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All gas appliances going out intermittently- regulator issue?

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My mother has been having very intermittent issues with the pilot light going out on her gas water heater and most recently had all her gas appliances malfunction at the same time. The water heater is a standard natural gas, 40 gal atmospheric type- it's maybe 7 y/o. The pilot stayed lit for 9 mos and then went out, so it's a _very_intermittent issue.
The most recent episode went this way- she was using the gas stove, had a burner lit and walked away. She then noticed the odor of gas, returned to the stove and discovered the burner was out. She turned the knob off and tried to relight the burner- it wasn't working.
She later noticed that the room temp was 3 deg below the setpoint. (so, furnace probably inop.) She then went to check on the water heater and discovered that the indicator light on it wasn't flashing as normal- indicating that the pilot light was out. After some time, she was able to relight the stove and the furnace began working normally. The following day I was able to talk her through relighting the water heater. It's now working OK.
Given that all the gas appliances were malfunctioning simultaneously, I thought that it might be a gas pressure issue. She called the gas company. They came out, reported that the vent screen on the regulator outside had been painted over by someone, stated that they "peeled the paint off it" and called things good. Will an obstructed vent screen cause this sort of intermittent failure?

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,635
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    I wouldn't call that intermittent -- it was a gas pressure problem. And yes, painting over a regulator vent could indeed cause the problem, since it would limit the ability of the regulator to regulate.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,833
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    Yes. A plugged screen can cause that the regulator has to breathe. Usually they get plugged with ants, spiders and wasps.
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 930
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    I have also been involved with cases of water in a gas line. The water accumulates in a low spot in the gas line and travels with the gas until it overwhelms the gas pressure and shuts off the gas. The water will dispurse and again allow for the gas to flow. If the problem does not go away with clearing out the vent, remember this possibility.
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 1,388
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    Hello @spudwrench2,
    Did it happen to the neighbors too ? If not it looks like the plugged vent or water trapped in her system is the most likely cause.
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • spudwrench2
    spudwrench2 Member Posts: 22
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    Thanks to all who responded! The thing that's puzzling to me is how much time went by between incidences of the WH pilot light going out- as I said over 9 mos passed between episodes. I'd think that if the vent on the regulator was plugged it would be a more consistent issue. We'll just keep an eye on it and see what happens, I guess. I'll report back later with results in case anyone is curious.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,635
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    Not really -- if the source gas pressure is borderline, which it may well be, then it can go for a long time like that but a small glitch for who knows what reason can cause the problem to appear -- and then disappear just as mysteriously.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,104
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    I had a reg vent screen completely iced up in a storm, it would pass no gas at all until cleared.

    It faced sideways to the east and the storm was from a freak direction for freezing rain.