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New GE Gas Water Heater - Pilot won't stay lit until tank te  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 08:35 am
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mauvaisgenre
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First, let me say this is a great forum.  I've learned a lot this evening.  Thanks much to all the folks providing this service!

This past Aug I purchased a 50 gal GE natural gas water heater (PG50T09AVH00 with Smartshield) from Home Depot to replace an old Ruud water heater (both actually Rheems, I guess?).  I don't know if this matters for the issue I'm having, but I also installed the GE water filter on the cold water side to keep the sediment to a minimum, and I replace the filter every 2 months.  On the hot side, I have a T coming off with a small ball valve and a line that runs to my humidifier.

The install went fine since both were gas water heaters.  The Ruud was old and the tank began to leak; that's why I swapped it out for a new tank (plus it was full of sediment, which my HVAC humidifier solenoid valve didn't like).

The GE water heater functioned perfectly until last week when the pilot went out.  I turned the thermostat to the lowest setting, turned the dial to off, waited the requisite 5 minutes, turned the dial to pilot, held the red button for 1 min, let go and the pilot stayed lit.  Then I turned the dial to the white line that indicates 120 deg, and all seemed well.

Approximately an hour later, I noticed the hot water wasn't very hot (only about 115 deg F, which isn't as hot as I'd like for my dishwasher).  I checked the hot water heater, and the pilot was out.  I went through the procedure of turning the thermostat to off, turning the temp all the way down, waiting, turning to pilot, holding the button, etc.  This time, however, the pilot went out when I released the button.  I tried this several more times, held the button longer, checked for water to the tank, probed this and that, read through the manual three times.  Still the pilot would not stay lit.

So I took a long shower that quickly turned luke-warm.  With renewed confidence, I went to the water heater and gave it another go.  Low and behold, the pilot stayed lit, and I was able to turn the water heater on, and again, I set it to 120 deg.

About 30 minutes later, I checked the pilot, just to be safe, and I found it was out.

I tried for the rest of the day to figure out what was happening with the system, if I had venting issues, if the thermocouple looked like it was in the flame properly (although difficult to see through the small glass window), and so on.  All I could figure out at the time was that if I waited long enough, I could relight the pilot and it would stay lit and the water heater would function "normally."  It would, however, go off in a rather short time if I didn't use hot water; it would take longer if I was running hot water.

Rather than continue with the narrative, I'll breakdown what I've found thus far:

*GE believed the problem was the thermocouple, so they sent a contracted master plumber out who borrowed my tools (at first asking for some pliers but then settling for my Torx set and some wrenches) and then replaced the thermocouple and in the process kinked the pilot gas line while trying to force out the thermocouple with a flat-bladed screwdriver.  The water heater would then not work at all until GE overnighted a replacement thermocouple, pilot gas line, piezo electric line, gasket seal kit, screws, etc.

*The master plumber replaced all of these lines, sealed the front cover, and the pilot lit, stayed lit, and the burner came on.  He believed the problem was solved, and I asked him to wait until the water heater cycled and turned itself off.

*It cycled, and when the flame went out, so too went the pilot.  The master plumber tried many things like holding the button, turning the knob to on while holding the button down, turning the thermostat as high as it would go while holding and then releasing the button, mashing the button more, etc--basically things that didn't make much sense to me, but . . . he probably had a long day.


*The master plumber told me that it didn't make any sense.  I asked him if it could be the thermostat, perhaps the safety magnets in the thermostat (although I'm not positive what those do since I don't have a schematic).  He said no, not the thermostat.  He also said it wasn't the gas pressure, wasn't the venting since my vent goes straight up and I had already tested that with smoke; it wasn't anything he thought it should be, and so he told me to call GE and have them figure it out; he'd done all he could do, short of installing a new water heater for me.  I had simply gotten "a bad one."

*I troubleshot the system throughout the evening and made the following observations:

-No matter what temp I set the thermostat on (between the warm and hot settings), the water heater would only heat to about 115 deg F (as measured at faucet; not very cold here, so I'm assuming that's about 120 or so at the tank).  When it would reach 115, the flame would go out, and the pilot would also go out.

-The pilot would not remain lit again until the temp at the faucet fell below 106 deg F.  At first I thought the pilot lighting again was time-dependent (I'd wait 30 min to an hour and then the pilot would stay lit), but it turned out the pilot staying lit was correlated to my use of hot water.  So this could be the water temp dropping or it could be some strange pressure phenomenon in the line.  I thought the temp-dependence made more sense.

-If I lit the pilot and got the burner going, I could physically turn the thermostat control down so the burner would go off, and the pilot would miraculously stay lit.  As long as the thermostat itself didn't detect the temp and turn off the burner, the pilot would remain lit.

