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Best practices for troubleshooting and repairing gas pool heaters

There are different shapes and styles of ignitors, but overall, they can be tested by performing a simple resistance test.

By Sue Robach

When a pool heater stops working, homeowners, understandably, get a little cranky. They spent good money on their pool and want to be able to use it the way they envisioned—with water at a comfortable temperature. Today’s pool heaters are generally pretty reliable, but they definitely have components that occasionally need to be replaced—perhaps more so than other pool equipment. However, when a heater is not working, replacing a part, rather than the entire unit, can, and often does, solve the problem. Therefore, a service professional that is proficient in determining which part or parts need to be replaced can make the difference between a cranky customer and a happy one.

Before getting into the specifics of troubleshooting heaters, the basics should be reviewed first.

Establish and verify the symptoms

The first step when troubleshooting is to always try to get as much information from the customer as possible. Ask a lot of questions. Once arriving at the job site, observe the current state of the equipment that is having the problem. Also look at any support equipment that could contribute to the symptom. Once everything has been observed, try to operate the equipment in question to verify the fault.

Bring the necessary tools

Always have the proper tools on hand to conduct a thorough analysis of what the problem may be, e.g. a voltmeter, manometer, and a complete tool kit.

Isolate the problem

If one piece of equipment is dependent on another, such as the case with a heater and an automation system, separate them so they operate independently. There is nothing worse than trying to troubleshoot and fix a heater when the actual problem is occurring because of the automation system.

Know how it works and follow the path

Troubleshooting is simply a process of elimination. In this case, as a service professional, it is extremely important to understand how the product is supposed to operate and know the sequence or path that must be followed for it to operate properly. For example, if there is a pressure-side cleaner that is not moving very well in the pool, start where the water path begins, such as the filter pump basket or skimmer baskets, the booster pump, (if one is installed) then out to the wall fitting. Remove anything along the way that could possibly prevent the cleaner from moving, and continue this process through the water path of the cleaner. To save time, technicians often start in the area where they most commonly find problems (i.e. the wall fitting), which is acceptable, but if a problem is not found, start at the beginning. Often, the further one drills into the path, the more disassembly and detailed observation is required. The key point here is to know how something works before it can be determined what is wrong.

Verify the repair

Lastly, once the problem or defective component has been found and then repaired and/or replaced, always remember to test the repair by turning the equipment to verify its operation.

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