Understanding the Anatomy of Your Gas Water Heater

Most homes have a gas hot water heater that sits in a closet designed for this purpose. Gas water heaters work by convection—cold water goes through a heating process inside the tank, and the hot water rises to the surface. In order to fully grasp how this process works, it can be helpful to understand the different components that make up your water heater.

1. Water Supply and Discharge

Your cold water is supplied through a cold water supply line, and the line is controlled through a shut off valve. In order to perform maintenance on your tank, it is important to shut off this valve. The hot water line takes the heated water and transfers it into your sinks, showers, tubs and appliances.

2. Tank Construction

Your water heater has a tank jacket that fits snugly around the tank. This jacket provides insulation, which reduces heat loss. Inside the tank is a dip tube, through which the cold water enters the tank. The cold water sits at the bottom of the tank, since it is denser than hot water. The burner then warms the water, and the heated water rises to the top. In glass-lined tanks, you will also find a metal rod, referred to as a sacrificial anode. This anode goes from the top of the tank deep into the bottom. Its purpose is to draw corrosion into itself and away from the metal tank.

3. Gas Burner Control and Assembly

Natural gas and propane comes through the gas pipe, which has its own shutoff valve. The gas burner control module acts as a type of thermostat for the water heater, and the gas line feeds into it. The ignition for the pilot light is also found at the control module. The pilot light and the gas burner need to work in tandem for the tank to operate effectively. The gas flame should be about half an inch high and have blue tips.

4. Gas Combustion Exhaust Flue

The gas combustion exhaust takes combusted gasses from the burner to the outside. It also acts as a heat exchanger to aid in heating the water in the storage tank.

5. Pressure Relief Valve

This safety feature is similar to a car’s radiator cap. The valve releases excess pressure or temperature that has built up inside the tank, in order to keep the tank within the safe limits of the design range. To make sure your valve is working correctly, lift the handle slightly and hot water should come out of the overflow pipe.

6. Tank Drain Valve

The tank drain valve prevents sediment from accumulating at the bottom of the tank and improves the water quality. You can flush the water tank using the tank drain valve by following the proper steps.

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Troubleshooting Water Heater Problems

You always want your hot water heater in good working condition. Regular maintenance can eliminate major problems, but sometimes issues occur that need to be fixed. In many cases, you can easily diagnose the problem.

Here Are Some Typical Hot Water Heater Problems:

Water Temperature Problems

When water is too hot or not hot enough, the solution is to change the temperature of the water. On the front of the water heater is the temperature dial. It is used to increase or lower the temperature. If the water is now at a comfortable level, then there is nothing else to do.

Not Enough Hot Water

If you frequently run out of hot water, then your tank may be too small. Upgrading to a larger tank is one way to increase the volume of hot water in your home. Another option is a tankless hot water heater. These units heat the water as it goes through the system so you always have hot water.

Discolored Water

If water is discolored, it’s usually the result of mineral deposits such as copper or iron in the source water. The best solution is using a whole house water filtration system. Another option is using a water softener.

Foul Smelling Water

If you notice that the hot water has a bad smell, you need to determine if it’s because of your source water or your water heater. If the cold water also has a bad odor, then the culprit is probably the source water. A water filter or water softener solves this problem. However, if only the hot water smells bad, the problem, most likely, is the water heater.

Sometimes the anode rod of the heater has a bad reaction with water which has a high level of sulfates. The solution is to completely flush the hot water tank. If this doesn’t work, you need to hire a professional to replace the anode rod.

With a storage water heater, you may face a few problems now and again. Although most issues are easily fixed, we recommend, that you call one of our plumbing experts for all your plumbing needs from routine checkups to installation of new equipment.

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What Are The Benefits Of A Tankless Water Heater?