-Ah, but here's an interesting piece of data:  If I set the thermostat below 106 (somewhere midway between the "warm" setting and the "vacation" setting), the thermostat could turn off the flame itself, and the pilot would stay lit.  Again, this seemed to point to some issue with the thermostat itself (either a bad safety magnet, which I'm assuming is the electromagnet inside the gas valve, or a bad thermopile--or whatever they're calling the thing that measures the temp and opens the main valve).  In the troubleshooting section of the manual, the safety magnet is suggested as the possible culprit for both phenomena--pilot not staying lit; burner going out too soon.

So, does anyone here know how one of these thermostats work or where I could find a schematic/diagram/anything that would help me understand--short of taking my thermostat apart?

Or am I totally on the wrong track here and missing something obvious?

Anyone know exactly what a safety magnet is on a newer thermostat and how it works?

Thanks much for reading my overly-long message, and my deepest appreciation to anyone who can put me on the track to fixing the water heater without having to void my warranty.  (I'd prefer the master plumber or some rep of GE/Rheem do the work since they are qualified, but I thought maybe I could speed them along since they've spent over 6 hrs tinkering with the water heater, and I've been 5 days without hot water.)

Please pardon any sarcasm as it relates to the master plumber or the GE reps.  I have nothing against these folks; they were all sincere (for the most part, although they bickered with each other on the phone quite a bit--a p-ssing contest, the plumber called it); they did appear rather dismissive of any data I provided them though, and they treated me like an ignorant home owner, although they were nice about it.  I don't necessarily mind being thought ignorant (or being ignorant) I'm just tired of not having hot water; I'm spoiled.  :)


Cheers, T



Last edited on Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 09:28 am by mauvaisgenre

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 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 01:28 pm
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mauvaisgenre
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UPDATE:

 

I've been reading about FVIR, and I think this might be the problem.

 

The water heater is installed in an elevated closet in the garage.  I have a vent above the water heater for fresh air intake (from the attic), but I don't have a lower vent, so I wonder if enough air is entering for the gas to burn correctly.  If not, then I'm assuming the thermocouple has a TCO (thermal cut-out) and this is knocking the burner and pilot out.  I found a very good article over this and the GE water heater, but my browser crashed and I lost it.  Basically the article said that the flame wasn't being contained properly, which was heating the chamber up too much and the thermal cut out was coming into play, which shut off the gas to the burner and pilot and then would not allow gas to flow again until the temp dropped below a certain point.

I've tried leaving the closet door open so the unit gets enough air, but I still have the same issues that I wrote about.  And when the unit was functioning properly, it was running with the door to the closet closed.  The only real change the last few weeks has been that the temp outside  has gotten a little colder.

Something new I've discovered:  After leaving the thermostat halfway between "warm" and "vacation" for several hours, I decided to move the setting bck to "warm."  I let the burner burn for a while, and then I turned the setting down.  This time when the burner went out, so did the pilot.  Before this episode, I could manually turn the thermostat setting, and the pilot would stay on when the burner went out.  Not this time.

I've also been reading about Corderite, and I wonder if I've gotten debris in my Corderite flame arrestor (assuming the GE is using Corderite).  I did notice that when the master plumber pulled out the burner assembly that I had ash or some sort of black debris in the chamber (not much, but there was something there).  The plumber didn't think this would cause a problem, so he didn't remove it, although I wanted to vacuum it out.

I would appreciate any further information (or links) about Corderite, FVIR, the behavior of the flame in the chamber and how that might set off the TCO, and in particular, any of this info as it pertains to the GE with Smartshield.

 

I found an article similar to the one I was reading but lost:  http://www.americanwaterheater.com/support/bulletins/TA_5001.pdf  This mentions the lazy flame that wanders around in the combustion chamber.

I'm wondering what a lazy flame looks like.  I have a nice blue flame, but it does seem to sway a bit, and now and then I get orange streaks through the blue.

Thanks again,

T

Last edited on Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 01:39 pm by mauvaisgenre

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 Posted: Sun Nov 4th, 2007 05:00 am
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eleent
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Hello:  Gas controls have an energy cut off (ECO) which, on newer heaters usually operates only once... then the control is dead.  Anyway, unless the master plumber can demonstrate that there is a problem with air supply or venting, it sounds like the gas valve is not behaving correctly and needs to be replaced.  If he's uncertain that'll work, you seem within bounds to push for a new heater.  You shouldn't need to do so much thinking about your water heater, unless you want to of course ;)

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Sat Nov 10th, 2007 08:06 am
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mauvaisgenre
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Hi Larry.  Thanks much for the answer.  If the ECO were to operate and shut off the gas, would I still be able to light the pilot and get flame after the tank cooled a bit?  Is it possible that the ECO went out in such a way that it is sensing abnormally high temps when really the temp is normal?  And then when the tank is cooler, the ECO isn't kicking in, so I still get gas?

