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Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem



 
 
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  #1  
Old October 28th 12, 04:56 PM posted to alt.home.repair
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Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

The thermocouple on my 7yo Whirlpool water heater went out Sat. The stores open
on the weekend had only right hand thread thermocouples, and as far as I could
find out, the manufacturer would sell me a conversion kit for $31 which would
take 10 days to receive. (out of warrantee)

My solution: I carefully clamped the threaded fitting on my old thermocouple
end-to-end in my vice so one face was up, then used a 1" cutting disc in my
dremel tool to cut a slot into the fitting so I could slide it off of the tube.
I slid the threaded fitting on my new thermocouple down out of the way, then
slipped the slotted one over the tube and carefully screwed it into the valve
fitting. It works perfectly.

If you have a several years old Whirlpool or American Products water heater, you
might want to check to see if it has the left hand thread on the thermocouple.
If it does, and it is still in warrantee, contact the manufacturer now so you
can get the conversion kit for free ahead of the time you really need it.

The early symptom of failure on my thermocouple is that it took 1 1/2-2 minutes
of holding down the pilot light to get it to re-light and stay lit. The new one
took about 20 seconds.





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  #2  
Old September 27th 13, 12:36 PM posted to alt.home.repair
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Posts: 1
Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

On Sunday, October 28, 2012 10:56:53 AM UTC-6, Bob F wrote:
The thermocouple on my 7yo Whirlpool water heater went out Sat. The stores open

on the weekend had only right hand thread thermocouples, and as far as I could

find out, the manufacturer would sell me a conversion kit for $31 which would

take 10 days to receive. (out of warrantee)



My solution: I carefully clamped the threaded fitting on my old thermocouple

end-to-end in my vice so one face was up, then used a 1" cutting disc in my

dremel tool to cut a slot into the fitting so I could slide it off of the tube.

I slid the threaded fitting on my new thermocouple down out of the way, then

slipped the slotted one over the tube and carefully screwed it into the valve

fitting. It works perfectly.



If you have a several years old Whirlpool or American Products water heater, you

might want to check to see if it has the left hand thread on the thermocouple.

If it does, and it is still in warrantee, contact the manufacturer now so you

can get the conversion kit for free ahead of the time you really need it.



The early symptom of failure on my thermocouple is that it took 1 1/2-2 minutes

of holding down the pilot light to get it to re-light and stay lit. The new one

took about 20 seconds.


Although your post is from last year, I recently had a problem with my 6-year old GSW water heater with a left-hand thread thermocouple.

I am awaiting a free warranty replacement for the whole assembly minus the burner head but while waiting I substituted a brand new $9 RIGHT-HAND thread thermocouple with a slight modification. Rather than cutting a copper line and splicing things together etc., all I did was slide the threaded piece (part that screws into the control box down a ways from that tip, held the piece with a small pair of vise grips and set it against my bench grinder wheel to wear off the threads, I did this on all sides and was left with a smooth piece, still with the 7/16" hex head though. Next I stuck the end right up into the control unit and while holding it in place, took some strong wire, wrapped a fair amount around the copper line that exits that fitting and then just "tensioned" it up by wrapping the wire up higher near the gas line fitting. The pilot stays lit BUT if you look closely at where the end of that thermocouple screws into the box (the female end left-hand threading), there's a small light blue plastic tab that gets depressed when the lefty is fully screwed in. My jury-rigged thermocouple end has no threads so it can't strip that entry point but it's still doing its job: 1. pushed up as far as it can go. 2. pulled tight with wire and held UPWARD. 3. pressing on what appears to be something of a plastic locking tab that IF not pressed in OR when I did happen to move around the now non-threaded piece and the baby blue-colored tab moved, out went the pilot.

Apologies in that I don't know the terms or names of some parts but I was just so excited that I was able to fix this temporarily until I get my replacement kit. Also, after a few decades of replacing the odd thermocouple in my old furnace, I finally figured out that the reason some of my other ones went was because of a tiny hairline crack at the tip of that pilot. Hard to see at first but I kept a few of the older ones and sanded them a bit to verify that such an issue exists for these cheap parts.
  #3  
Old September 27th 13, 04:12 PM
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First recorded activity by DIYBanter: Aug 2012
Posts: 2,116
Default

This post is for people in here who have heard about thermocouples having to be replaced on water heaters, boilers and furnaces, but don't know what they are or what they do.

