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Burner carbon build-up and gas smell  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Fri Jul 30th, 2010 06:32 am
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rhombus
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My John Wood gas water heater (1994) has started giving off a very mild gas smell when operating.

I had the gas company come by and inspect it. The inspector said there was carbon build-up on the burner. We would have to either 1. replace the water heater or 2. have a gas-fitter come and clean it. He made it sound as though that wasn't commonly done.

I decided to make an attempt at cleaning it myself. With a toothbrush and a metal implement, I knocked off the carbon, then vacuumed it up with a crevice tool.

I restarted the heater and, apart from a whiff when the burner was first ignited, couldn't smell gas. My brother says he is able to smell it, though it is again very, very mild.

I took a photograph of the burner in operation. I am by no means an expert, but the flame did look strange to me.

1. It is not uniform around the burner.
2. It is not blue.
3. There is a flame directly above the gas jet. Is that normal? When we first lit it and for several minutes afterwards, there was no flame there.

What's going on here? Is this normal behaviour, or do we need to do something? If so, what?

Thanks for any wisdom!


Attachment: IMG_2426_crop.jpeg (Downloaded 30 times)

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 Posted: Fri Jul 30th, 2010 06:49 am
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sky_tech
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I'm sure the real experts will respond soon, but it definitely looks wrong and looks to my (non-expert) eye like you may have insufficient gas pressure. The flame should be primarily blue and should not extend below the burner.

Like I said, though, someone knowledgeable will likely respond quite soon.


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 Posted: Fri Jul 30th, 2010 07:33 am
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eleent
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Hello:  While we're waiting for the real know how, I'll respond and suggest you might want to remove the baffel and clean the flue.  Soot build-up on these things will prevent good drafting and give you the lazy flame in the photo.

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Fri Jul 30th, 2010 04:18 pm
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rhombus
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Hmn -- interesting thought about the flue. The pilot light went out during the winter. The gas inspector was called in and told us it was due to "insufficient combustion air", which didn't make sense to me, as the house is incredibly drafty. But it had occurred to us that maybe snow had blocked the flue, or something along those lines.

Cleaning the flue is something that has to be done by a professional, does it not? I'd really be out of my depth there, I think.

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 Posted: Fri Jul 30th, 2010 06:01 pm
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eleent
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Hello:  Flue cleaning is not hard but it is dirty.  You'll need a shop vac.  Turn gas to pilot.  Remove draft hood and vent pipe.  Hose out the vent pipe (outside!)  Pull baffel up and out, but in doing so, rotate it in the flue, bang it around a little.  This will help clean off the soot which will fall down onto the burner.  Take baffel out and hose it off.  Water does a nice job of getting rid of soot.  Vacuum out the combustion chamber.  If you want to get technical, remove the burner assembly and carefully hose out the burner assembly ABOVE the main orifice.  The point being to clean any soot out of the steel/cast iron burner, while keeping the rest dry.  Otherwise, just vacuum it in place. 

If things go a certain way, you'll look like a coal miner when you're done, but the heater will burn with a nice blue flame :cool:  If it does not, gas pressure is the next thing to check.

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Sat Jul 31st, 2010 01:55 am
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rhombus
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Hello: Flue cleaning is not hard but it is dirty. You'll need a shop vac. Turn gas to pilot. Remove draft hood and vent pipe. Hose out the vent pipe (outside!) Pull baffel up and out, but in doing so, rotate it in the flue, bang it around a little. This will help clean off the soot which will fall down onto the burner. Take baffel out and hose it off. Water does a nice job of getting rid of soot. Vacuum out the combustion chamber. If you want to get technical, remove the burner assembly and carefully hose out the burner assembly ABOVE the main orifice. The point being to clean any soot out of the steel/cast iron burner, while keeping the rest dry. Otherwise, just vacuum it in place. If things go a certain way, you'll look like a coal miner when you're done, but the heater will burn with a nice blue flame :cool: If it does not, gas pressure is the next thing to check.
So -- all of this is happening in the water heater enclosure itself?

And how would I get the burner assembly out? The only way that I could see of doing that was to empty and disconnect the heater completely, then turn it upside down -- but that seems insane. These things should be repairable.


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 Posted: Sat Jul 31st, 2010 02:18 am
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eleent
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Hello:  If you have a tight water heater enclosure, it makes getting the baffle out harder.  As for the burner assembly, there are three nuts to take loose.  These are pilot, thermocouple and gas to main burner.  With those undone, the burner slides out, so only it gets turned upside down.  If this is not in your comfort zone, get help!

I encourage folks to install equipment as though they will have to maintain it, but sadly, water heaters get crammed into barely accessible, cramped places.  It challenges the creativity sometimes :?

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Sat Jul 31st, 2010 07:38 am
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undee70ss
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eleent wrote:
I encourage folks to install equipment as though they will have to maintain it, but sadly, water heaters get crammed into barely accessible, cramped places.  It challenges the creativity sometimes :?

Yours,  Larry


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