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How to Repair a Water Heater Thermocouple

How to Repair a Water Heater Thermocouple

When it comes to hot water, the last thing you want is to run out of it. If you have ever had to take a cold shower or heat water on a stove to wash dishes, you know how important hot water is to a household. If the culprit is your hot water heater thermocouple, it can be a quick fix, as well as an inexpensive one if you replace it your self. So, let us begin by learning what a thermocouple is.

What is a Water Heater Thermocouple

A thermocouple in a gas water heater monitors the pilot light. If the pilot light fails to ignite, the thermocouple shuts down the fuel supply to prevent the gas from building up, and causing an explosion. It is basically a built in safety feature.

Therefore, if a hot water heater is not heating the water, it could be due to a faulty thermocouple. Instead of calling a plumber, most people can easily replace this inexpensive part them self. A replacement part can be purchased at your local hardware store, or from one of the large home center chains.

Now, that you understand what a water heater thermocouple is, you need to have all necessary tools and materials in place, before you begin the process of replacing it.

List of Necessary Tools and Materials

  • An adjustable wrench
  • A set of wrenches
  • A replacement water heater thermocouple

Replacement Instructions

Once you have all tools and materials on hand, the next step you will need to take is to shut off the gas supply valves on both the water heater and the two lines near the heater. Then, unfasten all of the nuts that hold the thermocouple in place; there are usually three of them. Make sure to unfasten the two gas lines to the valve as well.

The burner either sits loose, or is held in place using a few clips. If clips are in place, remove them and then remove the burner from its compartment. After removing it from its compartment, go ahead and vacuum out the burner compartment to remove any debris, and check for evidence of possible leaks.

Now, it is time to attach the new thermocouple, and reinstall the burner assembly. After completing this step, use the instructions on your water heater to relight the pilot. Now, check for possible leaks by applying soapy water onto the joints. Dish soap is the type of soap you want to use. With the burner on, look for bubbles to form. If you see any sign of bubbles, you have a leak. If not, then you have reinstalled everything correctly.

Remember: never try to remove the thermocouple from the inside of the water heater burner chamber. Rather, always remove the whole assembly, including both the burner and thermocouple, and then disconnect the thermocouple from the burner. A new water heater thermocouple typically costs $20, or less. Calling a plumber can costs hundreds of dollars in labor and parts, so why call one, especially if you can make the repair yourself?

Photo courtesy of Vagabond Shutterbug.

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