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Thread: Water Heater Pilot Problem

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member CharlieG's Avatar
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    Default Water Heater Pilot Problem

    Hi Folks,
    I have a 25 year old gas water heater. Before you say "replace it" (which I AM considering, read these details:
    As far as I know, there have been NO problems with it until now (except, of course, when I tried to fix what wasn't broke -- last summer I realized that the tank hadn't been drained for, at least, many years, so I drained it and, until very recently, had a dripping draincock [I think sediment must have been preventing full closure, so I kept messing with it by opening and closing until it now has not dripped for weeks]). I've owned the house for six years, my brother-in-law owned it for the previous twelve, and the folks he bought it from reported no trouble since it was installed by the gas company in 1979-80. It's a 40 gallon tank and has proved adequate for a two-person household with occasional guests.
    About a month ago the pilot light went out for apparently no reason. It relit without a problem but, after a heating cycle, it was out again. This kept repeating. I replaced the thermocouple. No affect. I began messing around with the temp settings and discovered that the pilot remains lit if the pointer is on the next to highest setting (it has been on the highest setting for YEARS). The lower setting seems adequate to me, but my wife says she has to be more careful about hot water usage and is afraid of running out if our habits remain the same (don't say "change your habits" -- our therm usage, including our gas furnace, averaged over a year's time, is only about 1.3 per day).
    This sounds to me like a control/thermostat problem. Any opinion from the plumbers out there?
    If it is the control/thermostat, is it replaceable? --by an experienced DIYer? Some of you are probably thinking that I'm crazy to try to extend the life of such an old heater, but having read and heard about the multiude of problems with newer water heaters and their reduced lifespans, I wonder!
    The heater is an A. O. Smith Energy Saver 5, model # FSG 40 920, BTU/hr input - 32,500, Rec. Cap. 32.8 US Gal/hr.
    Comments, please, about my assessments and availability of parts if applicable.
    Your input is much appreciated.
    CharlieG

  2. #2
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking dont waste your time

    the new controll is about a 75 dollar item

    t coupling 5 bucks

    have you thought about the dip tube being old too and
    probably ready to fail ??




    the water heater is 25 years old

    you got your moneys worth


    you got to let it go.......

    put it down like an old dog....

    go out and buy a Bradford white and move on

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member CharlieG's Avatar
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    Default Any other replies?

    Thanks for your input, Mark. Guess I should check the dip tube and anode before going any further.
    Anyone else have two cents to throw in?
    CharlieG

  4. #4
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking anode rod

    thier is probably no anorod left
    in that 25 yr old unit....and if you can get
    the plug to come out of it after 25 years
    then you are very lucky....

    usually it is literlally rusted into place and
    it will never move after that long.


    It takes a special 3/4 deep socket size and you usually
    need a large socket wrench and cheater bar...
    you can buy a heavy duty socket that wont
    break or strip out at sears for about 45 bucks.

    also its wise to have someone hold on to the heater while
    you are trying to get out that anode plug out
    or you will probably just make the heater
    shift on its weak legs instead of moving the plug


    also if you bang on the unit enough with a hammmer
    and chisle you might make it budge....of course
    that is a very old unit and you might breakoff the dip
    tube when you do that...or further damage the brittle
    glass lineing inside the unit..



    what I tell my customers about fooling around
    with a 25 year old unit is

    its like spending the money to do quadruple bypass surgery
    on someone that is 99 years old


    anyway good luck, have fun

    knock yourself out.
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 06-29-2005 at 05:52 AM.

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default heater

    Do you also go to the doctor and tell him to make you feel better, but you don't want any shots or pills. The heater is 25 years old. It could start leaking tomorrow. The dip tube is probably okay, but the anode rod has been "gone" for years if not decades. Thermostats are not quite "generic" so you have to find one that has the same dimension from the center of the sensing probe, to the burner outlet connecion. I would not advise a customer to spend the money to replace the thermostat on a 10 year old heater, much less one as old as yours. As far as the new heaters, you only hear about the few that people have problems with, not the millions that work properly.
    Last edited by hj; 06-29-2005 at 06:35 AM. Reason: text

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member CharlieG's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Heater Replies

    Thanks, Guys,
    I actually was simply going to replace the heater when trouble started. But when my wife and I began to research a new tank, we ran into so many complaints concerning just about every manufacturer, that we began to wonder if our chances of squeezing a few more years from the old one may be nearly as good as getting any of the newer tanks to last a decent amount of time. We then began to consider a whole house tankless system and researched that. There was such a wide disparity of opinion between promoters and detractors that we decided against pursuing that.
    HJ, you are certainly correct about usually only hearing complaints, and that's something I know but just didn't bring to the forefront of my considerations. As I move closer to 60 years old, the 'senior moments' begin to pile up!
    I think I'll just satisfy my curiosity and make a modest attempt to get a look at the anode and the dip tube and be done with it. I'm sure you guys are right, but every once in a while, I get surprised by a complete anomaly -- something that really shouldn't be, but is ! Though, if there is a 'miracle of the water heater' and the anode and dip tube have a little life left, there isn't much head room above the heater to pull them out!
    So, after I waste a bit more time for curiosity's sake, do you guys have a recommendation for a new heater? Looking to the future (house resale value, etc.), after a hopefully soon kitchen remodel, I will be remodelling some of the basement space and want to add a new 3/4 bath. Though the 40 gallon tank has been adequate for just the two of us, I thought of bumping up to a 50 gallon to accomodate future use. We currently have one full and one 3/4 bath. Also, if I can believe recent comments of friends and relatives from the East Coast, I'm anticipating a heavier guest visitation in the next few years . Let's hope they don't start to 'smell' after three days, as the old saying goes!
    Your helpful suggestions are appreciated.
    CharlieG

  7. #7
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Default

    The only brand of heater which has received a lot of negative knocks is the Whirlpool. Any top-of-the-line model from GE, Rheem, Bradford-White etc should perform well. Truthfully nobody makes a heater which has much chance of lasting 25 years. They just don't want to put that much quality...and price....into them.

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