If you feel that heating water in a big tank in your basement might be the main reason you’ve been paying huge energy bills, then you need to think in the direction of a tankless water heater system. Tankless water heaters (also called Instantaneous or demand-type water heaters) have myriad benefits, including but not limited to:

Energy Saving and Low Operating Costs

Although you are going to spend more to get a tankless water and the associated plumbing that is associated with it, your operating and maintenance costs down the line will make up for it. A tankless water heater is going to heat your water on demand or instantaneously—when you are in need for hot water. In other words, with a tankless water heater, you are not going to waste your money heating water in a tank that’s just lying idle for someone to heat it. What’s more, with a tankless water heater, you will not lose heat that’s sitting in the tank—tank that’s still going to lose heat and require constant heating even if there are insulations.

Lifespan Considerations

A typical tank that’s well cared for is supposed to last for between 10 and 13 years. On the contrary, tankless water heaters can last for up to 20 years. Accordingly, if you are planning to stay in your current residence for a while, tankless water heaters provide the best solutions. Even if you don’t plan to stay for long, tankless water heater options is going to provide you with an opportunity to amass overall cost savings for a new home.

Before pic tankless water heaterAfter pic tankless water heaterSpace Savings

Traditional water heaters are approximately 60″ tall and 24″ wide. Such a bulky metal is going to consume precious space in your home where space is a valuable commodity. In comparison, a tankless water heater can be 28” tall by 20” wide—the size of large computer.

McLay Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing is a trusted dealer and adviser on all matters plumbing and HVAC, and has been serving La Verne, California and neighboring areas since 1978. Follow us for tips on HVAC and plumbing as well as more articles that help you keep your home as comfortable as it should be.

Thermocouple Failure in Gas Water Heaters

If you have a gas water heater and the pilot light will not stay lit, it’s most likely due to a failed thermocouple that will need to be replaced.  Thermocouple failure is a common problem with residential gas water heaters.

gas water heater part | thermocouple The thermocouple is a thermoelectric device that shuts off the gas supply to the water heater if the pilot light goes out.  Its function is simple but very important for safety.  The thermocouple generates a small amount of electrical current when it has been heated by the flame.  This small amount of electric current keeps the pilot gas valve open.  If the pilot light goes out, the electrical current stops and the gas valve closes.  Simply put; no flame, no gas flow.

Not all gas water heaters have a thermocouple. Some newer models have an advanced temperature control system. Essentially, it is a microprocessor that constantly monitors and controls burner operation and maintains consistent and accurate water temperature levels. The flashing LED indicates that the pilot is on.

If you have a gas water heater with a thermocouple failure, and the water heater is under warranty, you can contact the manufacturer of the water heater and request a free replacement part. It is important to have the model number and serial number available when you contact the manufacturer.

Unfortunately, you will most likely have to wait for shipment of the thermocouple, which may take several days. If you are like most people and you do not want to live without hot water for several days, you may decide to replace the part without going through the warranty claim process. Instead, you may opt to purchase a universal thermocouple rather than wait for the manufacturer’s part to arrive. However it is important to note that it is most likely that the universal thermocouple is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty and this is an expense you would need to pay for should you opt not to wait for shipment. Universal thermocouples are commonly stocked for most models. It is important to verify that your model of water heater can utilize a universal thermocouple.

A very important factor to remember if you have a thermocouple failure:   replacing a thermocouple involves the use of gas, it is best to have the repair made by a professional plumbing company.

The following are important functions that a professional plumber should check before replacing a thermocouple:

  1. Check connection at combination thermostat/gas valve. Proper tightness should be finger tight plus ¼ turn.
  2. Inspect thermocouple to ensure that it is fully engaged into pilot bracket.
  3. Adjust tip of thermocouple to be fully engulfed by pilot flame.
  4. Check ECO/TCO continuity and replace combination thermostat/gas valve if necessary.
  5. Check magnet operation and replace combination thermostat/gas valve if necessary.
  6. Determine cause of switch activation.
  7. Check thermocouple for thermocouple failure and replace if necessary.

When replacing a thermocouple, it is imperative to remember that the thermocouple cannot have any kinks in the copper tubing and overtightening the thermocouple will short the electrical signal to the gas control valve causing malfunction of the device.

McLay Services would be happy to help with your repair and rest assured, our certified technicians are experts you can trust. We carry stock of the universal thermocouple and can help you restore hot water to your home quickly.