Tag Archives: gas hot water

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.

Direct Energy Public Relations

I recently posted about the impending Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rate Increase that I was notified about in one of my bills late last year. As it turned out, the new advertised rate seems to only apply to new rentals. Our monthly rate increase was less than one dollar (which is still annoying but reasonable) which was no where near the $22 per month suggested by the bill insert.

A couple weeks ago I received an email from a person who works for the Direct Energy Public Relations team.  She wanted to make sure I was receiving the “correct” rental price and was willing to have my account checked to ensure it was correct. After exchanging a few emails, I declined having my account checked. History has taught me that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone. I didn’t need them to discover I wasn’t paying enough (or something like that). ;)

Now, the interesting part about this is I’m one blogger complaining about a potential price increase and Direct Energy has people in their Public Relations team who are actively searching the internet for just this sort of thing. That actually makes me really happy. I didn’t expect anyone to contact me when I wrote the original article, it was more of a complaint about a potential massive increase.  I fully expected to have to contact Direct Energy and complain (and of course, blog about the whole process) if and when the massive increase actually happened.

Anyways, thanks Crystal of the Direct Energy Public Relations team for contacting me. I can only hope that other companies (ahem, Bell, I’m looking at you) can learn from this approach.

Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rate Increase

Direct Energy Logo

UPDATED: I found my local copy of the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule. This is more relevant given the recent Direct Energy Rental Terms Change fiasco.

If you currently rent your water heater from Direct Energy, and you haven’t yet received your December 2009 bill, brace yourself. Direct Energy’s water heater rental rates are going up.  In some cases (like mine) – way up.  Currently I am renting a Polaris 34 U.S. Gallons natural gas hot water tank.  According to the pamphlet I received, my rental will be going from about $40/month to $62.34/month.  An increase of approximately $22/month!

Now, I know I have posted a fair bit about the problems I’ve had with my Polaris unit that I rent from Direct Energy. My only guess for Direct Energy’s 55% increase (is it really that much!?!) on my Polaris rental is due to the number of issues that they have had.

Here’s the 2009 Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rates from their website:

2009 Rental Chart
Water Heater Type & Size Monthly Rental2 Hard Water Monthly Rental2
CV40 40 U.S. Gallons1 $11.64 $12.70
CV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $13.00 $14.80
CV60 60 U.S. Gallons1 $15.48 $17.65
PV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $20.81 $24.41
DV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $20.51 $23.49
PV50 HI PV60 50 & 60 U.S. Gallons1 $22.97 $26.40
PV75 75 U.S. Gallons1 $27.63 $29.68
Electric 60 60 U.S. Gallons1 $10.25
Polaris 34 U.S. Gallons1 $62.34
CombiCor 50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $38.22 $41.55
CombiCor 75 75 U.S. Gallons1 $40.92 $44.45
Rinnai Tankless R75LSIN $33.50

1 Capacity in U.S. Gallons may vary, depending on specific manufacturer. U.S. Gallon = 0.8327 Imperial Gallons = 3.7854 Litres.
2 Rates are subject to change upon one month’s notice. Plus GST.

Ugh! From the same link above, I also found the 2009 Direct Energy rental water heater buyout schedule [PDF – no longer available]. According to that, my ~5 year old Polaris 34 Gallon tank would cost me around $3700 + tax to buy.  Double Ugh!

UPDATED: I found my local copy of the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule.

I managed to dig up the following 2008 rental rate information but it doesn’t seem to jive with what I am currently paying.

Direct Energy 2008 Water Heater Rental Rates

Direct Energy 2008 Water Heater Rental Rates

I guess that means I’m stuck paying $62/mon until my whole system craps out and I really have to replace something.  I had a furnace quote a while back and it came in around $8000 to replace my system (including a new hot water tank of some sorts).

Oh look, another shiny penny on the floor!  I should just bend over and pick that up…

Solar Hot Water vs Natural Gas Hot Water

Natural Gas FlameToday we will do a cost comparison of solar hot water and natural gas hot water. This is the third part of the Should I Install Solar Hot Water? series. Yesterday we looked at Solar Hot Water vs Electric Hot Water.

Background

Currently in eastern Ontario, you can have a solar hot water system installed for about $4000-$4500 after all of the rebates and incentives. While this is a huge discount from the roughly $9000 regular cost, does a solar hot water system actually make sense financially?

The Numbers

The typical solar hot water system (EnerWorks 2 panel system) we have been using in this series can produce about 2800 kWh/year of hot water here in eastern Ontario. This of course is when it’s installed in an ideal location/orientation.

