Gas water heater troubleshooting is a fairly straightforward process. It starts with identifying the specific problem, as every issue tends to have a specific cause.
Gas Hot Water Heater Problems – Is It Worth It?
Is it worth trying to repair these complications on your own? Yes. You can save a small fortune by making repairs instead of buying a new water heater. New heaters cost well over a thousand dollars when the price of the heater and the cost of installation are calculated. Repairs often can be done for under $100. If nothing else, it is certainly worth trying to take matters into your own hands first before writing a big check.
Working on gas water heater problems can be dangerous if you are not careful. The issue is, of course, that the gas used to fuel the heater is combustible and can explode. The gas should always be turned off when you work on the tank and the area should be well ventilated.
The type of gas used with water heaters is natural gas, which is odorless. Your utility company, however, adds an artificial odor so you can determine if gas is leaking out of your hot water heater. There will be a subtle sulfur smell if this is the case – and you should immediately call your utility company and leave the house until they fix the problem.
No Hot Water
Let’s start with a crisis situation. There is no hot water whatsoever in the house. Your wife is threatening you with punishments which would make Hannibal Lector blush unless you get the hot water back on quickly. Do you just call a plumber and buy a new water heater? No, you troubleshoot the issue first.
Locate the water heater and pop the grill cover off of the bottom. Take a look at the pilot light and see if it is lit. The light can occasionally go out if there is an air pocket in the gas being delivered to the burner, or if a strong gust of air blows through the area. Admittedly this is fairly rare, but it is also the easiest problem to identify and fix so it is a good place to start.
If you relight the pilot light and it goes out again, the problem is a thermocouple issue. The thermocouple is used much like a circuit breaker for electrical current. It monitors whether the pilot light is lit. If it is, the thermocouple allows gas to pass from the gas line to the main burner. If the pilot light goes out, the thermocouple stops the passage of gas. This prevents a gas buildup in the area and a potential explosion.
One end of the thermocouple actually sits in the lit pilot light. This allows it to sense heat, which signifies the pilot is on and gas can be fed to the main burner. If there is a breakdown in its ability to sense heat, the thermocouple cuts off the flow of gas and you have no hot water at all. As a general rule, the solution to fixing this is to replace the thermocouple. That will usually cost you between $10 and $20.
Pilot Will Not Light At All
If you find the pilot light is out and you cannot get it to fire at all, then you have one of two issues. The first and most likely is a bad thermocouple. The only solution is to remove and replace the device. There is, however, one other potential problem. You may have a bad gas valve that is not allowing gas to pass to the thermocouple and into the pilot light area.
The chances of a gas valve going bad are remote at best. In 99 percent of cases, the reason there is no hot water is a bad thermocouple. If you replace that mechanism and still have no hot water, then you are in the unlucky one percent with a gas valve issue. The good news is you can replace a gas valve instead of buying an expensive new water heater. That will normally cost between $100 and $200.
Not Enough Hot Water
If you seem to be getting less hot water than you should, the good news is that the problem is typically not the burner or thermocouple. When troubleshooting, focus on the venting for the heater. Why? Well, to create a fire, you obviously need gas, fire and oxygen. If the air flow into or out of your burners becomes inhibited, there won’t be enough oxygen and the fire will burn inefficiently. This means less heat is created, which translates to less hot water for your shower.
To check the ventilation, you want to start by inspecting the flue hood. If you look at the top of the water heater, you should see a pipe sitting just above the center of the tank. The bottom of the pipe should be flared out, somewhat like an upside-down bowl. This is called the flue hood and leads up into an exhaust pipe, which vents burned gas out of your home. If the exhaust vent is compromised, air will not flow up and out of the tank. This causes a backup of carbon dioxide at the burner, which minimizes the flow of oxygen. And that lack of oxygen results in a weak flame, translating to a lack of hot water.
To test the flue hood, have someone run hot water in the house until the tank heater turns on. You should be able to put your hand up next to the flue hood and feel air being pulled in. If you can’t, you have a blocked chimney exhaust.
To solve this problem, you need to find the point of the blockage. You can do this by simply taking the piping apart. If you don’t find anything that would be blocking the flow, head up onto your roof and see if anything is obstructing the exit point. Leaves and plastic bags blown around by the wind can often be an issue.
If the flue and chimney seem to be working fine, you need to turn your focus to the bottom of the tank. Tank designs can be unique, but try to identify where the tank designers have air entering the bottom of the tank to feed the burners with oxygen. Thoroughly inspect and clean this area so there is nothing impeding the flow of air.
If you can find no blockages, the next troubleshooting step is to take a look at the thermostat. Thermostats rarely fail. However, the quality of the water in your community may not be the best. If this is the case, the temperature probe that points out of the back of the thermostat, and into the water, can become coated with lime or other contaminants. The probe will then fail to accurately measure the temperature of the water in the tank. These false readings can result in the thermostat failing to turn on the main burner at the proper time, or failing to keep it running long enough. Both situations will leave you with less hot water than desired. The problem can easily be solved by cleaning the probe.
If the problem still persists, the thermostat may need to be replaced. A new thermostat will usually run you about $100.
Not Sure on How to Properly Replace the device?
Take a look at this video. The total cost of the repair is roughly $100, which is much less than buying a new water heater.Watch Here
There simply are not a lot of moving parts in gas water heaters. Follow the troubleshooting tips provided in this article and you should easily find the cause and solution to your gas hot water heater problems.