water heater pilot

Our A.O.Smith water heater (installed Jan 1996) has recently developed the following problem -- the pilot light goes out all the time. Any ideas to keep the pilot lighted?
Is the heater old enough now where I should just get it replaced? It is working great when the pilot is lighted.
Thanks.
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Often this problem is caused by the thermocouple starting to fail. Replacements are inexpensive and readily available at the big box stores. And, easy to install. I'd try that first.
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sorry for being so dense -- big box store implies ?? HomeDepot/Lowe's
I am not a very handy person...would replacing the thermocouple reqire turning of the gas supply or any other such preventive measure?
Are these thermocouples one size fits all or would it be specific to my water heater model?
Thanks for your response.
On 7/22/2007 12:13 PM, The Streets wrote:

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Right.
Should be sufficient to just turn off the supply to the water heater.

Home Depot has a "universal" model made by Honeywell that fits nearly everything. Cost ~$7. The lead length is 36" which maybe/probably is longer than you need. I usually carefully coil the excess in a circle with a diameter of ~2" or so. Just be careful not to cut or crimp it.
You'll probably need to remove the entire burner assembly to install it. That means also disconnecting the gas line to the burner and the one for the pilot light. Once you do that, it should be obvious and easy to remove the assembly.
When re-installing, carefully thread all the connections (the 2 gas lines and the thermocouple connection) by hand to start with so you avoid any chance of cross-threading.
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If changing the thermocouple and/or gas valve doesn't help, and your water heater is in the attic, your problem may be it's not getting enough oxygen. I know it sounds crazy, but both my units in my Texas home are in the attic and I was having the same problem. I changed the thermocouple and the gas valve to no avail.
During a call to a service rep, he told me about the oxygen thing and said a small fan blowing at the base of the heater during the heat of the afternoon might help.
I put a little 5"-6" fan on a timer, pointed it at the base of the heater and I haven't had any more problems with the pilot light going out.
-> Don There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. - Edmund Burke
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with
remove
He stated that he's not very handy, but you feel comfortable explaining to him how to remove a burner from a gas-fired appliance?
WOW
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On Sun, 22 Jul 2007 14:30:46 -0400, rick wrote:

Remove the bad thermocouple and take it with you to match it up.
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The Streets wrote:

I put in a new water heater a couple weeks ago and was (pleasantly) surprised to see the burner/ignition chamber completely sealed. This water heater incorporated a piezo igniter similar to what's on gas grills that was visible through a glass (plastic?) window. I didn't look very close but I don't remember there being any access to the burner chamber.
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was
That's right, it's design to new codes. Now they're safer and easier for someone to screw up.
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kjpro @ usenet.com wrote:

Don't know about that but they are much easier to light.
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They're safer because there's no open flame.
They're easier to screw up because there's more parts and people will leave the covers off, when the bottom screen becomes plugged with cat/dog hair.
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How recently has it started and has anything changed? Have you added house ventilation or a whole house fan that may be sucking air down the flue and put it out? Open windows that used to be closed setting up a draft?
Or it may be the thermocouple, a cheap and easy fix.
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Your gas control may have an adjustment for the pilot flame, usually tucked under a protective screw cap on the side. Before adjusting, make sure the vent hasn't been tricked by some change in the venting. As other posts indicate, thermocouples are common failure modes as well. HTH
Joe
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Why not have a competent tech diagnose and repair the unit?
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