Anyone with any kind of gas fired appliance with a standing pilot should have a spare thermocouple (or thermopile) on hand. For the $10 to $15 a spare thermocouple is going to cost, it's likely to pay for itself because it'll save you having to pay a heating contractor $40 for a service call and another $40 for him to sell you one of HIS thermocouples, the one he bought for $10.

Thermocouples produce a small voltage when they're placed in the pilot light, and it's that voltage that energizes an electromagnet that holds a valve in the gas valve of the appliance open. As long as the thermocouple is producing sufficient voltage, that "safety" valve will remain open and gas will flow through that safety valve to the pilot light. If the thermostat on the appliance calls for it to fire up, a second valve called the "main valve" in series with the safetly valve opens and allows gas to flow to the burner trays of the appliance. So, the gas has to flow through the safety valve first, and then through the main valve to get to the burner trays. If, for whatever reason, the pilot light goes out on an appliance, the thermocouple would cool down and not produce enough voltage to keep the safety valve open, and all gas flow to the appliance would stop. Neither the pilot light nor the burner trays would get any gas until you opened the safety valve on the gas valve manually, typically by depressing a button or turning a knob. That's to prevent your house being filled with gas and creating the conditions that could lead to a house explosion.

Thermocouples gradually go bad because the heat generated by the pilot light results in the metal grains growing larger and the thermocouple producing less and less voltage. Once the voltage is barely sufficient to keep the safety electromagnetic valve open in the gas valve, an aging thermocouple will result in the pilot light going out by itself every so often with the result that you discover that you have no heat or no hot water until you relight the pilot light manually. Cleaning the thermocouple will help, but the fix is to replace it. The first time you find you have to relight the pilot light manually is the time you should be planning to change that thermocouple.

Thermocouples come with different mountings and in different lengths. Some just push in, some have a collar that screws in, and some are different still. The best thing to do is to buy your first thermocouple from the factory authorized service depot so that the person selling it to you can explain how to replace it if it's not obvious. The length of the thermocouple doesn't really matter. In that regard, they're like extension cords. You can't use an extension cord that's too short, but you can always use one that's too long. So, if it's friday night and your wife tells you the water heater's pilot light has been going out by itself lately, and the hardware store only has a 48 inch long thermocouple when you only need a 24 inch long one, buy and install the 48 inch thermocouple (if the mounting is suitable). It'll work fine.

Last edited by nestork : September 27th 13 at 04:58 PM.
  #4  
Old October 18th 13, 11:58 PM posted to alt.home.repair
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Posts: 1
Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

On Friday, September 27, 2013 6:36:59 AM UTC-5, wrote:
On Sunday, October 28, 2012 10:56:53 AM UTC-6, Bob F wrote:

The thermocouple on my 7yo Whirlpool water heater went out Sat. The stores open




on the weekend had only right hand thread thermocouples, and as far as I could




find out, the manufacturer would sell me a conversion kit for $31 which would




take 10 days to receive. (out of warrantee)








My solution: I carefully clamped the threaded fitting on my old thermocouple




end-to-end in my vice so one face was up, then used a 1" cutting disc in my




dremel tool to cut a slot into the fitting so I could slide it off of the tube.




I slid the threaded fitting on my new thermocouple down out of the way, then




slipped the slotted one over the tube and carefully screwed it into the valve




fitting. It works perfectly.








If you have a several years old Whirlpool or American Products water heater, you




might want to check to see if it has the left hand thread on the thermocouple.




If it does, and it is still in warrantee, contact the manufacturer now so you




can get the conversion kit for free ahead of the time you really need it.

