Category Archives: General

The category for uncategorized stuff. ;)

Polaris Water Heater Error Code 1

Polaris Water Heater error code 1, also known as the Pressure Switch Closed failure.

The Polaris Water Heater has an onboard diagnostics system that will flash a red LED to indicate a fault. This LED is visible through a small window on the access panel near the bottom of the hot water tank. By referring to the Polaris manual, you can discover what each of the error codes mean and there’s also a nice flow chart that suggests what to check/fix.

Error code 1 indicates that the pressure switch has failed to close. What this means is the Ignition Control Module (ICM) is unable to test if there is fresh air coming into the Polaris water heater. Without fresh air, there can be no combustion.

Now, the flow chart in the user manual basically has one solution for error code 1 – replace the pressure switch. While that may be the final solution required, I’ve had a service technician from Direct Energy tell me that you should also check everything associated with the Polaris Water Heater Error Code 2 problem. I recently had this issue and the problem turned out to be a small piece of dirt had become lodged in the air inlet to the pressure sensor. Likely this bit of dirt was picked up from outside, through the air inlet pipe and worked its way into the valve.

Once the technician remove the clear PVC pipes, removed the bit of dirt and reconnected everything the hot water heater came back to life. He also mentioned that on newer Polaris water heaters there is an external air filter on the 3″ air inlet pipe so that small bits of dirt don’t cause issues like this.

So, if you currently have error code 1, try checking for dirt in the pressure sensor valves before making that expensive service call.

Polaris Water Heater Error Code 2

Polaris Water Heater error code 2, also known as the Pressure Switch Open failure.

The Polaris Water Heater has an onboard diagnostics system that will flash a red LED to indicate a fault. This LED is visible through a small window on the access panel near the bottom of the hot water tank. By referring to the Polaris manual, you can discover what each of the error codes mean and there’s also a nice flow chart that suggests what to check/fix.

Basically, the Pressure Switch Open (error code 2) indicates that the Ignition Control Module (ICM) is unable to test the air pressure of the incoming fresh air to the unit. This is because it is unable to close the pressure switch to perform the test. Without fresh air coming in, the Polaris Water Heater cannot start a burn cycle as it needs oxygen for combustion. It also needs to ensure it can exhaust the gasses of combustion to prevent Carbon Monoxide (CO) buildup in the house.

The Pressure Switch Open failure is supposed to be a soft lockout (SL) fault. The IGM will try again in 60 minutes and if successful, the unit will resume normal operation.

There are three noted sources of this failure:

  1. There isn’t 24Vac across the pressure switch (no power)
  2. The clear PVC tubing is cracked or has some sort of leak
  3. There is a blockage in the inlet/exhaust air venting

There is now also a fourth possibility. As discovered by Steve, error code 2 can also be caused by frost buildup in low temperature environments (~ -28C or -20F ). There is a technical bulletin available for this issue which describes how to correct the issue. Steve was kind enough to forward the PDF to me that he received from the Polaris Technician.

Polaris Water Heater Technical Bulletin #5002 – Frost Buildup (PDF)

If you have a Polaris Water Heater from roughly June 2008 or newer, error code 2 can also be caused by a dirty air filter. The air filter is located in the air inlet pipe and can be removed for cleaning. An addendum to the Polaris Water Heater user manual is available on the John Wood Water Heater website:

Polaris Water Heater Addendum – Inlet Air Filter (PDF)

If you are still having problems, John Wood provides a form you can use for technical support questions. If you are a US customer you should use the American Water Heaters technical support form. Also note that American Water Heaters has a listing of some Technical Service Bulletins on their website.

Queensway (417) Carling Ave Bridge Rapid Replacement

The Queensway (Highway 417) through Ottawa will be closed for about 18 hours from July 30-31, 2011 to allow for the rapid replacement of the Carling Ave bridge. This has already been done twice before on the Queensway with great success.

When the Island Park bridge was replaced in 2007, I managed to capture images from a webcam that had been setup and produced a time lapse video of the Island Park bridge rapid replacement. I also managed to create a time lapse video of the Clyde Ave bridge rapid replacement in 2008.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track down a dedicated webcam for the Carling Ave bridge rapid replacement that is happening this weekend. I guess this method of bridge replacement isn’t “new and exciting” anymore. :)  I was going to try and see if I could capture frames from the two nearby MTO webcams but this has proven tricky so far. I’ll update if I do manage to get something workable.

