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Tanklets > Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant (FVIR) Issues

FVIR Issues: Rheem/Ruud/Richmond/GE

Q: I have a GE water heater and it is still under warranty, but they are being total jerks and giving us the run around. Yesterday, I heard a loud pop and smelt a burnt smell from the water heater along w/ a gas smell. I called gas co. and there was no leak. We lit the pilot back but it went out again after a few hrs. so we tried again and it made the pop again. Does any one know?

We hired two different plumbers one told me to buy a new one the other said the burner and thermostat assembly is out and to contact GE because it should be under warranty. Well, warranty was rude and wanted more details and wanted to talk to the plumber. So, the plumber called and they still would not help. Does anyone have any suggestions?

A: It sounds like the TRD (Thermal Release Device) broke. This is a glass tempered device that shatters on an overheat condition. The glass device holds up the intake air door. Once the device shatters, the air vent drops and stops any fresh air from entering the burner chamber.

Sometimes you will get a pop due to pilot gas build-up when lighting and no air to mix. A mini flash condition will happen. This can be caused by a blocked or collapsed flue, vent or vent cap. Also dryer lint or similar stuck in the air holes on the left and right side of the heater restricting the intake air can cause this.

Unfortunately, the heater will have to be replaced since this is a non-repairable item. You can verify this condition by removing the burner door and looking inside he burner chamber. If broken you will see small pieces of broken glass the size of a grain of sand. You will have to look really closely. Also the post for the air intake will be very sloppy and loose. Rheem warranty will cover a new heater and the installation as long as the failure was not your fault. The areas I mentioned above would be considered not the fault of the heater. They are pretty good about this and I find that most plumbers are not trained to diagnose this problem. -- Ej (6/3/08)

Rheem/Ruud/Richmond/GE FVIR Update

Q: That's strange, because I had a plumber who diagnosed that I needed my Combustion Shut Off device replaced. And Rheem sent over a replacement Combustion Shut Off Device Kit under the warranty. What is this, if according to the thread states that this cannot be replaced and a new water heater needs to be installed?

A: Hello: It would be nice if things have changed. In the past, my understanding was that if the little FVIR glass vial broke, you had no choice but to get a new heater. That was not particularly customer or contractor friendly. -- Larry

A1: It has changed. Rheem now has Reset Kits available for Thermal Release Device trips. They are free under the warranty. You have to use one of their service techs though. If there isn't a G.E. certified contractor in a certain proximity of your zip code, the heater still gets replaced. -- TechSupportGuy (1-10-10)

Whirlpool Problem

Q: I purchased a new tank in early November 07', 40 gal, Whirlpool, 6 year. Same hookups but elevated the tank up 1.5" to reach plumbing. Late January early February tank went out, relit all seemed fine but would only heat to one cycle and pilot would go out.

Replaced thermocouple didn't help, replaced with another same results, heat through one cycle then goes out. Tested all thermocouples on the stove with multimeter and all tested ok. Replaced gas valve and all seemed fine for 2 days then same thing pilot goes out. I gave in, bought another unit with plans to send the other back for a credit. I bought the exact same unit and it worked fine until 3 days ago and I'm going through the same thing again. Pilot won't stay lit and I struggle to even get it lit sometimes.

Before I go purchasing parts and items again and spend 2 days of frustration any ideas? I don't think that it is FVIR because the problem went away after I changed the unit. I read in one of your postings a member had found out that the manufacture had to much pipe dope on something and after it hardened it was causing a similar problem, but then again on the last unit I replaced the gas valve which only helped a couple of days. I'm an electrician by trade but this hot water situation has me at a lost. Been seriously considering to go to an electric model or even tankless with electronic ignition. Any help would be greatly appreciated and thanks in advance Chris.

A: What is your model number of your heater? Is it lo-nox?

Q1: It's a Flame Lock, I don't know if that is the same as a Lo-nox. The model is BFG1F4034T3NOV. I talked to a Whirlpool technician on Tuesday May 27 and we tested the thermal switch which is the switch where the black and white wires are connected from the gas control valve. They had me remove the wires from the switch and jump them together and then try and light the tank.

From what they were making it sound like that this bypasses the thermocouple and should remain lit after releasing the reset button. I had a good flame while holding down the reset or red button and after over a good minute released the switch and the flame went out. Once that happen the tech said the gas valve was bad and they said they could send someone out or overnight me the part.

