Pilot light going out...no resolution so far


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Old 10-28-13, 06:50 AM
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Pilot light going out...no resolution so far

Please, I need advice.

Background: For over 2.5 years we have had an ongoing issue of our pilot light going out on our 50 gallon gas hot water heater. We live in a second floor condo. The hot water heater is in a closet inside the unit, the closet has a vent on the door for proper air circulation (other units have closets outside, but not ours). The pilot light would go out randomly (once ever couple months, or sometimes twice a month, or twice a week...very random). It seems that when it does go out it is a somewhat windy windy day--i think. I had lived in the unit for 4 years before I started having this issue. The only thing that has changed environmentally over the last couple of years around me is a condo building was built across the highway (yes, I live next to a highway...city living) about 150 yards away. I was told by my the maintenance guy at the condo complex that the floor above me has had the same problem (although I haven't talked with them) and they got a new hot water heater with a blower on top.

What we have done to try to fix it: I have had 3 plumbers out to look at, plus our maintenance guy. We replaced the thermocouple about 7 times since that was always their first answer, but that never seemed to fix it. I then had the entire burning unit and cover that goes over the area where the pilot light is lit replaced. I was told the tank itself is fine. Unfortunately, none of these things solved the issue. It went out once again yesterday, with a gas smell filling our apartment. The gas company came and said the pilot light was out and that was what caused the smell of gas. I had consulted a plumber a couple months ago and a maintenance worker here at the condo complex and they both think that air is getting down the flue pipe and pushing the flame out. It does make sense. I was told to get a new hot water heater (gas) with a blower on top (power vent, i think it is called?). I have also had a plumber offer to take the flue pipes apart and make sure there isn't a hole with air getting through--but if someone else had that issue too then it doesn't seem to be the problem. In addition the area in the closet is clean, not dirty (i had read that if it is dirty it can cause the light to go out).

I guess what I am asking from folks in this forum is. 1) do you think this will resolve the issue if we replace the hot water heater with one with a blower/power vent? I contacted the hot water heater manufacturer and she said that it may not solve it.
2) If that doesn't solve it then I am out of ideas. Please help if you can...feeling very frustrated.
3) what is the difference between a direct vent and power vent hot water heater?

I have attached two images. One is what the vent looks like outside the unit and the other is the new condo complex across the highway (brick building in the distance).
 
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Last edited by Mary Gooch; 10-28-13 at 07:23 AM. Reason: asking additional question
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Old 10-28-13, 05:02 PM
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No one can be sure that a new heater will solve the problem. If there is a chance that it's wind related, try to determine what has to be sealed. The new building certainly could have created a wind tunnel which would create suction on that side of the building. Where is the elevator shaft in relation to that closet?
 
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Old 10-29-13, 04:01 AM
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The elevator isn't close to our apartment or closet.

So, instead of getting a hot water heater with a blower on top of it, we should make sure it is sealed properly...? But, what would need to be sealed? I have had so many people out to look at it and only the maintenance guy here recommended we have the flue pipes taken apart and make sure there isn't a gap anywhere (yet, that would have nothing to do with the building across the street).

If it is a wind tunnel from the building then I guess our only option is an electric heater?
 
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Old 10-29-13, 04:29 AM
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what the make and model heater???

Is this a direct vent?
 
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Old 10-29-13, 04:48 AM
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Hot water heater - State Select, model number: PR650NBDSLW, 50 gallons

Not exactly sure what direct vent is, but there is a large round pipe going from the top of the hot water heater out the wall to the outside. One of the pictures attached is what it looks like on the outside.
 
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Old 10-29-13, 05:14 AM
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I never liked the direct vents...Yours is older that its an open burner with no FVIR technology so most likely not an combustion air issue..

Those direct vents are often plagued buy pilot issues from wind, but mostly when the house gets sealed in the winter and then draft issues occur...

Like opening of doors or turning on the HVAC ( Heat) etc......

The last resort would be to check the gas pressures if not already done. This would be to insure the gas valve is in spec and / or the gas regulator at the meter.....