Anyhoo, if you’re interested in checking out the action between 6PM EDT on July 30, 2011 until noon-ish on July 31, 2011, you may have some luck with the MTO COMPASS traffic cameras.

Update: Well, I was away this weekend and didn’t manage to capture the feed from the MTO webcams but it looks like someone did:

Air Conditioning Hydro Usage

The hot weather started here in Eastern Ontario over the last couple weeks and up until this past weekend, it was usually quite manageable. Unfortunately on Sunday, with the humidity really high at 7am, I caved around 9am and turned on the air conditioning until about 10pm.

Thanks to the Time of Use meter we have and Hydro One’s nifty online electricity usage tool, I’m able to see how much electricity we used to keep ourselves cool(er) for the day.

Graph showing hourly electricity usage for a 24 hour period when the air conditioning is on.
Yeah, that’s a whopping 46.05 kWh used in one day. We are normally around 10-12 kWh/day. Ugh.

Now, the graph above shows the cost per hour to run the AC (and I think the dryer must have been on to cause the spike around noon) but let’s remember that these rates are not the real rates we’re paying per kWh consumed. The real rate for the 2011 Summer Season for Off-Peak is more like 12.00892¢/kWh (based on Urban High Density and before tax).

So, 46.05kWh is going to cost $5.53 (plus tax) and not the $2.72 shown by the graph. Guess we’ll be selecting our cooling days a little more diligently.

The best part of this whole deal is that it was a Sunday and thus the whole day is at the Off-Peak rate. We would have just hidden in the basement all day if it was a week day. :)

Natural Gas Standby Generator

I was recently looking at natural gas standby generators on the Costco website. Given the current electricity rates during peak Time of Use hours, I then started wondering what the cost per kWh was for a natural gas standby generator. Especially considering how low the natural gas prices have been.

So let’s do some math. Fun!

According to EnergyShop.com, natural gas is currently 25.04¢/m³ in my area. That includes all of the “add ons” that are over and above the posted natural gas rate. It excludes taxes though. As we saw before, your real electricity rate is not the same as what is “advertised” by Hydro One. We need to add in a number of extra charges to get the real rate. With the recent switch to the summer Time of Use pricing, the advertised rates increased.

Based on the current Hydro One Residential Delivery Rates, the real Time of Use prices are (based on Urban High density) 12.01¢/kWh for off-peak, 15.24¢/kWh for mid-peak and 17.18¢/kWh for peak usage. Again, these are the rates without taxes added (and minus some monthly charges that don’t translate well into a per kWh price).

So, let’s take the Generac 17 kW Standby Generator that is available on the Costco website, and figure out the cost per kWh. According to the website, it is capable of producing 16kW using natural gas and consumes 6.9m³/h at full load. So, that translates to 2.32kWh/m³ at full load. Given the current natural gas rate in my area, that means the standby generator costs 10.80¢/kWh.  WHAT?

Well, hang on, let’s not get too carried away with this. Natural gas prices are currently at all time lows.  Let’s see how much it would cost with the ~50¢/m³ that we were paying a couple years ago.  At that price, the generator costs 21.55¢/kWh to run.

Let’s not forget about the cost of the generator – $3699.99 plus around $1000 of installation/other costs (based on some rough numbers I found while Googling). To cover that, you’d have to run the “standby” generator at full load during Time of Use on-peak time for about 67142 hours all while hoping that the natural gas price doesn’t go up. Oh, and don’t forget that peak time is only for about 6 hours a day and only 5 days a week.

Oh well, that satisfied my curiosity.

Well, almost.  I poked around a bit and found a couple industrial natural gas generator sets. Unfortunately most of the large scale (2500kW – 3000kW) units I found didn’t have fuel consumption values. The $500k for a used (with no warranty) 3000kW generator set was interesting. (Yikes!)

I did manage to find the Kohler Power 400RZX which is 400kW natural gas generator. It’s capable of around 3.3kW/m³ at full load or a cost of 7.5¢/kWh. Of course, no price is listed so I’m going to assume its payoff time would be greater than the 67000+ hours of the Generac unit.