Shop Projects – Cleaning the water heater burner

I have an older propane fueled hot water heater with a spark ignition, which I usually turn off when I am gong to be away for more than a day or two. It had always been very reliable, but over the last couple of years it began to be difficult to get it to stay lit on the first day or two when it was back on, and you could hear it going through multiple light-off cycles before it eventually caught with a less than perfect flame of more yellow than blue. After that it would work fine.

Until the latest time… Try as I might, all the tricks which had worked before failed, and after 2 days of no hot water it was time to do something about it. My first thought was to replace it, but the cost of a new induced draft water heater was a fair bit more than I anticipated. After calling in a friend with extensive HVAC experience, we decided to clean the burner.

The water heater is in the basement and it can be a bit humid at times, so when the burner was removed I wasn’t surprised to see some rust on it when the covers came off and exposed it to view. What did surprise me was the amount of rust on top of the burner after it was removed, which had fallen from the baffles above it.

as removed

rust_in_channels

After some light attention with a wire brush and a bit of time with pipe cleaners through each of the gas channels, as well as lightly polishing the end of the spark ignitor, the burner looked a bit better but certainly nothing like new.

cleaned

After reinstalling it the heater lit right off to a good blue flame and has functioned perfectly since.

flame

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