Tag Archives: repair

Polaris Water Heater Replacement

Our 34G Polaris water heater was replaced not to long ago. Wow, over 7 years with the tank, more than half of those years with numerous problems and finally Direct Energy decides to replace the tank. Although, that’s about 10 years sooner than most Polaris water heaters should be replaced.

For some reason (still unknown to me) the water heater was deemed un-repairable by Direct Energy. My only guess is that potentially replacing the blower motor assembly for the second time in 7 years might have put the total parts cost over their break even threshold?

Unfortunately, this water heater replacement wasn’t without drama.

It started with the old tank tossing an Error Code 1 one Saturday in September. So I called Direct Energy and even though they claim “Same Day Service”, the earliest they could come was Sunday and of course, since the service Technicians don’t carry parts in their vans anymore, he had to order the replacement pressure switch (which I had told them about when I called on Saturday suggesting that the technician bring one).

One of the fittings on the old Polaris water heater that was badly corroded and leaking. This one is also immediately above the natural gas inlet.

One of the fittings on the old Polaris water heater that was badly corroded and leaking. This one is also immediately above the natural gas inlet.

Now, this first technician also noted that we had severe galvanic corrosion on the Polaris water heater fittings and he also scheduled for a crew to come out on Monday to repair that. Great! I’ve been complaining about that to every technician since we moved into the house!

Monday is where things started to go “funny”.

A second technician showed up Monday morning and tried to install the new pressure switch we had received but it didn’t fix the issue. Now, I say tried because the pressure switch wasn’t actually the correct one for the model of Polaris water heater I had. The technician was confused by this but after testing the whole system, he noted that the blower wasn’t pushing nearly enough air so even with the correct pressure switch, it wouldn’t have mattered.

That’s when he ordered the new blower assembly.

So then I was waiting for the second crew to come Monday afternoon and replace the fittings on the tank.  Well, they showed up just after 1PM. With a new tank. Huh? On top of that, they didn’t have any fittings to replace the heavily corroded ones on the existing tank. WTF?

I called Direct Energy before they even brought the new tank in the house because I didn’t understand what was going on. After talking to a person in the Rental Water Heater group, I was basically told that the tank replacement was my only option because they weren’t going to repair the existing tank. Uh, ok? Alarms bells are starting to ring here but my brain couldn’t process everything fast enough to realize I was about to get screwed.

The installation crew with the tank inform me that I need to pay for a venting upgrade due to the code changes and they give me the total cost ~$250. Yikes. Well. But then I’ll have a new tank and hopefully no issues? Oh, and they have only managed to scrounge up two fittings so they will use those and the “best” two of the existing ones but will reschedule to come back to replace those two later. Uh, ok. let’s do it.

7+ hours later at ~8:30PM when they finally finish the replacement (that’s not an unreasonable length of time for a Polaris dual outlet system) they present me with the work order that I need to sign agreeing to pay the ~$250 venting cost. I notice that the form is a rental agreement but the installers are pretty certain I only need to sign where the venting cost is recorded and not the actual agreement. Alarm bells again but the tank is already installed and I’m not sure what else to do so I sign in the materials costs section and not the rental agreement section, just like the installer indicated.

This is the newly installed Polaris 34G water heater with all new venting.

This is the newly installed 34G Polaris water heater with all new venting.

So they pack up and our Polaris water heater replacement is complete. Well, almost. They still need to come back another day and replace the other two fittings. Oh, and of course, there’s that paper I signed. Hmm, wait a second…

You can continue reading Polaris Water Heater Replacement – Part 2.

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.

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!

Polaris Hot Water Tank – Part 3

I got up yesterday and was getting some stuff cleaned up for breakfast when I realized that we had no hot water. Again. For the third time in about 18 months. It’s been just under a year since we had about $1200 worth of parts replaced on our Polaris high efficiency gas hot water tank. Unfortunately it looks like we had a similar problem again.

Being an expert now, I went down and checked the LED to see how many times it was flashing. Hmm, only once this time, grab the book off the top of the tank (yes, I keep it there now for quick reference). I discover (or is it “remind myself”) that a single flash indicates a Pressure Switch Open error and it’s a “self clearing” code. This means it’s supposed to clear once the condition is no longer detected. Being a child who grew up with Microsoft, I know that the first thing you do is reboot, err, power cycle when something goes wrong. I flick the switch, wait 5 minutes and then turn the tank back on. Nope, doesn’t clear.

I actually had a gentleman from Direct Energy in my house less than 2 hours later. He looked at it for a few minutes and performed his diagnostics. When I heard him coming up the stairs I was expecting the standard “I have to order a part” comment but he continued past me out to his truck. He actually had the part he needed in the truck! That was a new experience for me with Direct Energy. Another 30 minutes or so and he was done and I had hot water again.

The interesting thing is that according to the tech, the error code was actually incorrect. He had to replace the ignition(?) module as there was a bad connection which may have been what was leading to the Pressure Switch Open error code.

Once again, I’m happy I’m renting this tank from Direct Energy but I’m starting to wonder when they are going to come and take it out of my house. I figure by now they have no chance of recouping the cost from my monthly rental fee. It’s really irritating when it does break down but I just remind myself that I’m not paying the bills for it, well, directly.