A water heater is a simple appliance but one that can make taking a shower miserable when it is broken. Here is how to fix a water heater or at least how I did it.
There are only a few things that can go wrong with a water heater. If the tank itself is leaking, it’s time to get a new one. But if your water heater is leak free but just not heating your water, it can be fixed.
My pilot light kept going out and the hot water didn’t seem to last very long anymore so I thought I would replace the thermocouple. The thermocouple is a device made from different types of metals that react to heat. When it is heated it sends an electrical single to the gas control valve to inform it of the presence and temperature of the flame. Thermocouples are easy to replace. I just unscrewed the old one along with pilot tube, burner and igniter from the control valve and replaced. The older style water heaters had a single thermocouple that could be replaced on its own. These newer style water heaters have a combination of thermocouple, pilot tube and igniter all together.
After replacing the thermocouple, the pilot light would still not stay lit for very long and the hot water was still only lasting a few minutes. So I got online and ordered a new gas control valve. The control valve controls the gas flow to the burner. As the temperature of the water goes down a thermostat decides when it is time to light the burner. Replacing the control valve is a bit more time consuming than just replacing the thermocouple. First, I had to drain the water which took a couple of hours. To do this I had to turn off the gas, turn off the water, then place a hose on the drain valve and open it. When the drain was opened the water was not flowing so I unscrewed the pipe to the inlet on the water heater. This started the water flow and took about two hours to fully drain. After the water heater was drained, I disconnected the thermcouple, pilot tube, igniter and burner from the control valve. Then I was able to unscrew the control valve with a large pipe wrench. Putting it back in was the same procedure in reverse.
Once everything was hooked back up, I filled the water heater, purge the air from the lines by opening the faucets and then re-lit the pilot. Bingo! After waiting for the water to heat up, I tried it out and everything was back to normal.
Water heater repairs can be dangerous if not done properly. If you are uncomfortable doing water heater repairs, please call a professional plumber.