Troubleshooting a Propane Water Heater

Hot water isn't much thought about until something goes wrong with the propane water heater. Then, all of a sudden, the importance of a hot water heater tends to take center stage. With a quick fix or two, the water heater can be back to normal without a professional or much added expense. In certain situations a professional is needed, especially if troubleshooting has been done and results are reoccurring.

Gas Connection

When the water heater is cycling and turning on, but for some reason the water isn't hot, there is a problem with the propane connection or heating burner. Before assuming the worst, check the propane level in the tank outside the house. Sometimes the propane doesn't need to be completely empty for equipment malfunctions. If the level is empty or extremely low, refill the propane before trying other options. If the tank is adequately full, check to make sure connections are securely fastened and not damaged both outdoors and to the tank inside.

After checking the tank and connections, proceed to checking the pilot light. Open the water heater compartment door to see if the pilot light is blueish-green and going strong within the burner. If there is no light or an extremely weak one, turn off the gas and wait 30 minutes to allow the gas to fully dissipate and not cause an explosion. After 30 minutes, try to manually light the pilot light. If the pilot light ignites strongly all is well. If the pilot cannot be lit or is still weak a professional will need to be called to install a new thermocouple and pilot control valve.

Smelly Water

Smelly water can be quite off-putting, especially in the shower or when cooking. To fix the problem, purchase a small dose of chlorine which is drinking-water safe and add it directly into the water heater tank. The chlorine will not harm the interior of the water heater and the water can still have potable use as long as the chlorine is drinking-water safe.

Dirty Water or Particulate Matter in the Water

Water will become dirty or contain particulate matter when the sediment levels begin to get too high. In this instance, the sediment inside the heater is reaching levels where it becomes flushed out into the hot water supply. To mitigate the issue, the sediment buildup needs to be removed from the tank to maintain adequate functioning of the water heater. Shut off the water source to the heater and the house. Unscrew the base water connection and drain all water from the tank. Once empty, flush the tank with clean water until it runs clear.

Hot Water Delay

If the hot water is taking a long time to return after use, often sediment has built up. Flush the water heater as above. If water is returning, but often not hot enough there could be a problem with the burner connection and a professional should be sought.