First things first, a basic understanding of water heaters. The gas water heater has many parts. The primary parts are as follows:
- Water shut off – On cold water inlet. Shuts off water supply
- Gas shut off – On gas piping withing 4 feet of gas valve. Shuts off gas supply.
- Gas valve – At base of water heater. Controls burner assembly.
- Relief valve – On upper side of the water heater drain pipe. Relieves excessive water pressure.
- Burner assembly – Inside base of water heater. It heats the water.
- Sacrificial anode – Long metal rod inside water heater. Protection from corrosion.
- Flue exhaust – Metal vent pipe on top of water heater. The “chimney”.
- Flame arrestor – On bottom of burner chamber. Protection from explosions.
- Drain valve – At base of water heater. Allows draining of water heater.
- Thermal switch – On front plate of burner chamber. Protection from external flammable gases and burner chamber overheating.
The most common water heater repair plumbers do is the thermocouple replacement. The thermocouple is simply a flexible bi-metal wire with a sensor at the end that sits in the pilot flame at all times. It senses the pilot flame. If the pilot light goes out it usually means the thermocouple sensor tip has carbon build up. Replacing the thermocouple is your best option. You can get one at your local hardware store or have the professional master plumbers at Advocate Master Plumbing make the repair.
Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve Repair
When our plumbers get a call for a leaking water heater, they will ask if the drip is coming from the drain pipe to the side of the water heater. The temperature & pressure relief valve (t & p valve) will drip when excessive pressure or temperature are involved. The valve protects the water heater from the damaging effects of excessive pressure. When they begin to drip it’s best to have a plumber diagnose the cause. Usually the temperature being set on the gas valve thermostat is too high or a failed water pressure reducing valve or thermal expansion tank are the culprits. Replacing the t & p valve only fixes the symptom of the problem. And you would never want to plug the t & p valve even temporarily. This bypasses the safety valve and creates a real danger of rupturing the tank.
Leaking Water Shut Off Repair
A drip from the nut at the base of the water shut off to the water heater is very common. This is also the easiest to fix. The packing nut is at the base of the stem of the handle on the water shut off. It sometimes needs to be tightened. Only tighten it slightly. There’s only so much room for tightening. When you run out of room you have to replace it. An adjustable wrench or pliers will be all you need.