Since I was going out of town I opted for the part and installed it myself on Wednesday. It is working fine for now and I explained that this has happened twice in less then six months and they said there would be no way to determine anything over the phone and if it happened again they suggested to send someone out to give a more thorough diagnostic.

I think these Flame lock gas valves are a one time deal and if they get an over temp for any reason they shutdown permanently. I don't know if it will help but both times before I had the temp setting to the highest which I think is the 160 degree setting, this time I set it to 130 degree setting and hopefully there will be no false high temp that would cause it to shutdown but I'm just guessing again.

A1: Your heater has a common maintenance problem that always gets overlooked and causes the problems you describe. Even their tech support fails to bring this up. What you bypassed, if done correctly, was the over temp switch. When your burner chamber overheats, the small white switch will open and shut off your pilot. You have to push the button in the middle of the switch to reset it before your pilot can be re-relight.

The burner chamber will overheat if your venting gets blocked or if the intake screen on the bottom is more than 40-50% blocked with dust. So the sequence that happens when this is the problem goes like this: The burner comes on to heat the water. After 10-30 minutes the burner chamber over heats and trips the reset. Most people believe the pilot is going off when the thermostat cycles off but is really going off on hi-limit.

You can look at the upper right corner of your burner door where the reset is and see if there is any discoloration in the metal. This will also but not always show signs of overheating. 99.9% of the time it is a dirty intake screen. The screen has slots the width of a razor blade so it will plug very easy.

The best way to clean the screen is to remove the burner door assembly. and look inside the burner chamber. Your screen will run front to back along the left side of the heater. Take a tooth brush and clean the screen trying to poke the bristles through the slots. After cleaning the whole screen, take a damp paper towel and wipe the screen, then brush it once again.

A simple feather duster can be used to clean the bottom of the heater and to maintain the screen every 3 months or more, depending on how clean the environment is. Just move the duster back and forth while tilting it upward to clean the bottom. When you're done, the screen should be a shiny stainless color and you should hear the roar of the burner flame. A blocked intake screen muffles the burner sound. -- Ej (5/31/08)

FVIR Issues: Other Brands

Q: I've read over everything in both RD's and Cbomioa's request for help. I have much of the same problem that RD has. My tank is on the lower level of my 2 level home. My home sits on a cement slab and it's always at least 8 degrees cooler down there. I have tried everything. I have changed the thermocouple, the thermostatic control valve, cleaned out the the ventalation system/flue all the way to the roof and the pilot still goes out...but only in the warmer months.

I moved in my home in 1995 and the water heater that was here was installed in 1989. I never had to restart the pilot once. But once I replaced the water heater in 2004, every summer I've had the same issue. I really don't know what else to do. I really don't want to go through the expense of replaceing the water heater as it may do no good. If anyone really thinks it's the venting problem...do you know if a power vent can be retro-fitted?.

A: What is your model number of your heater?

Q1: It's a Kenmore Power Miser 9 #153-339461. Can you believe that the pilot light went out four times today alone?!?!

A1: Most likely you have the same problem outlined here on this thread: https://www.thetankatwaterheaterrescue.com/forums/forum3/1636.html I'm not sure with your model but I think you have close if not exact same heater. You need to clean the intake screen. I found out most if not all people when asked if they cleaned the intake screen say yes but upon further inspection they did a very poor job at cleaning or pretended to clean it never really knowing where the screen is located. Whether you have a manual over temp reset switch or the old style built into the thermocouple (which has a recall) cleaning the intake screen will fix this problem. If after cleaning this doesn't fix your problem then there are other steps that we can take.

Q2: I have vacuumed the intake multiple times but never seems to help. One part that I am not familiar with is the resistor like device located on the thermocouple line between the thermostat and the burner. Is that the device that senses the overheating?

A2: I have never seen a heater where I could even fit a brush attachment on the end of a vacuum to properly clean the uner side of the intake screen! Most of these heaters are the same with just a different name. This is why I made the comment about cleaning the screen. Does your heater have a removable black screen in the front of the heater or is the screen on the very bottom (underside)? Is the resistor you mention a heat sink soldered in-line with the thermocoupler? This will tell me where you need to clean or make some adjustments.

