I recently had a call where a customer had a Rheem water heater where the pilot wouldn’t stay lit and would go out every day. Every day she would have to go downstairs, light her pilot and wait for the water to heat up. The tank was brand new and she would keep getting the same trouble code on the gas valve control. Angry that she purchased a bad water heater, she contacted home depot, (to spite the giant decal on the front of the water heater clearly stating not to go back to where you purchased the water heater from) and they advised that she would have to contact the manufacturer. (also stated right on the front of the water heater) She finally got the manufacturer on the phone and described the situation and the unfortunate manufacturer representative gave in and advised that they could replace the faulty gas valve. Then the representative found out that the tank was not installed by a professional contractor and the manufacturer reluctantly advised the woman that they could not honor any warranty on the part. After speaking to a manager however, she was finally able to get the new gas valve sent to her home at no cost. (never under estimate the power of an angry woman, the strongest of men have buckled under the pressure!) she get’s the new valve and realizes that she can not install it on her own, and calls my company.

I show up to install a labor quoted gas valve replacement and the woman explains the story outlined above. I apologized for her unfortunate bad luck but congratulate her on getting that gas valve! We then walk downstairs and she shows me to the water heater. I took one look at this installation and i knew right away that a new gas valve wouldn’t solve her issue. The water heater had been replaced by a home owner prior to her purchase of the home and clearly the home owner had just enough experience to be dangerous and that’s just was this water heater was. Dangerous. The actual photo of the install below shows it all. A non-power vented water heater relies on gravity to pull the exhaust out through the chimney. So, if you don’t have enough rise in the flu pipe, the draft will reverse and send carbon monoxide out of the top of the tank and into the home. Lucky for her, this water tank had a safety that would trip and shut the pilot off when this this happened, which was what she believed was a malfunctioning gas valve! I asked if she had a carbon monoxide detector and she advised that she did not! I gave this client one off my truck because no home should be without one and it for sure would have been sounding the alarm here!

photo of improperly installed water heater flu pipe courtesy of FixMyFurnace.com
photo of improperly installed water heater flu pipe courtesy of FixMyFurnace.com

As you can see from the photos above, we have several issues with this flu pipe installation. First, we have an immediate 90 degree elbow straight from the top of the water heater. This alone would have caused issues. Next you add in a few more 90 degree bends and ZERO degrees of rise until just before it rises to meet the next issue with this flu installation. A tee. A tee is not optimal for this application and causes the exhaust gases to run right into the flu pipe wall. The correct attachment here would be a “Y” pipe adapter. A “Y” adapter allows the flu gases to flow smoothly as it transitions to the main flu pipe.

I corrected the flu pipe installation (shown in the photo below) and this resolved the issue.

photo of corrected flu pipe installation with proper rise courtesy of FixMyFurnace.com

The moral of the story here, is to always consult with a professional before attempting any installation on your own and don’t rush to conclusions. Many people talk to one person (usually not a professional) or watch one youtube video and think they have it figured out, only to find themselves buying parts they don’t need and causing more time and frustration which could have been siolved by talking to a pro or having a professional do the work for them. If you think you may be getting in over your head or are thinking about throwing a guess at what is wrong with your equipment so you can save money, Try talking with one of our professional HVAC technicians through live video chat by clicking the VIRTUAL DIAGNOSTIC button below. Chances are, we can save you a ton of time, money and frustration!

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