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High wind = bad pilot light

Post in 'It's a Gas!' started by mkulie, Nov 20, 2008.

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  1. mkulie

    mkulie New Member

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    I had a Lopi Berkshire direct-vent NG unit installed about 1.5 years ago. It worked like a charm last winter (one of the coldest, snowiest on record in Wisconsin!). It's installed in an addition to our home that's our main gathering room and doesn't get adequate warmth through our much despised forced air main heating furnace , and the Lopi Berkshire put off more than enough heat to keep most of the home's main level cozy. I was completely impressed by its performance last winter.

    OK...on to this year. We've had a string of windy days recently. Whenever there's a significant breeze from the north/northwest, the pilot continually goes out. (FYI: the stove is vented on the north facing wall). I've had to re-light the pilot at least 20 times in the past 2 weeks alone, which is more than annoying. I lit it three times last night in the span of 15 minutes, and it immediately went out each time with the first major gust of wind. The reason I opted for a direct-vent, NG in this room was for convenience (and to keep the inevitable wood mess out of our main living area!), but this convenience factor is obviously negated by the unit not working during windy conditions!

    Any comments/suggestions? I'm going to have the dealer come out and service it anyway for an annual check-up, but I want to know if anyone can provide any independent, sage advice on why I'm seeing such drastic performance issues this year compared to last year on this new stove.

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  2. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    Has anything changed around the vent area? Bush that has grown bigger or has leaves now, but didn't last year - or vice versa, anything stacked or piled in the area changed from last year, etc? Maybe even something fairly far away creating turbulence in just the right area?

    You seem to indicate you are actually seeing the pilot go out in exact timing with a gust of wind which should rule out a bad thermocouple.
  3. tubbster

    tubbster Member

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    Blast the pilot area with some compressed air?

    Maybe spidey got in there and left a little something behind, and subtly changed the orifice. That or dust got into my (now decommissioned) vent free heater. Blew it out with the air hose and all was well again.
  4. mkulie

    mkulie New Member

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    Nothing's changed in the vent area at all between this year and last. It's free and clear of any nearby objects (trees, etc.). I just find it so strange that it worked fine last year, yet is so fussy this year.

    I'll try the hint of blowing some compressed air in there to see if that clears things out. I did turn the pilot off for the summer...maybe I won't do that next year (to keep things like spiders away from it!).

    The pilot has gone out 4 more times today (another windy day). The correlation of the pilot snuffing out and wind gusts is just so convincing. Frustrating! I'll also explore some high wind vent coverage.

    Thanks, all for the comments.
  5. mkulie

    mkulie New Member

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    Nothing's changed in the vent area at all between this year and last. It's free and clear of any nearby objects (trees, etc.). I just find it so strange that it worked fine last year, yet is so fussy this year.

    I'll try the hint of blowing some compressed air in there to see if that clears things out. I did turn the pilot off for the summer...maybe I won't do that next year (to keep things like spiders away from it!).

    The pilot has gone out 4 more times today (another windy day). The correlation of the pilot snuffing out and wind gusts is just so convincing. Frustrating! I'll also explore some high wind vent coverage.

    Thanks, all, for the comments.
  6. R&D Guy

    R&D Guy New Member

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    I think your pilot is going to be hot enough to burn any webs out of the assembly. That seems really odd that it worked great one year and so many problems this year. Did you get into the firebox at all between this year and last? If so were the logs moved at all?

    Also, does the pilot go out only when the burner is operating, or does it do out when it's the only thing burning too? When the pilot is burning does the flame look plenty big? If not you may consider turning the pilot up - that's done on the valve.

    I'd caution against blowing compressed air into the pilot, you're going to load the valve up with back pressure it was never meant to handle.
  7. mkulie

    mkulie New Member

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    I didn't mess with anything inside the firebox at all over the past few months. The only time I've been near the interior of the firebox is when I remove the front glass panel to re-light the pilot, but I've never repositioned (either accidentally or purposefully!) the logs inside, etc.

