(206) 949-5683, Top Rated Plumber, Seattle
Results 1 to 15 of 32

Thread: Water heater problem

Hybrid View

  1. #1
    General Contractor dx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    156

    Default Water heater problem

    I have an AO Smith FPS-75 series 230. This is a gas-fired 75 gal heater with spark ignition and induced draft, about 15 years old.

    The problem is that it occasionally (once every few days)fails to ignite. If I reset the power, it starts up and works normally for a few days.

    I can't troubleshoot it because once I turn it off and back on everything is normal. If I understand it correctly, it tries to ignite 3 times before it locks out permanently.

    I had the same problem last year and found the spark gap to be too large. Closing it solved the problem. This time the spark gap is fine.

    Any suggestions?

    dg

  2. #2
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    200 miles south of Little Rock
    Posts
    2,474

    Default

    Maybe a weak coil or capacitor or something, resulting in a weak spark?

  3. #3
    General Contractor dx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    156

    Default

    Yes, that's one of the possibilities.

    What I'm asking the seasoned pros is this: if a customer had this complaint, how would you go about troubleshooting it? The AO Smith tech manual procedure does not work (obviously) unless something is failed permanently.

    Replacing parts at random until it works better is not an option.

    dx

  4. #4
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    9,001

    Default

    Well, as my auto mechanic is fond of reminding me, problems which do not manifest themselves at time of service...cannot be guaranteed to be fixed.

    You mentioned this is an induced draft....the first thing I might do is check and probably replace the draft pressure switch.

  5. #5
    Plumber/Gasfitter dubldare's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    MN/ND
    Posts
    286

    Default

    Off the top of my head, here goes...


    Sequence of normal operation will be something like this.

    A)thermostat closes, sending 120v to draft fan; fan starts
    B)draft proving switch closes, sending 24v to ignition control
    C)ignitor begins to spark
    D)gas valve opens
    E)~5 seconds for flame stabilization
    F)flame rectification looks for microvolt signal from flame rod
    G)unit runs until thermostat opens

    Some units with pilots are slightly different:

    A)thermostat closes, sending 120v to draft fan; fan starts
    B)draft proving switch closes, sending 24v to ignition control
    C)ignitor begins to spark
    D)pilot valve opens
    E)~5 seconds for flame stabilization
    F)flame rectification looks for microvolt signal from flame rod
    G)ignition control recieves flame rod signal, opens main burner valve
    H)unit runs until thermostat opens


    Cheapest thing to do first is clean the flame rod and ensure the pilot assy ground is intact and not corroded. The ground is very important as the flame rectification signal/voltage is actually the electrical difference between the pilot housing and the flame. Flame rod systems are nothing like a thermocouple or powerpile, as the later generate voltage, the flame rod is a voltage sensor. Any slight ash or corrosion will insulate it. To clean a flame rod, sanding with a crisp dollar bill is recommended, although I have used a wire brush everso carefully. Do not use sandpaper or sandcloth as any residual adhesive or sand can insulate the rod when heated.
    Symptoms of a dirty flame rod would be...ignition of pilot and failure within ~5 seconds.

    A restricted pilot burner orfice and poor gas supply can also be a possibility. Looking at the pilot and how it changes when the burner is on is what to look for here. If the pilot dwindles down to next to nothing when the burner is running clean/replace it.

    If the burner runs a bit and then fails, chances are the inducer motor may be suspect. Motor can loose a bit of rpm performance as they age. Hot air is denser than cold, and when combined with a weak motor, burners can fail on the draft proving switch opening. A usual symptom of this is lack of capacity of hot water/lukewarm and frequent, short cycles of heater.

    Thermostat... well the draft fan would never start.

    Coil/s in gas valve are a possiblity for failing, although more remote of a problem.

    Weak spark, replace ignition control/spark wire. You should have a pretty good gap that the spark covers. Also, if spark color is yellow/orange its weak. You want to see a white and a bit of blue. Sparking sound that is irregular in rhythm usually indicates a faulty wire.

    Check all spade connectors. Make sure they are tight and mating surfaces are not corroded.

    Also check venting for any backpitch/sags or blockage.


    Good luck. Now you see why most guys just sell 'em a new one.
    --Customers of plumbers: Never be afraid to ask for proof of licensure of the plumber servicing your equipment. A licensed plumber will be proud to show you his personal license.--

  6. #6
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    5,984

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dx
    I have an AO Smith FPS-75 series 230. This is a gas-fired 75 gal heater with spark ignition and induced draft, about 15 years old.

    The problem is that it occasionally (once every few days)fails to ignite. If I reset the power, it starts up and works normally for a few days.