Here is the manual...

http://www.statewaterheaters.com/lit...183774-001.pdf


How old is the unit?

Yes I would replace with a power vent... It will be noisy so let the tenant know if and when you change it. But That will be the best choice...
 
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Old 10-29-13, 05:16 AM
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State is made by AO smith....

I use and install them so when you replace I recommend AO smith... or Bradford white.
 
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Old 10-29-13, 06:05 AM
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Thanks for your advice.

I forgot to mention in the additional email that yes, the gas company came out and did check the gas pressures and they were OK. It doesn't go out all the time...it stayed on for 4 months before it went out the other day.

The closet with the hot water heater, is next to the sliding glass door/balcony, but we open that often and it doesn't go out. In addition, many of the other units in the complex have the closet outside, so if a wind was blowing the pilot out I would think it would be with those units!

What I don't understand is that there are 288 units just like mine and I seem to be the only one having this issue (or there are a select few on my row, as I have heard, but not yet confirmed).

The unit was built in 2003. I moved in in 2007 and started having issues around 2010. Ironically, I believe that is when the condo complex was finished across the highway from me.

Is the power vent hot water heater the one with the blower on top? Is that what makes it noisy? How often does the blower come on throughout the day (average)?

Would getting an ELECTRIC hot water heater solve the issue altogether?
 
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Old 10-29-13, 06:18 AM
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Yes an electric HWH will solve pilot issues but you need to run electric to the closet. That would be a 240 v line from the electrical panel...

Even with a power vent you will need to run a 120v line...

They both must be dedicated lines too...


Are the two front doors to the burner installed correctly on your water heater? I ask because some people leave them off and that creates problems...

The power vents come on when ever the unit needs to heat....If no use it may come on a couple times a day.
 
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Old 10-29-13, 12:43 PM
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Thanks. I guess I just need to have another plumber out.

The cover is on properly. That was one of the things we were told early on that could be causing it...which is why I ordered a brand new cover in case it was bent or something.
 
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Old 10-29-13, 03:52 PM
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I honestly can't see how a building that far away can cause a problem. What is it, like 1000' or so? No, I think it's safe to take that off your radar.
 
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Old 10-30-13, 10:10 AM
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I find it hard to believe too, but it is the only "new" thing and corresponds with the timing. I live on the second floor so there was nothing built/planted directly in front of me. Very frustrating situation.
 
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Old 10-30-13, 02:32 PM
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What's in the cellar & possibly the sub-cellar directly below you? I used to work in high rise office buildings where air shafts were used. That's why I asked where the elevators were.
 
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Old 11-09-13, 06:03 AM
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Pulpo--Directly below the hot water heater closet is the unit below's hot water heater closet.
 
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Old 06-20-14, 04:52 PM
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Craziness with pilot light

I have the same issue. Mine is a GE from Home Depot. GE sent me an entirely new burner and pilot assembly that goes in the sealed chamber. That solved nothing. Sometimes we will go 6 months to a year without an outage and then outages every day, sometimes multiple times a day, then nothing for months. Flu is clear, vents are clear. I have a gas furnace and range, range is piezo ignition for the cooktop electric element start for the oven. Furnace is standing pilot. Burner chambers on WH and furnace are sealed. Combustion air for furnace comes through B vent, WH combustion air comes through bottom of heater from under the house, I believe. Furnace NEVER goes out.
3 weeks no failure, then daily for a couple of days and then nothing for a while. GE has been no help. I have a feeling that this is a common problem.
Some of this I attribute to litigiousness, so many safety systems on a water heater makes them much more complicated than they used to be, so when something fails it isn't easy to determine why, maybe never. I don't think replacing the WH would do any good. I could buy that it was a venting, combustion issue, never had a problem with the old heater (same vent, same gas line, same combustion intake) replaced it when old tank leaked. Seems awfully sensitive.
We have gotten used to re-lighting it, unfortunately this seems ridiculous in modern society. I will eventually replace the entire unit out of frustration but a solution would be heavenly!!
 
 

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