Gas water heaters consist of more than just a tank with a burner assembly; they contain a variety of other parts, including a thermopile. The thermopile plays an important role in the function of most gas water heaters. Like most other parts, though, it can fail. If the thermopile in your gas water heater has failed, you’ll need to get it replaced.
Overview of Thermopiles
Not to be confused with a thermocouple, a thermopile is a device that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. They are commonly found in gas-powered appliances. Gas fireplaces, furnaces and, of course, water heaters may have a thermopile. The thermopile is responsible for converting thermal energy into electrical energy.
How Thermopiles Work
Thermopiles are designed to regulate the temperature of the gas waters with which they are used. When the pilot light turns on, the thermopile will be exposed to thermal energy. It will convert this thermal energy into electrical energy. The voltage output will then be used to regulate the temperature of the gas water heater.
Even if your water heater is powered by gas, it may use an electronic system to regulate its temperature. This electronic system works in conjunction with the thermopile. The thermopile will generate a voltage that powers your water heater’s electronic system. It will convert the thermal energy of the pilot light into electrical energy, which the thermopile will use to power your water heater’s electronic system.
Signs of a Bad Thermopile
If your gas water heater has a bad thermopile, it may fail to produce warm or hot water. Gas water heaters are often dependent on the thermopile to function properly. If the thermopile fails, so will the electronic system used to regulate their temperature
Some gas water heaters may display an error code or message if the thermopile fails. If you notice an error code or message, your gas water heater may have a bad thermopile.
You can also diagnose a bad thermopile by measuring the voltage output. Thermopiles are designed to produce a specific amount of electricity, such as 600 to 800 millivolts. When a thermopile fails, it will typically produce less electricity. Some thermopiles, in fact, may not produce any electricity when they fail.
If you believe your gas water heater has a bad thermopile, schedule an appointment for a professional inspection. An inspection can reveal whether the thermopile is bad and what’s required to fix it.