Bradford White Water Heater

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I have a gas one and it is giving me fits! Our old one began leaking on New Year's Eve perhaps 3 years ago. I can't remember for sure. Had problems ever since with it. Would not stay lit. I called repair once and he replaced the thermocoupler which I've been told is the most common reason why they won't stay lit.
That wasn't the problem and I found myself lighting it over and over again to the point where I had to light it 6 times in one day. I gave up and called the plumber again. I had been putting this off as they charge $250 just to come out, then parts, then of course their service fee.
This time they worked on it for a series of about 2 days, replacing one thing and another. The guy said there was some sort of updraft problem and that the only thing they didn't replace was the roof vent.
They had one more part coming but they were sent the wrong thing so they decided to just give me a new water heater.
Then I noticed that the older new one had dents all over it in places I couldn't see where it was installed. The guy had a problem getting it in the small space as the models they make these days are a lot wider. I thought perhaps he might have damaged it in some way in installing it.
So now I have the new one. But... It too has problems staying lit! It was going out about every 2-3 weeks. Then the last time I had extreme trouble getting it lit. Someone (perhaps here?) suggested a website which I went to and also ordered a book from. In the book and also on the internet, it says to light these, you need to depress the pilot light button and then the igniter switch 10-15 times while still holding the pilot light button down. This after shutting it off for 5 minutes to clear out the gas.
Well, I did that and it stayed light for a long time. Several months. But now it went out again! It's very annoying as it only seems to happen right when someone needs to take a shower.
I just had a new roof put on, explained the problem to the roofer and asked him to put on a new vent. Which he did. So...
Why is it doing this? I did have the garage door open yesterday for many hours because I was doing a big clean out. But... We had hot water through the night and early this morning. Not sure when it did go out as I didn't get into the shower until afternoon and I could tell by the lukewarm water that it was out again.
Do you think it could just be the way that my house sits? That somehow the wind, even if not strong could be putting it out? Weird thing is, we lived in this house for several years with the old water heater and it never went out. Not sure what that one was. Never really needed to look at it until it did have a problem.
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what did the manufacturer say when you called them about this problem?
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On Thursday, June 19, 2014 6:37:50 PM UTC-5, Julie Bove wrote:

Many newer units have thermopiles rather than thermo-couples...and some, usually commercial units, have 2 thermopiles to operate a motorized flue damper. The most important thing for both is "flame spread" on the thermo-couple/pile.
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BenDarrenBach wrote:

Some gas valves have pilot flame adj. screw under a cap. Check it out. Try adfjusting the position of flame nozzle. Your heater is new and it has pilot??? Once I read an article if all the pilots are off in every residence in U.S. The saved amount of NG could heat entire NYC. Think about that.
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It has a pilot but I don't think I can get at it. Seems to be in there pretty far.
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Well, I'm pretty sure this has the thermocoupler as it was replaced on the other one and they look the same.
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Julie Bove wrote:

Is the pilot flame envelop is good to cover the thermocouple to stay active? And I gather the access door(cover) to the pilot is in place.
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I don't really know what that means nor where the pilot light is.
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Julie Bove wrote:

Hi, Leaking? Where from? How old is the heater? Leaking water drops can douse pilot. I think that's what is going on. New ones don't even have pilot. They are trying to fix it? Told you what is wrong other than thermocouple?
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This one is not leaking. Our old one that was in here when we bought the house. We had it replaced. We had nothing but trouble with the replacement unit so they replaced that. No fee for the replacement one but a helluva lot of money to have it installed. I am just annoyed that I have to keep relighting it so often.
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Julie Bove wrote:

Is the pilot light staying steady, not flickering or dancing around? Does it get worse when windy outside?
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I can't even see the pilot light. I think it is deep inside. It's windy now but I don't think it was prior to it going out.
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Julie Bove wrote:

??? how could you light it then?
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On 6/20/2014 4:07 PM, Tony Hwang wrote:

Quoting Julie Bove: In the book and also on the internet, it says to light these, you need to depress the pilot light button and then the igniter switch 10-15 times while still holding the pilot light button down. This after shutting it off for 5 minutes to clear out the gas.
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On Thursday, June 19, 2014 7:37:50 PM UTC-4, Julie Bove wrote:

If it's not the thermocouple, the things left that I see are:
A - the pilot nozzle. But if that were a problem then when it's lit you should see an abnormal flame, too small, etc
B - Somehow an excessive draft is blowing it out.
I gave up and

You need to find a different plumber. $250 just to come out and then a service fee too?

I'd read the manual for the unit you actually have, not some book you have to order. I've never heard of pressing an igniter switch 10 -15 times, but who knows.

Without knowing how air gets into the WH area, what blowers, eg furnace blower sucking air?, how the venting is done, etc, impossible to say.
I did have the garage door open yesterday for many

Is the WH in the garage?
But... We had hot water through

If it went out the prior day, it would be normal to still have hot water until the next morning, depending on the usage.
Not sure when it did go out as I didn't

This kind of thing is hard to diagnose without seeing it or at least more info. One thing does come to mind though. Idiots were blowing themselves up with WHs by using things like gasoline to clean the basement floor or pouring paint thinner all over the place. To protect idiots from themselves, the govt passed new rqts for WHs maybe 5 years ago. They are required to have a design where the flames or pilot light, etc can't ignite volatile fumes that you fill the basement with. It's possible something to do with that makes new ones more susceptible to having the pilot light blow out. Or it could just be that the make and model you have is more sensitive to it.
Did you call the WH manufacturer and ask them?
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That's the going rate here in WA. This is the third company I've called. They're all the same.

