Deep Thoughts on Water Heater Service by Ed Struck

Water Heater service

The service call came from an angry Mrs. Smith . “That water heater you sold me 5yrs ago is not working…. Every time my husband follows the instructions and lights the pilot the unit shuts down just as soon as the main burner ignites. I think you sold me lemon.”

Have you heard this complaint before? or “my last water heater lasted 15yrs and we never had a problem this one is nothing but problems”

Water Heater Changes in 2003 – The FVIR Becomes Law

Today’s residential water heaters are not what they used to be. Beginning in 2003 and continuing to today all residential water heaters under 75 gal must have FVIR technology. What this safety feature does is prohibit a flammable liquid from igniting if it is spilled in the vicinity of the heater. To accomplish this FVIR technology was developed.

FVIR stands for “flammable vapor ignition resistant “ although various manufactures have different ways of accomplishing this, they essentially all consist of sealing the combustion chamber of the heater and installing some form of flame arrestor which air must pass thru into the combustion chamber. In addition within the combustion chamber there is a safety that will shut down the heater if temperatures in the chamber get too hot, thus prohibiting ignition.

Water Heater serviceTherein lies Mrs. Smith’s problem and the problem many heaters of today particularly those heaters that are part of the 1st generation of FVIR heaters. To promote combustion air must get into the burner chamber; with air entering sufficiently a bowl shaped blue flame will be exhibited.

If this flame is not there or in the case of Mrs. Smith’s heater the pilot lights but as soon as the main burner comes on everything shuts down. IT is the flame arrestor that is dirty or at least something is causing an insufficient amount of air to get into the combustion chamber.

Clean any filter screens and depending on the manufacturer clean the flame arrestor itself using their methodology available on their web sites.

Important Maintenance Tips for Water Heaters 2-6 Years Old

The important thing to remember Residential heaters of today and particularly those installed 2-6yrs ago will require periodic service to make sure they have proper combustion. When installing a new water heater the customer should be informed that keeping the area around the heater free of dirt, dog hair , and lint will go a long way toward the heater functioning as it should and lessening the frequency of a service call for lack of hot water Even with cleanliness a periodic service may be necessary long before the heater starts leaking .

Ed Struck

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