High Altitude Water Heater Maintenance

Berry Mathew

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High Altitude Water Heater Maintenance

A high-altitude water heater requires specific maintenance. Read more about it below.

Derate the main burner assembly orifice

The correct derating of the main burner assembly orifice is essential for proper combustion. It should be done with a numbered drill bit of the correct size to ensure proper flame characteristics. 

The right orifice size is determined by the gas input rate. A qualified service agency such as Bosque Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing will be able to provide the necessary information and the correct derating procedure. Performing derating yourself may result in incomplete combustion and yellow tipping.

To make gas water heaters work at higher elevations, derate the main burner assembly orifice. While this modification may be a little bit invasive, it is not too difficult. This modification will address the issue with the atmosphere and ensure that it delivers hot water safely.

Depending on your gas supply, you may need to derate the orifice in your H2O heater. Natural gas orifices are typically 2.05 mm; however, you can use a kit made for propane gas, which changes the orifice to 1.30 mm. Be sure to turn off the gas and electrical power before you begin the process to prevent damage.

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Reverse the pilot adjustment

If you’ve recently moved to an area with a lot of high-altitude snowfall, you may need to reverse the pilot adjustment of your H2O heater. High-altitude models naturally experience a decrease in input rate. As the altitude increases, actual hot H2O output will gradually decrease. Click here for an altitude map that can help you determine the altitude of your hometown.

At 1,000 feet altitude, the decrease in input rate is approximately 2.8%. As such, all high-altitude models come factory-adjusted to keep the minimum input at sea level, with the minimum fan speed.

High-altitude H2O heater maintenance may require modifications to the gas-powered H2O heater. Before performing any modification, contact your local gas utility company. This modification is not a replacement for professional installation. However, it is important to note that gas-powered H2O heaters can function at 2,000 feet or higher. 

The adjustments to the air-fuel balance can accommodate the change in atmosphere. It’s important to remember that high-altitude H2O devices can work well at this altitude, and are therefore a smart investment for high-altitude homes.

Flush the burner assembly

In addition to following proper maintenance methods, it is also essential to flush the burner assembly periodically. Higher altitudes reduce the capacity of the induced draft blower, which is used to warm water. 

The combination temperature and pressure relief valve must be installed in a suitable opening. This opening should be at least six inches above the floor. In addition, it should be located six inches below the structural floor, so that it can drain properly. 

The valve must be protected from blockage and threading, and its opening must have the minimum clearance required to function properly. Finally, the combination temperature and pressure relief valve must not be subject to blockage or over-threading.

To flush the burner assembly for water heater maintenance, disconnect the water heater’s electrical power source. You can take this time to see if your water heater makes the EPA’s list of environmentally friendly water heaters. Click the link: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/water-heating for more information. Make sure that the unit is powered off to prevent accidental operation. If you notice sooting, there may be a burner malfunction. 

Flush the T&P valve

You need to flush the T&P valve on your water heater to avoid a potential explosion. A T&P valve is a tube-attached valve located on the outside of a water heater that offers relief when the pressure inside the unit is above normal operating limits. This pressure is typically around 150 pounds per square inch, but you may encounter a higher level of pressure than that.

The T&P valve needs to be installed in the appropriate opening that is provided for this purpose. Make sure that it is installed at least six inches above the structural floor. Be sure to pitch the piping so that it drains properly. After installing the T&P valve, make sure that you are flushing the loop trap by pouring water into it. Make sure that the loop trap discharges in the proper drain.

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