    I can't troubleshoot it because once I turn it off and back on everything is normal. If I understand it correctly, it tries to ignite 3 times before it locks out permanently.

    I had the same problem last year and found the spark gap to be too large. Closing it solved the problem. This time the spark gap is fine.

    Any suggestions?

    dg
    I would strongly consider replacing a 15 year old A.O. Smith.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you can't find replacement parts.

  7. #7
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Licensed Grump
    Posts
    1,404

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Cass
    I would strongly consider replacing a 15 year old A.O. Smith.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you can't find replacement parts.
    And heres the sad irony....you'r next A.O.Smith won't outlive that.
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

  8. #8
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    5,984

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyPlumber
    And heres the sad irony....you'r next A.O.Smith won't outlive that.
    You got that right !!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. #9
    General Contractor dx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    156

    Default

    Thanks guys, but a new heater is not gonna happen. And yes, all replacement parts are available.

    Dubldare, thanks for taking the time and effort. Your sequence of operation is same as shown in their service manual.

    There is no flame rod, so that simplifies things. It's a simple ionization detector. When it's done sparking, it sends a voltage to the spark electrodes and measures the current. If the space is ionized (flame), the current is much higher then if there is no flame.

    The pilot flame is nice shape/color and stays nice. Main burner flame is perfect. Burner runs perfectly until shutting off (reaching temp). Heater has great recovery and does not short cycle. With the thermostat at 130F I can run 3 showers forever while doing laundry.

    Spark gap is specified at 0.090-0.150 and it's right around 0.100. I can't see the spark, but sounds fine. I'll have to get a dentist mirror or something to get a visual. Excellent idea. Thanks.

    He he he, I do see why most people would sell'em a new one. I couldn't afford me if I had to pay myself for all this troubleshooting either

    dx

  10. #10
    Plumber/Gasfitter dubldare's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    MN/ND
    Posts
    286

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dx
    There is no flame rod, so that simplifies things. It's a simple ionization detector. When it's done sparking, it sends a voltage to the spark electrodes and measures the current. If the space is ionized (flame), the current is much higher then if there is no flame.

    My bad, it's a microamp signal we're looking for here. The ignitor is also the flame rod in your case. A little googling on 'Flame rectification' can probably help you better than I have.
    --Customers of plumbers: Never be afraid to ask for proof of licensure of the plumber servicing your equipment. A licensed plumber will be proud to show you his personal license.--

  11. #11

    Default

    I got a gas fired draft induced unit from sears. Had a similar problem except this doesn't have a spark to light the gas but what appears to be a glow rod. It ran fine for about two years and then started having the same problem. (Intermittent and all.) I called the 800 number and they said to try using a light abrasive like a fine steel wool to clean off the temperature sensor. I thought they were nuts becuase it looked fine to me. What the heck, I'll clean it!! I said. 6 months later not one problem.

  12. #12
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati Area
    Posts
    2,943

    Default I'm a chicken

    so I just farm out any calls relating to PowerVents. I'm not going to put $1000's of dollars of inventory on the truck taking up space for 50 calls a year.

    I fear the repair in the cost of $100's, followed by the tank eventually leaking which in turn makes the customer look at me like I'm the bad guy "even though" I tried to convince them to replace, not repair.

    I send these calls to someone who is the authorized rep for the 3 mfgs. of heaters and his truck is loaded down with everything he needs. That's all he does day in and day out.

    Customer satisfaction is top notch after he's been there and the referral chain links back to my recommendation.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  13. #13
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Licensed Grump
    Posts
    1,404

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED
    ..... I fear the repair in the cost of $100's, followed by the tank eventually leaking which in turn makes the customer look at me like I'm the bad guy "even though" I tried to convince them to replace, not repair. .....

    Thats exactly what I'm saying.
    It's 15 years old, likey had a ten yr warranty at best.
    Why put hour after hour into it, pay out for parts and come home 6 months later to a basement flood?
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

  14. #14
    General Contractor dx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    156

    Default

    Guys,

    I understand the age issues. I didn't need help with that. If/when it fails and leaks, it will be no different than if it worked perfectly up to that point. As I already said, I wouldn't fix it if I had to pay someone else to do it.

    This thread is (or at least was) about diagnosing an intermittent problem. I simply want to diagnose it and hopefully correct the problem and learn something.

    VTLANDLORD, that's one of the things I did several days ago when I started this thread. I took some fine steel wool and emery board nail files and cleaned up the spark electrodes. They weren't heavily corroded or gunked up, but I figured there may have been just enough oxidation to throw off the microamp detector once in a while. So far it hasn't stopped working. Time will tell.

    dg

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •