Thermocouples are sensors that pick up heat signatures. Thermocouples for water heaters are specifically designed as a safety mechanism to prevent gas leaking into your home. They are required for the water heater to function properly, as they shut the gas flow off as soon as a pilot light is extinguished.
It is a simple device made of two pieces of wire, welded together at one end, covered by a protective sleeve. The end of the thermocouple is placed inside the flame of the pilot light, and the opposite end is linked to a type of thermostat. If your water heater does not have a thermocouple and pilot light, it is usually substituted by an electronic ignition that controls the tank’s water heating. You can tell if you have an electronic ignition if you can’t find copper tubing leading up to your water heater.
Because thermocouples are a good way of measuring temperature, they are designed to sense the presence of the pilot light’s flame. The moment that flame blows out or is extinguished, the thermocouple triggers the gas valve to shut off. In fact, without the thermocouple telling the gas valve to turn on, your water heater would not work. You can imagine the necessity of having a thermocouple for the safety of your home.
The fact is, sometimes thermocouples need to be replaced. They are not a reparable item, so it’s important to realize that you’ll need a brand new one if yours ever goes out. Thermocouples are subject to constant heat which may lead to carbon build-up on the wires, and this causes most failures. There are a few common indicators that will tell you that your thermocouple might need to be replaced. Here is a list of some of the frequent things you’ll encounter if you have a bad or broken thermocouple:
A bad thermocouple is not always the reason for an inconsistency in the water heater pilot light not coming on, but it should be taken into consideration. There is a test your plumber can do with a multimeter to determine if the thermocouple is indeed the culprit. For water heater thermocouples, a multimeter reading should be at least 10 millivolts. Any less, and the thermocouple is at least not set up properly, if not totally kaput.
Installation of water heater thermocouples is a relatively simple process. But as construction workers and professional plumbers know, something simple can become incredibly convoluted if not prepared with the proper knowledge base and equipment. Rather than risk a faulty installation or potentially breaking something else, you should probably call in a plumber to assess the circumstances and conduct a proper replacement and installation. At Inland Empire Plumbing, our plumbers will make sure that it is the thermocouple that’s causing the problem before moving forward with replacement (replacing a thermocouple if your pilot light is the issue is just redundant and can be a waste of your money). Then you can be assured that our solution is guaranteed to give you back the hot water to your house or business.