  #5  
Old October 30th 13, 03:08 PM posted to alt.home.repair
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Posts: 1
Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

Great idea! I couldn't find a left hand thread thermocoupler at any of the plumbing supply stores. I tried this and it works like a charm.
  #6  
Old November 21st 13, 12:03 AM posted to alt.home.repair
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Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

Thank you! We were stuck with no one in Vegas area selling a left hand threaded thermocouples..... I cut off the old connector and put it on the new one and worked perfect.... You're idea was a life saver! Thanks again!!!
  #7  
Old November 21st 13, 12:48 AM posted to alt.home.repair
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Posts: 13,434
Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

On Wed, 20 Nov 2013 16:03:09 -0800 (PST), wrote:

Thank you! We were stuck with no one in Vegas area selling a left hand threaded thermocouples..... I cut off the old connector and put it on the new one and worked perfect.... You're idea was a life saver! Thanks again!!!


What part of Vegas?
  #8  
Old November 28th 13, 12:21 AM posted to alt.home.repair
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Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

Hi Bob,

Thanks for being a lifesaver. I used your advice but the only difference I did was I cut the 'left hand thread piece' on the thermocouple in half. I also used my Dremel as you did. I first only cut half of the 'left hand thread piece' like you did, but I I couldn't get it out of the copper tubing with only half of a cut. So I decided to cut the whole 'left hand thread piece' in half. I then put the two 1/2 pieces of the 'left hand thread' around the new thermocouple and screwed in to the water heater. I did NOT use any glue or adhesive. As long as the new copper tubing from the thermocouple is in the middle, it will keep the size of the 'left hand thread piece' the correct size so you can screw it in the water heater.

Thanks again Bob for your post.


On Sunday, October 28, 2012 9:56:53 AM UTC-7, Bob F wrote:
The thermocouple on my 7yo Whirlpool water heater went out Sat. The stores open

on the weekend had only right hand thread thermocouples, and as far as I could

find out, the manufacturer would sell me a conversion kit for $31 which would

take 10 days to receive. (out of warrantee)



My solution: I carefully clamped the threaded fitting on my old thermocouple

end-to-end in my vice so one face was up, then used a 1" cutting disc in my

dremel tool to cut a slot into the fitting so I could slide it off of the tube.

I slid the threaded fitting on my new thermocouple down out of the way, then

slipped the slotted one over the tube and carefully screwed it into the valve

fitting. It works perfectly.



If you have a several years old Whirlpool or American Products water heater, you

might want to check to see if it has the left hand thread on the thermocouple.

If it does, and it is still in warrantee, contact the manufacturer now so you

can get the conversion kit for free ahead of the time you really need it.



The early symptom of failure on my thermocouple is that it took 1 1/2-2 minutes

of holding down the pilot light to get it to re-light and stay lit. The new one

took about 20 seconds.


  #9  
Old January 10th 14, 08:31 AM posted to alt.home.repair
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Posts: 1
Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

Thank you SO much for taking time to post this. My 2006 water heater is 8 months out of warranty and the thermocouple failed. I called Whirlpool and they said it would be something like $35 + shipping for a right-hand adapter.. Talk about extortion!

So I bought the $8 universal right-hand thermocouple from Lowe's. Then I went to Harbor Freight for a rotary tool (like a Dremel) and grinding attachment for a whopping $17. Spent over an hour grinding the slot, but it worked flawlessly! I'm sure an actual Dremel would get the job done much faster, but at Lowe's the cheapest one was around $50, and I wanted to stay under the price for the Whirlpool adapter.

The symptoms for me was that the pilot would go out randomly. Sometimes it would remain lit for days, and sometimes it would extinguish within an hour.. But relighting it would take 20 - 30 seconds max before the pilot button could be released. I even tested with a voltmeter and had a reading of 26.5 mv. But apparently the voltage would occasionally drop and the safety switch would release.

Again, thanks for the post. No more cold showers You made my day!
  #10  
Old February 7th 14, 04:59 AM posted to alt.home.repair
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Default Solving water heater left hand thread thermocouple problem

I have an American Water Heater, about 8 years old. Took out the thermocouple a few months back, sanded it, and put it back in and worked fine. At the time, found out about this left-hand thread issue so that was my fix then. Anyway the pilot light went out again recently and tried this fix. I used my rotary tool to cut but realized that only one cut wasn't big enough for the copper tube so I made two more cuts on either side of the original cut. Only then there was enough space for the tube to come out. Sure enough, this worked and I have hot water again! Thanks!
 




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