What's up with our water heater?
August 29, 2017 9:16 AM   Subscribe

We have a swimming pool, which has a gas-powered water heater. Until fairly recently, it seemed to be working well, we'd just turn it on a while before we wanted to use the pool. Now, the pilot light seems to go out with fairly regular consistency, and my mom has noticed a "foomf!," sound every so often, as if something is blocking the gas flow, or maybe the gas just turns off and on for some reason?

THe heater otherwise seems to work normally, once we re-light the pilot, but I think we're both a bit confused, and don't like calling maintenance if we can avoid it, because they charge us $100+ whether they do any work or not.
posted by Alensin to Technology (5 answers total)
Sounds like the burner needs cleaning. Here's a google for you.
posted by achrise at 10:59 AM on August 29, 2017

The Foomf sound is because the pilot light isn't hitting the burner correctly to immediately ignite the gas when the valve opens; instead a cloud of fuel gas has to accumulate until it reaches the the pilot light. This is also why the pilot keeps going out: the flame isn't keeping the thermocouple hot enough.

There are few things that can cause this from something as simple as a carbon build or mechanical misalignment up to a faulty valve.
posted by Mitheral at 11:02 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

danger! hire a licensed gas contractor to address this! unless you want to blow your house up!
posted by patnok at 4:52 PM on August 29, 2017

This happens all the time on 2 burners on my stove. Look at the pilot light (it's probably coming out of a tube)...look around the tube. Is there a pile of black ash/soot? Turn off the pilot light and brush it away and then relight the pilot. (This is standard maintenance) What's most likely happening is: pilot light doesn't get enough oxygen, stops burning cleanly, and starts producing soot, which builds up in a pile. The soot pile blocks oxygen flow which makes more soot pile up. Lather, rinse repeat and you end up where you are now.
Sometimes there's a little metal baffle by the pilot tube that lets you adjust oxygen flow/ratio.
If you don't feel comfortable fixing this yourself (and contrary to what patnok said), don't call a contractor, call the gas company (they have a vested interest in not having their lines blow up) and they will send someone over (usually within the hour) to fix it for you. (That's who showed me how to clean my pilot light if it happens again)
posted by sexyrobot at 9:38 PM on August 29, 2017

(Look on your gas bill. There's a number for "if you smell gas"...call that # and tell them what's happening)
posted by sexyrobot at 9:41 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

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