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Common failure causes in gas water heaters

Gas hot water heaters might fail due to various reasons, such as:

  • Sediment buildup - The gradual accumulation of mineral residues and sediment at your storage tank’s base can cause your device to overheat, emit odd sounds, and succumb to corrosion.
  • Pilot light issues - A pilot light that frequently goes out or won’t stay lit may need repairing or replacing, often due to a blocked gas line, defective thermocouple, or a faulty igniter.
  • Gas valve defects - A faulty gas valve may restrict the proper gas flow to the burner, resulting in an insufficient hot water supply.
  • Thermostat issues: An inconsistent water temperature, often a sign of a malfunctioning thermostat, may lead to a lack of hot water.
  • Gas supply interruptions - A lack of gas flow can be due to problems with the gas line, meter, or connections to your heater, in which case contacting your utility company to restore service may be needed.
  • Excess pressure - Excessive water pressure might hinder the temperature and pressure relief valve from operating correctly, which impedes the heater’s ability to deliver more hot water efficiently.
  • Rust and corrosion - Old or poorly maintained heaters are prone to internal rusting and tank cracking over time.

Since natural gas and electric gas water systems contain many interconnected parts responsible for heating water, any issues with gas delivery, combustion, valves, controls, or venting can disrupt your hot water supply.

Troubleshooting pilot light and burner issues

Follow these steps to diagnose and fix water heater problems with your pilot light and burner in your water heater’s gas system:

  1. An inspection of the pilot light’s colour - A consistent blue pilot flame signifies appropriate combustion in your water heater gas system. A flickering yellow or orange flame suggests airflow blockage or incomplete gas burning.
  2. Inspect the pilot assembly and thermocouple carefully - Remove any dirt, soot or debris blocking the pilot. Ensure the thermocouple sensing bulb is engulfed in the pilot flame.
  3. Confirm adequate gas pressure - It’s prudent to check gas pressures with a gauge attached to the line to ensure it aligns with your appliance’s requirements.
  4. Examine the thermocouple - Disconnect wires and check for continuity with a multi-metre. Replace if defective.
  5. Assess the pilot orifice and Heating elements - Clear out any dust or residue clogging the orifice or burner ports.
  6. Verify ignition sequence - When the gas knob is turned to pilot, the igniter and gas valve should activate to ignite the pilot. If not, the igniter or gas valve likely needs replacing.
  7. Check flame sensor rod - Ensure the rod is properly positioned in the pilot flame path. Polish with steel wool or replace if excessively corroded.
  8. Inspect burner flame - Bluish flames touching the hot surface of the burner indicate good combustion. Lazy yellow flames suggest restricted airflow or a venting issue.

If troubleshooting doesn’t resolve pilot light or burner issues, and you’re left without hot water, it’s wise to contact professional plumbers for an assessment of your water system.

Diagnosing problems with gas valves and thermocouples

Gas valves and thermocouples, which water heaters use as critical components, work in tandem to control the gas flow and pilot ignition in a water heater, ensuring the unit efficiently heats up when needed, Ensuring no hot water your household relies on is always readily available. When these parts malfunction, it can lead to a variety of problems such as the pilot light repeatedly going out, or the burner on the water heater might suddenly fail.

How Gas Valves & Thermocouples Work

The gas valve opens to allow gas to flow to the burner when the pilot light is activated and the water heater thermostat calls for heat. Upon ignition of the pilot, as it heats the thermocouple, a small electrical signal prompts the gas valve to remain open, ensuring effective gas supply. If the pilot goes out, the thermocouple reacts to the temperature drop by safely closing the gas valve.

The thermocouple is a heat-sensitive device which plays a critical role when the pilot light is active.

Diagnosing Gas Valve Issues

A gas valve that fails to open properly could indicate a malfunction that requires attention, particularly when you need heating. To avoid disruptions in hot water heating, troubleshoot potential gas valve issues as follows:

  • Listening for a click when adjusting the thermostat - if not heard, it could indicate a stuck valve, preventing gas flow.
  • Checking for low or fluctuating gas pressure at the valve inlet.
  • Assessing for failed coils or magnets in the gas control valve if electronically controlled.
  • Testing for continuity between valve terminals; you might uncover the need replace it if found to be defective.

Diagnosing Thermocouple Problems

A faulty thermocouple may lead to repeated pilot light outages. To investigate potential thermocouple issues:

  • Verify the tip is properly positioned in the pilot flame path.
  • To diagnose thermocouple issues, turn hot water tap and check for any faulty wiring connections or breaks in the circuit.
  • Conduct a continuity test between thermocouple terminals - address the problem your device faces if there’s no continuity when hot.

