A day-to-day strive
Thursday, May 1, 2014

Water heater thermocouple

A cold shower means the thermocouple in my water heater had given up the ghost. pdf version
I went to shower one day before work, and there was no hot water. There were showers at work, but I have learned to handle things as they occur. So I called in a personal day. Then I went on Google and Yelp and found a plumber. I called him and he said he could get to the house at 3:00 PM. And like always, I had to be around all afternoon to wait they had a four-hour window. OK, fine, I booked it. My dad had told me about cleaning the thermocouple capsule to get heaters working. I sanded this one clean, but no change. Since I had until 3:00 PM. I checked Home Depot website and they had a "Universal replacement". Picked it up at the store. The picture time-stamps show I started at 11:49 AM and finished by 1:19 PM. I called the plumber and canceled the appointment.
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Here is the GE 50-gallon 12-year water heater. Note it has the earthquake strap around it.
The Home Depot kit costs $12.21. That's a lot less than hundreds the plumber would charge.
I noted the spring washer on the old unit to keep pressure on the pill. New stuff is cheap.
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Another view of the replacement thermocouple.
Bubble rage to get it out the package. These days I just get an XActo knife and cut it loose.
The old unit did not have a lot of carbon on it. Sanding it clean did not get it working. These must fail a lot if Home Depot has them in stock.
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The new one was much longer. I guess that's part of being "universal". It worked fine.
The outer cover and inner flame plate removed.
Here is where the capsule goes. I you light the pi8lot but it goes out when you release the knob, its probably the thermocouple.
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Another view inside the water heater.
Twist the new unit in a big "S" to allow for the extra length. Don't kink it.
I had a nice flare wrench from working on automobile brake lines. A Crescent wrench will do. Just snug is fine, no need for brute force.
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I choke way up on the wrench to make sure I don't strip the fitting. If the valve strips it would be a disaster and I would need a plumber..
Success, the pilot flame stays on, heater lights.
Put the fire plate back in, note its upside-down in this shot, live and learn. Cancel the plumber.
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Here is the fire plate put in the right way.
Here is the old thermocouple with the parts not needed.
I removed the sediment by opening the drain valve. Propane torch was to really heat the old thermocouple to see if that would make it work.
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Here is the flame plate installed right.
I had the bend the thermocouple a bit tighter to get it the top cover to fit.
The cover plate is on. I took a shower a couple hours later. I brought the old thermocouple to work the next day to prove I was not shirking.
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