According to the ACEEE, a high efficiency natural gas water tank is 65% efficient at converting natural gas into heat.

The current combined price of natural gas in Ontario is approximately $0.3022/m3. That’s $0.2354/m3 for the gas with a price adjustment of -$0.0616/m3 plus delivery of $0.1285/m3.

Now, price per cubic meter is fine and dandy but we need to convert to kWh to make this easier. A quick Google search tells me that 1 m3 of natural gas is roughly equivalent 10.5 kWh (it varies but we need a number to work with).

This is a little more difficult than the electric hot water example so I’ll show the steps so I don’t screw anything up and so you can check my math. :)

Our example 65% efficient natural gas hot water heater needs to consume 4300 kWh to produce the equivalent 2800 kWh/year that the solar hot water system can produce.

2800 kWh / 0.65 = 4300 kWh

4300 kWh is approximately 410m3

4300 kWh / 10.5 kWh per m

3

  = 410m

3

And 410 m3 costs about $124 at current market prices in eastern Ontario.

410 m

3

 * $0.3022/m

3

 = $124

Therefore, if you are reducing your natural gas bill by $124/year, it will take you between 32.24 to 36.29 years to recover the costs ($4000 – $4500) of the solar hot water system and start saving real money.

Over 30 years to recover the initial investment? The lifespan of a solar hot water system is only “over 20 years” which means you could easily still be paying for the thing after it’s been replaced.

Of course, that is using current natural gas pricing which is extremely low. It dropped more than $0.10/m3 as of April 1, 2009 and the summer prices are usually much lower.

When would it make sense to install solar hot water with a natural gas system?

Using the examples above, the combined natural gas price would have to reach almost $1.00/m3 before a solar hot water system could pay for itself in 9 years. $0.50/m3 is definitely a possibility in the near future (if I remember correctly, last winter was just shy of $0.40/m3) so the payback period starts to get closer to what it currently is with electric hot water heating.

Now, for my particular house, I’ll don’t think I’ll ever install a solar hot water system for domestic hot water. We have a Polaris high efficiency gas hot water tank that we use for both our domestic hot water and for heating the house. That puppy is 95% efficient. At today’s natural gas prices, it would take about 50 years to recover the initial investment in a solar hot water system.

In a future post, I’ll explore the difficulty of designing a solar hot water system to augment a combined natural gas heating system like we have.

Image Credit- ARRG.ch

Polaris High Efficiency Gas Hot Water Tank – Part 6

Our Polaris High Efficiency gas hot water tank is once again not working. It’s spewing out good old error code 1 – Pressure Switch Closed. Woo-hoo! I love when the pressure switch is closed because it means I get to call my buddies at Direct Energy and have them come out and order some new parts to try and fix the Polaris hot water tank for another few months. No, not really – this sucks.

Polaris gas hot water tank

Polaris gas hot water tank

I now have a stack of yellow receipts that I just leave on top of the hot water tank so each of the Direct Energy techs can see what they have done in the past. It’s sort of funny when one of the guys (Joel is his name) comes as he’s been here a few times. I almost feel like I should offer him a beer as he’s been to my house more often than some of my work buddies!

Anyways, Pressure Switch Closed is supposed to be a self clearing fault on the Polaris HWT but in my experience, it never clears itself. I’ve had numerous parts replaced – some have been done multiple times. I think the total value of replaced parts on the Polaris HWT is now over $4000. Yeah, I know, good thing I’m renting it and I don’t have to pay for those parts!

My “buddy” Joel tried a bunch of things the last time he was here (which was only last fall) and he had a couple new parts ordered and installed. I was hopeful at the time because both he and the second tech both seem to understand the Polaris HWT and it’s quirks. Unfortunately, they also both said that most people in the area with the Polaris hot water tanks are now pulling them out because they suck so badly. That really is unfortunate because the tank really does work well. It’s just too bad that they are not more reliable. Well, maybe they are reliable for some people but just not in this neck of the woods.

Updated: Yippee! I have hot water again. Interestingly, this time the tech didn’t actually replace anything. He spent some time going through the diagnosis and as soon as he hooked up his ammeter, the unit started to work. Bad ground! It turns out that who ever installed the unit (uh, Direct Energy guys installed it) had taken a short cut when hooking up the ground wires in the main power shut off switch. They just hand twisted the copper wires together with no marrettes! He cleaned that all up and the Polaris hot water heater is working fine now. Hopefully this will be the end of the 4 years of problems!