I had an ECO on a small electric water heater tank in a Winnebago, which seemed primarily there to shut off power if the tank was being heated empty.  That ECO could be reset though.  I'm assuming the ECO in my GE gas heater couldn't be reset (or isn't designed that way)?  The thermostat in my GE is a Robertshaw Unitrol.

Well, I've been nearly 2 weeks without hot water--although I do have lukewarm water since it will burn for a while.  The master plumber went out of town, but they sent an HVAC tech (not certified, but working on it), and he's with me on replacing the thermostat.  He has one ordered, but he hasn't been able to get out yet to install it.

He agreed that it wasn't an air supply or venting problem, although for a while he kept insisting it was still my thermocouple--until I demonstrated how and why my thermocouple still worked.

I like to think about things--keeps me busy.  If I didn't have something to fix, I don't know what I'd do.  If this water heater weren't under warranty (or at least not under the 1 year labor/parts warranty), I'd have been in there taking it apart.  :)

Thanks again for all of your help, and I'll let you know how the thermostat replacement goes on Monday.

Cheers, Todd

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 Posted: Sat Nov 10th, 2007 09:07 am
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mauvaisgenre
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Looks like I was conflating FVIR and the TCO.  They don't seem directly related.

The other day, I saw what I think is the FVIR part that goes out when flammable vapors get inside the tank (or around the tank).  It is a glass vial in back of my burner and above what I'm assuming is Corderite.  So I assume when vapors are sensed, this glass vial breaks?  I really must do more research on these new hot water heaters.  And I should take apart my old thermostat to see how it works since I haven't found a schematic for one.

My manual makes a statement about a "Combustion Shutoff Device," and replacing this seems separate from replacing the thermostat, and I'm assuming the TCO is in the thermostat, so I wonder if this glass vial is the Combustion Shutoff Device?  And if so, replacing that doesn't look easy--it also seems to be full of a fluid, although I didn't get a good look at it when the plumber had the burner door off.

Well, the TCO failing (or not functioning properly) makes sense with regard to what's going on with my system, but on my water heater, the TCO seems to be what my manual is calling the "single use shut-off device," that once "opened," stays opened and must be replaced.  This device is located on the thermostat (as is the "safety magnet"), so I'm hoping once the thermostat is replaced, all is well.

I really wish these new manuals came with schematics of all the parts to the system.  That sure would help.

 Sorry for all the text.  Seems I must type to think.

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 Posted: Sat Nov 10th, 2007 02:18 pm
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elenano
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I've stayed out of this conversation because most of it is beyond my skill, but since you mention the glass vial, I thought I'd add a tiny bit I do know. On a Rheem/Ruud/Richmond/GE, if that vial breaks, you need a new tank. The thing can't be replaced.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Sat Nov 10th, 2007 10:50 pm
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mauvaisgenre
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"I've stayed out of this conversation because most of it is beyond my skill, but since you mention the glass vial, I thought I'd add a tiny bit I do know. On a Rheem/Ruud/Richmond/GE, if that vial breaks, you need a new tank. The thing can't be replaced."  --Randy Schuyler


Hi Randy.  That's what I thought.  I'd also read that on some other water heater forums.

Does that vial have a chemical in it (a fluid of some sort) that spills out onto the vapor barrier (which I'm assuming is Corderite)?

Does the tank not work at that point because the material essentially gets sealed, and the tank can't get any combustion air?  Or is there some other mechanism?

I couldn't think of anything (or see anything) that actually led from that vial to the thermostat/controller, so all I could figure was that it would shut down the tank by starving it of oxygen and then the thermostat would shut off the gas.  If that is the case, do you think it would be possible to mod the tank and pull out the vapor barrier, and if there is some sort of switch, to by-pass it (or somehow fool it to see whatever voltage or reistance or whatever it needs to see)?

 

Thanks again for you input.  Best, Todd

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 Posted: Mon Nov 12th, 2007 03:59 pm
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mauvaisgenre
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Turns out the problem I was having was that when they installed the thermostat at the factory in Mexico, they used a lot of pipe dope (a whole lot--it was everywhere), and when they pushed the thermostat through, they filled the plastic tube that covers the thermostat temp sensor.  After a while, the pipe dope hardened around the sensor and basically kept it from functioning properly.  The dope might have also picked up some sediment, but I do have a filter on the cold water side, so I don't think too much sediment was getting in, especially on a unit that's only a few months old.

 

Problem seems to be resolved.  My thanks to everyone for their help.

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 Posted: Thu Dec 6th, 2007 05:56 pm
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SeanO
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mauvaisgenre-

I'm having the exact same problem.  I also purchased a 50 gal GE natural gas water heater (PG50T09AVH00 with Smartshield) from Home Depot and the pilot will not stay lite.