Furnace? We have no furnace or any blowers that I know of. But... There is a fan in the garage. I am not sure where it is or what it does. I only know where the switch is. It works sometimes, sometimes not. Just for the heck of it, I did have it on for several hours to see if it made a difference in the dampness in there. It didn't seem to. And then it quit working again.

My husband gets up early and takes at least an hour long shower. So I know it had to have been lit then or he would have hollered.
The water for my shower started out hot but rapidly cooled to barely warm.

Nope. Every person I ask about this just tells me to replace the thermocoupler. I guess I could see if I could find a way to contact them.
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On Friday, June 20, 2014 12:45:41 AM UTC-4, Julie Bove wrote:

That sounds pretty bad. I'm in NJ, so I'm used to high prices, but $250 just to show up sounds very high to me. And that doesn't even include the first hour of labor?
If you're dealing with those rates, it changes the equation. Maybe it's time to just get a new WH and cut your losses. If you do get a new one, I'd get one that doesn't have a standing pilot light. They have newer, higher efficiency etc ones that light using electronic ignition. They do need to be plugged in to AC and I'm not sure if there are tradtional vent ones or if they are all direct vent, but if it comes to that, it's one solution.

You're telling us the manual for your water heater doesn't tell you how to light it? That you had to buy some kind of book or rely on online information from other than the manufacturer? That would be a first.
Not that it matter in terms of the pilot going out, because once it's lit, it doesn't matter how it got lit. What does the manual say about venting, size of vent, length of vent, etc? If you can post some pics of what you have there, we could at least get an idea of how it's vented.

You don't say what kind of fan this is, but if you're 100% certain it wasn't turned on, working etc when the pilot goes out, we can rule that out.

Garage door open for hours, hot water is gone next AM. Was it windy?

There's your problem. He wore the poor thing out.....

I'd say it's still very possible that the WH pilot actually went out the day before. They don't create hot water on demand, that's why they have a 40 or 50 gallon tank. Taking a shower, even a long one, you're still mixing hot with cold, greatly reducing how much hot you actually pull. Your husband could have used most of it up, then it ran out with your shower. I could take a couple of my typical morning showers with it off before running out the hot water.

That would be the most common cause of a pilot light going out. But you say the thermocouple has been replaced at least once and it still goes out. The other possible causes would be:
partially obstructed pilot orifice bad gas valve problem with draft/ backdraft blowing it out leaking water dripping on it and putting it out
I think we can rule out the last one, because if it were leaking there should be evidence of that by now with all the service calls, etc
You would think the obstructed orifice would have been easily seen by now too. It's easy to observe the pilot light, at least in all the older ones I've seen. You just have to take off the small outside cover and remove an inner metal shield. If it were me, that's what I would do or get your husband to do. Someone needs to take a good look at what the pilot light flame looks like when it's lit. It should be uniform and covering the end of the thermocouple to heat it. If the thermocouple cools, the gas gets shut off.
And the flame should be relatively steady, not wildly dancing around. If it's behaving erratically, I would look for drafting problems. That would be my first suspicion, especially since it's in a garage and you said that the day before you lost hot water, you had the garage door open for a long period. I've never had a WH in a garage, but it would seem to me it could be more prone to the wind blowing it out. If you have a big garage door open, wind blows into that end, WH is at the other end, the air pressure is going to try to drive a lot more air up the vent. I would think that might be able to put it out. And some WHs may be more sensitive than others. Plus we have no idea how it's vented.
I'd be looking at that pilot flame with the garage door open and closed, on days with and without wind, especially on any days when wind is oriented in the direction of the garage door. Is the door in the direction of the prevailing winds?
The only thing we haven't talked about is the gas valve. It's the other part of the thermocouple system. If it's marginal for some reason, it could be the cause. You say they replaced many parts, did they replace the gas valve?
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On 6/20/2014 12:45 AM, Julie Bove wrote:

My kids have tried that. After fifteen minutes I turn the hot water off. They now shower in less than 10 minutes. Waste of water and fuel. Cost a lot of $$$ too.

That is the most common problem. They are cheap and easily replaced. Rather than pay $250, try to find a local handy person or a friend that likes to tinker. Ten minute job. Ask for a recommendation at the hardware store.
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On 6/19/2014 10:01 PM, trader_4 wrote:

CY: Wonder if some thing like furnace is creating a negative pressure, the resulting down draft may be blowing it out? Might be the WH needs its own outdoor air supply, and enclosed in its own cabinet?

CY: Makes me wonder if there is a problem with the natural gas supply for the house. Maybe low gas pressure. Sometimes the utility company will check that, no charge.

moment to install a water heater. Since the WH uses gas, venting, etc, there is a lot in common with heating and AC. Please consider calling a couple heating and AC companies, ask them if they wish to come out and help with the diagnosis. A new guy with a fresh perspective may be the answer.
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trader_4;3250178 Wrote:

I agree with Trader on this one.
Have a helper watch the pilot light flame while you turn on your clothes dryer (and maybe both your kitchen and bathroom ceiling fans). Nowadays, houses are built so air tight that in order for a dryer to work properly, there has to be an open window or something to allow sufficient make up air into the house to make up for the air the dryer is blowing out of the house. If none of your windows are open, the make-up air ends up being sucked down through your ceiling or bathroom fan vents. But if those won't work because the fan is blowing air up those vents, the only remaining hole is the chimney, and that might cause enough of a down draft through the water heater to blow the pilot light out.
Otherwise, if this is a new heater, you should turn this into an SEP (Somebody Else's Problem) by claiming the heater is defective and having it repaired under warranty.
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