Q3: The screen is on the underside (essentially the base of the unit). It does have a black screen but it's clean. I have taken it completely off too to test. The pilot light continues to go out. Yes, the resistor is soldered inline. I got a universal thermocouple to replace it today and I had forgotten about that device; not sure if it would be wise to eliminate it.

A3: Take the black screen off and run it under a faucet even if you think it is clean. Remove the burner assembly so you can get to the burner chamber. You do not have bottom side screen in your model but instead have a porous flame arrestor.

If you're trying to vacuum from the inside of the burner chamber ( which is the only possible way you could get a vacuum in there) you are cleaning the wrong side of the flame arrestor. You want to clean the intake side. This is behind the black screen thru the two rectangle holes. A feather duster works very well to clean this area (underside and not the bottom) or a air compressor works good too.

Did your mom ever used to bake cookies on a flat sheet pan in the oven? Did that sheet pan ever tweak in shape? A high and a low in opposite corners? Your water heater has a radiation shield (just a fancy name) inside the burner chamber. It is also most likely "tweaked'.

In the front inside of the burner chamber is a bracket that supports the big round plate covering the bottom of your heater (radiation shield). There is a slot in the plate that is held in place by a formed bump. This is just a packing prevention to stop the radiation shield from moving when in shipment. Pop the plate over the bump with a big screw driver. Make sure the circumference of the plate has at least 1/2-inch clearance from the bottom of the chamber. If not, prop it up with a nut or what ever you have that doesn't mind the heat. On the end of the heat sink is a color code drop of paint. If you tell me the color I can tell you what yours is rated for. Ej (6/15/08)

Q4: I adjusted the plate as you said. So far so good since Sunday. I'll let you know how it goes. Appreciate the advice.

FVIR Issues: Low-NOX Heaters

Q: Hi everyone... First post... I got a water heater today, as my old Rheem rusted out pretty bad. The new one is a GE FVIR ultra low nox 50G. This one right here... GE heater at big box store My question is this. The heater works great, and heats up water fast. My concern is that this large round metal tube with all the holes in it (radiant burner?) I can see thru the little pilot window starts to glow orange after some time. The flames appear to still be blue as when I look to the side of the burner I see the blue, but the metal itself seems to be glowing orange.

The water heater cycles on, the assembly starts off all blue, then after 30 seconds of so, gradually turns orange. It gets pretty bright. Is this normal? The pilot during this time stays nice and blue too, it does not get orange. So, did I buy a lemon, and is this a sign that something is wrong? Lack of air into the chamber? Just a bit concerned here, as I don't like worrying about things like this. I double checked the installation, and everything checks out. I read somewhere that an orange glow could be contaminated air? The water heater is in my crawlspace which is very well vented to the outside, and none of the vents on the sides of the unit are blocked. Thanks for any help you can give!

Q2: I took a video of what happens when the cycle starts.... It's processing right on YOUTUBE now, but you can see in the vid the metal turns orange, and the blue flames still seem to be there (on the side shot, the bright blue line) The pilot remains blue throughout this whole process though. Is it normal, or a malfunction? Soooo confused here. The metal looks just like the wires in my toaster when they heat up.

Q3: I've been researching this like crazy, and guess what. It's normal. Radiant burners with the FVIR system do this glowing orange thing. Here's a quote from a Bradford White manual with a similar design... BURNER FLAME CHECK (Replaces pg. 20 in instruction manual.) These models are equipped with self adjusting air mixture and do not have an adjustable air shutter. At periodic intervals, a visual check of the main burner and pilot flames should be made to determine if they are burning properly. The main burner flame should light smoothly from the pilot. The burner flame should be soft and undefined. After five minutes of burner operation the burner face should be glowing orange and emitting an orange flame.

Well, waddya know....I guess I learn something new everyday. I really didn't understand how a radiant burner with ultra low NOX worked, but now that I do, it all makes sense. I believe ya'll should add a little addendum section in the Tanklets about the orange glow from new radiant burner systems. It had me pretty worried, as orange with water heater flames generally means BAD BAD BAD....yet I look to see it's normal. I couldn't find anything on the net about this glow until I dug deep into the intranet tubes. Never seen a creepy orange glow coming from any water heater I've had before. (2/8/10)