Prevent gas-related issues including carbon monoxide hazards: If you detect the scent of gas when troubleshooting, which could hint at a gas leak, immediately switch off gas supply and seek a professional’s aid.

Addressing heating element failures

The heating element within a gas water heater tank is engineered to efficiently warm incoming water, maintaining steady water supply. It works together with the pilot light and burner to ensure adequate hot water supply.

Symptoms of a Failed Heating Element

A failing or burnt-out heating element, which can caused by a power surge tripping the circuit breaker, may result in issues such as:

  • Warm water when hot is expected
  • A lack of hot water production
  • Rumbling or bubbling sounds emanating from the tank

Checking the Heating Element

To scrutinise a heating component, ensure you’ve precisely followed these steps to see your heating element checked:

  1. Turn off power to the water heater
  2. Drain the tank halfway to inspect the dip tube condition
  3. Remove the access panel
  4. Check your heating element thoroughly for any cracks or breaks
  5. Test resistance with a multi-metre
  6. Compare to manufacturer’s specs

Corrective Actions

If the heating element is defective, consider replacing it to ensure continuous functionality. Frequent cycling on and off can lead to early wear. Adjust the thermostat to 120°F (50°C) if you’re not using much hot water, to optimise efficiency.

Dealing with leaks, rust, and tank failures

Identifying water heater issues such as leaks, rust, or insufficiently sized tanks is critical to avoiding severe failures or water damage. Be alert for common water heater concerns, such as surprising instances of cold water:

  • Visible leaks with water pooling around the hot water heater
  • Rusty coloured or discoloured water
  • Clanging, rumbling, or banging noises
  • Lower water pressure
  • Lukewarm water temperature

Identifying Leaks

Inspect around your tank, pipes, valves, fittings, and connections for any drips or moisture. Catching small leaks now prevents bigger issues later. Rust stains may also indicate tiny leaks.

Dealing with Rust and Corrosion

While some surface rust is normal, excessive corrosion can lead to leaks, bad tasting water, and even pinhole heater tank failures. Drain and flush the tank annually to control sediment and rust, which can also enhance system efficiency. Install an in-line filter on your water tank if rust particles persist.

Recognising Tank Deterioration

Electric hot water storage tanks, with a typical lifespan of 10-15 years, may ultimately corrode and leak despite regular maintenance. If you’re pondering 'do I have a tank failure?' due to its age, evident leakage, or other signs, promptly shut down your gas electric supply and water lines. Plan for professional replacement to prevent flood risks.

When professional repairs may be needed

After exhaustive troubleshooting of your gas or electric water heater, if you still face hot water issues, it’s advisable to consult a local professional.

The following hot water system issues usually necessitate professional expertise and equipment:

  • Pilot light that goes out repeatedly despite troubleshooting
  • Burner or heating element not igniting
  • A faulty gas valve or thermocouple requiring replacement might be necessary to resume normal operation.
  • Thermostat problems affecting water temperature
  • Suspected leaks, tank rust or failures requiring replacement
  • Not enough hot water supply or inconsistent pressure
  • Strange noises such as rumbling or banging

For precise diagnosis and proficient repairs ensuring that your appliance consistently keeps the water flowing warmly in your abode, get in touch with our team at Picnic Point Plumbing.

Our team of licenced technicians can accurately diagnose issues and restore your hot water flow swiftly.Reach out by phone on 1300 349 338, email us at jobs@picnicpointplumbingservices.com.au, or book an appointment with your to schedule an inspection.

Maintenance tips to extend water heater lifespan

Regular maintenance helps both traditional and tankless water heaters deliver reliable hot water over a prolonged period. To extend the lifespan of your water heater, consider these proactive maintenance tips:

  • Annually drain and flush the tank to prevent sediment buildup, a common issue.
  • Inspect the anode rod and replace if worn out
  • Examine and tighten water pipe fittings and valves if they leak
  • Verify flue pipes and chimney have no obstructions impeding airflow
  • Ensure adequate draught for complete combustion - a steady pilot flame is essential
  • Consider a heat trap on the hot water line to reduce cycling frequency
  • Set your thermostat to the necessary level, typically 120°F (50°C), for efficiency
  • Make sure to check pressure relief valve piping and drain pan yearly
  • Maintain a clear area around the heater, free from flammable materials to avoid complications.

An annual inspection by a qualified technician can help catch minor problems with water systems before they escalate. Contact us today at Picnic Point Plumbing for proficient maintenance or repairs, upholding the safe and efficient operation of your water heater.

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