 How do I know if the tank has over heated and the glass vial has broken?  Where do I look to verify?  Can you explain or send me to a "How To" link that solved your problem?

 

Thanks

SeanO

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 Posted: Fri Dec 7th, 2007 03:44 am
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eleent
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Hello:  Looking in the combustion chamber of your tank, you would see small bits of glass, if it had overheated...  Can I assume you light the pilot, it works for a bit, then dies?

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Fri Dec 28th, 2007 01:44 am
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dec4br
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I am now having a similar problem and the service tech is blaming venting on the tank as the problem. seems to think we should over a filter(ceramic). He cannot figure out how to clean the system and says I may need a new hotwater tank....

this seems to be a recurring line of thinking. Is there a possible problem with the GE water heaters?

I wonder if GE is working on a fix. this is a tank only 2 1/2 years old.

dennis :(

 

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 Posted: Sat Dec 29th, 2007 10:19 pm
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dec4br
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today I exchanged my hot water heater at HOME Depot. GE indicated that I would be able to exchange the whole unit for a new one.  I have hot water now....:)


 

I was able to look in the combustion chamber and see that the vile of liquid had indeed broken and shut down the tank forever.

 

This seems to be a great big waste of resources for a 2.50 part..:?
 

 

Last edited on Sat Dec 29th, 2007 10:21 pm by dec4br

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 Posted: Sun Dec 30th, 2007 01:15 am
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elenano
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I'm of that opinion, too. At least one other manufacturer uses a metal strip that melts if the spark-arrest function is needed. That can be replaced. If anybody from Rheem reads this board, I hope they'll start thinking about a better system.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2008 12:59 pm
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armits
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I am having the same problem with my brand new GE water heater.  The gas pilot will not stay lit.

The GE water heater was installed in October of 2007. It is model number PG40T09AVH00. It was manufactured in May of 2007.

I am unsatisfied with this GE water heater and want it replaced with a quality product. Would the others on this forum who have also had problems please let me know the process you followed to get satisfaction from GE? Please? Thank you in advance.

-Scott

 

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 Posted: Sun Mar 2nd, 2008 09:59 pm
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anony8000
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I'm having the same problem, bout same water heater 2 years ago at home depot as well, pilot keeps going out.  About to replace a universal thermocouple, would this void warranty?

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 Posted: Sun Mar 2nd, 2008 10:35 pm
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armits
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I can't tell you about the warranty. But I can tell you that in my situation the thermocouple was not the problem. It turned out to be the gas valve. I had it swapped and it's been fine ever since. 

Hope this helps.

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 Posted: Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 04:55 am
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anony8000
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Thanks for the response armits,

So you had the thermostatic gas valve replaced? (http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/pdfImage/ae272cf9-c91a-4e5a-bf70-6fed65bbd528.pdf   - User Manual for reference)

1) Was this a part supplied by GE Warranty, if so, how long did it take to receive it?

2) Did you replaced the gas valve yourself or did a professional do the work, If you did, was it difficult?  If a professional did, was it free of charge from GE Warranty?

Thank you in advance armits!

Danny

 

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 Posted: Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 12:29 pm
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armits
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In my case the work was done by a local professional that deals with GE. Since it was a warranty situation, it was all done free of charge. I had to initiate the service call direct with GE (which was a fiasco in in-of itself). GE then engages one of their local dealers. GE shipped me a new gas valve which was going to (and did) take a couple of days. I told them a couple of days was unacceptable. So we worked out a solution. The local company had the valve I needed, so they used their inventory it to get my water heater back online. When the GE valve arrived at my home, I drove it to their shop thus restocking the one they supplied in advance.

In order to replace the valve, the tank has to be drained of all its water. In my case, after the valve was replaced, one of the gas line fittings had a small leak. Even after the technician checked for leaks using the electronic leak detector. A few hours after he left we could still smell the odor that indicates a leak is present. So I turned the line off. Next morning the technician was at our home again. This time soapy water showed where the leak was. The fitting was tightened a little tighter and resolved the leak. It's been fine ever since.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 4th, 2008 12:14 am
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Ej
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GE offers on a standard warrenty 1 year service and parts will vary from 6 to 12 years depending on the heater.  Get on the phone with their tech department and they are very good at sending out parts if needed.

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 Posted: Fri Mar 7th, 2008 03:59 am
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anony8000
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Here is my update:

GE sent me the thermocouple, i replaced it and problem still there, the pilot still keeps going off.  I tried and tried, but pilot just wont stay on.  The only thing left is the thermostat/gas valve.

They overnight the part and I called a local tech to have it installed, was charged for the labor and sure enough, that fixed the issue.



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