Find out how to remove and replace a water heater gas valve in a few easy steps. How safely to change the temperature on the gas control valve.
This article will cover the most popular and used gas valves: White Rodgers, Robert Shaw, and Honeywell, all used in atmospheric, direct, and power-vent water heaters, which utilize the pilot light element. These three models can be found on most of the heating units from AO Smith, Rheem, State, American, Bradford White, GE, Kenmore, and other popular manufacturers.
A water heater gas valve is one of the most important elements, and as part of the manifold/burner assembly, it is located in the lower section of the gas heater. It comes with the several elements attached: manifold tube, pilot tube, temperature probe, high limit probe, thermal fuse, piezo igniter, and thermocouple. Some valves include two and some three buttons/knobs; one is for gas, one to change the temperature, and one to activate the pilot. This is the place where you start or turn off heating, also set, adjust, and control the temperature.
The gas valve is vital in heating because your safety and correct heating operation directly depend on its proper work.
Gas water heaters get the cold water through the dip tube and from a cold water supply.
The thermostat probe, which is part of the gas control valve, senses the temperature of the water inside the tank. If the thermostat dial is set to the temperature higher than the temperature of the water, it sends the signal to the gas control valve to open.
Water heaters that are equipped with the pilot light require you to set the knob to pilot mode, and once activated, it will get uninterrupted gas supply, no matter is there a call from the thermostat or not.
On the other side, the gas valve will open gas to the gas burner, only if there is a call for heating.
As the gas flows to the gas burner, it gets lit by the pilot, and then the heating process starts. Part of the pilot light assembly is the thermocouple which is used to make sure that the flame is still there. If it is not, the unit stops the gas flow and shuts down the unit. The thermocouple is designed to send minimal electrical current (in millivolts) to the gas valve and its electromagnet, to keep it open.
Once the temperature of hot water reaches the value set on the thermostat, the gas flow stops, so as heating.
A gas control valve is equipped with the temperature dial with different settings, which allows change of the temperature from its minimum to the maximum (cold and hot). It has the most economical and safe setting, which is around 120 F. There is also a vacation mode, so there is no need to turn the unit off when away – it will maintain the minimum temperature but at the same time prevent potential issues.
Gas water heaters are factory set on 120-125 F as the optimum temperature that is safe for kids. The recommended temperature from the manufacturers is between 120 and 140 F, making it suitable for showers and dishes. Clockwise direction increases the temperature, while counter-clockwise, lowers.
Whatever temperature you select, the water heater will turn the unit OFF at this temperature all the time, unless you change it.
One important note: if the water heater gas valve is broken do not attempt to repair it, replace it. It is even better if you call the technician. According to the manufacturers, this element is not set up for service.
Before any work, always check if there is any gas supply disruption or problems with the pressure.
If you followed the instructions to light the pilot, but it doesn't stay lit, you might have a problem with the thermocouple or gas valve.
If these elements are working as they should check the pilot tube and orifice as they might be clogged.
Note: No matter what happens to the gas control valve; pilot button stuck or it doesn't want to turn, or the high limit switch got activated, do not try to repair the valve. Always buy and install a new one.
If you are not confident of replacing a gas valve, or not sure how to deal with the problem, it is recommended to contact a professional.