    I'll do some additional research on whether the pilot goes out even if the burner isn't on, but I'm 99% sure that it has done that repeatedly. It's happened so much recently when the burner is activated that I've kind of forgotten the "test" that I've doen already. The pilot light itself looks very healthy when lit (according to my very novice opinion!), and the flames look excellent when the burner is on.

    And I'll definitely wait before blowing air into the system. I'm trying to get a professional to look at my unit, so I'll wait for further diagnosis from them. Your comments are most appreciated.
  8. R&D Guy

    R&D Guy New Member

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    LOL!!! Welcome to the world or Research & Development. Sorry to laugh, but I've found myself in your situation many times with an odd intermittent problem I can't diagnose for a few weeks and before you know it you're looking through the tech's log sheet sure you already told him to run a particular scenario.

    Sounds like a pilot shield would help you out. When you call the dealer for the service call be sure to mention the issue as they likely have a pilot shield fix for your unit.
  9. mkulie

    mkulie New Member

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    To hopefully properly finish this thread, I had the service tech out today to look at my pilot light. Everything checked out OK with my Lopi Berkshire, so he installed a shield near the pilot light that will hopefully ward off the evil spirits that keep snuffing the pilot out in very windy conditions. Will report back if this fix doesn't do the trick.
  10. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    You might just want to try changing the thermocouple. I've seen them get weak and the slightest draft will put them out. It's about a $5 part.

    Can you see the pilot light flickering around when the wind blows? If it's steady, then the wind isn't really the problem. If you can't see the pilot, try putting a couple votive candles in the firebox and watch for stray air movement. I think the problem may be something other than air currents.

    Chris
  11. R&D Guy

    R&D Guy New Member

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    "Thermoactive flue damper... Pilot wont open the fluepipe so draft wont blow out pilot from excess...... CO detector is a must." Well OK then..... :coolsmirk:

    Could just be me, but everything I read pointed toward a wind issue. I wouldn't throw additional parts at it especially if an installer was on the scene and diagnosed it as described.
  12. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    Well, I tend to read between the lines, sometimes too much. I'm not a fan of using part replacement as a diagnostic tool either, but a thermocouple is such a cheap and easy fix, I thought I would suggest it. I have chased a bunch of wild geese in my day, only to find out that the TC was headed south with them! Sometimes when you have checked the obvious...

    I am making the assumption that by "direct vent" that the air intake is concentric with the exhaust. This would mean that a wind gust is going to hit the intake and exhaust at approximately the same time, and wouldn't really create an air current through the box. If the pilot isn't blowing around, then maybe it's something else.

    Also an assumption, but if this is the first time the stove has been lit, it may still have other problems. Dust was mentioned as was pilot size, so I assume (there's that word again) that these problems have been ruled out, especially if a second opinion was called in. When you've followed your diagnosis to the end and still don't have a resolution, you have to step back and look at the big picture again. If you really wanted to rule out the wind, plug the vent up with something and see if the pilot stays lit (obviously with the main burner disabled). If it still goes out, it's not the wind. Rule out the obvious and see what happens.

    Taking nothing for granted, ;-)
    Chris
  13. R&D Guy

    R&D Guy New Member

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    Well again, Could just be me, but everything I read pointed toward a wind issue. I wouldn’t throw additional parts at it especially if an installer was on the scene and diagnosed it as described.
  14. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    Around here they're a little more than that but still less than $10...
    Gotta love all the bad words that are said by the guy doing the replacing, specially on a Robert Shaw valve!

    [/quote]Can you see the pilot light flickering around when the wind blows? If it's steady, then the wind isn't really the problem. If you can't see the pilot, try putting a couple votive candles in the firebox and watch for stray air movement. I think the problem may be something other than air currents.[/quote]

    I'd put a multimeter on the thermopile & see if I could crank the pilot up a tad...Most systems run down around 500 - 500mv, but I've had em up to 600-625mv with no damage to the thermopile & the stronger flame will keep the thermocouple engulfed enough that wind agitation won't take the pilot out...
    My $0.02...
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