but you also have to buy the direct vent kit for the vent. A two hundred dollar heater quickly becomes a six hundred dollar heater. It has a coaxial pipe, with vent being on the inside of the fresh air intake pipe. Heater has a chamber that takes fresh air down to the burner at the bottom of the heater. But you can buy heaters that have power vents. They vent through PVC pipe. The price on one of these will lighten your old tool budget for a few weeks. Bad thing is if power is off, no hot water, as without the fan they won't run.
 

gordonmt

New User
Mark Gordon
Jeramy,
I live by the statement that a man must know his limitations and things like gas, carbon monoxide, and high voltage are beyond my limitations and comfort. County and municipal codes are in place for your protection. They are sometime overkill but I believe they are there for a reason other than generated revenue for the city. Carbon monixide is a killer gas and has claimed many lives. I sure don't want you to add to the statistics. If it was me, I would follow the codes for gas venting religiously and do my corner cutting on my next garden project. I only say this because I care what happens to you. Good luck.
 
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