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Rheem error Code 13 Solution

Kudos to the Rheem technician (800-­432-­8373) for pointing me in the right direction. After 1 year of flawless operation we began experiencing sporadic "13" error codes causing us to reset 1-2 times per day. Once I got past the original tech suggesting a multitude of lame reasons, I was transferred to a real tech who suggested examining the FLAME RODS (thermocouples) for deposits and use either steel wool or fine grit sandpaper to remove them if present.

Sure enough, one of them showed deposits and now we're back to operating reliably. These tankless units appear to be over-engineered and prone to sensor issues after prolonged use which leaves consumers with a bad feeling about their unreliability. I greatly suspect examining and cleaning the FLAME RODS would solve the majority of code "13" issues.

I've had to clean them with my furnace every few years and found them more accessible and a simple fix. Accessing them inside of the tankless unit is not as simple, but proved just as effective. :)

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Jan 25, 2018
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Not quite, hold the phone
by: Northern Home Service Group

The flame probes are NOT thermocouples. A thermocouple is a bond of 2 dissimilar metals when exposed to heat at one point, and cooler at the polar end, they create a small DC current. Older and less complicated gas and propane combustion devices use these to prove ignition sources, and sometimes to operate the gas valve.

A flame probe is an insulated steel rod which sits in the path of the flame which receives the milliamp current (dc)created when AC current passes through a flame. AC current rectifies as it passes through a flame as the electrons of an oxidizing fuel only polarizes current.

Ok, now that this is done- I’m glad that cleaning the flame probes helped you out. But your problem isn’t gone, and I’m sorry to say, it WILL return and cleaning the probes won’t help. Rheem/Ruud has not been forthcoming with the problem as found elsewhere on the inter webs. The repair is a bit more difficult but follow these basic steps;

Error 13- ignition issue sensed through improper combustion-
Shut off gas and water.
Unplug unit.
Open a faucet to relieve the pressure
Disconnect the gas from the bottom of the unit by removing the 3 screws holding the lower external brass gas connector.
Slowly rotate back and forth while delicately pulling down to remove gas fitting
Take photos of all wire connections to ease the re-installation.
Remove all small wire connections of the gas valve and pressure switch.
Remove pneumatic tubing from pressure switch at the base of the gas valve.
Remove the screws that hold the gas assembly to the heat exchanger. These screws are the ones around the perimeter of the gray sheet metal cover below the heat exchanger. Do not remove the screws from the shiny metal piece above the dull gray piece. The shiny metal piece is the one which the spark wire and your two flame probes connect to.

Once all of the surrounding screws are removed you should be able to delicately remove the entire gray assembly and gas valve in one piece. The backside of that gray sheet metal contains the gas orifices. The side left on the heat exchanger has a series of the large hole and small holes. If you look into the small holes you will see small dividers in each hole. Chances are the small holes are blocked up with a lot of debris. Usually, pollen lint and dust collect here. It is a design flaw.

By taking a stiff hi gauge wire like 18 gauge straightening the wire and putting a very very small hook on the end of one, insert the wire straight into the small hole rotate 90° and pull back. You will find debris comes out of the small holes. This process can be assisted with the use of a small vacuum in addition to the use of the wire.

Clear all of the small holes of debris and with a small high-intensity inspection light look into each hole to verify that all of the debris has been removed. The lower tray where the air comes into the burner cavity most likely has dead moths and other debris in it. Vacuum that debris out. Now reassemble the unit in the reverse order of disassembly starting with placing the burner plate back in place and re-connecting all of the screws. When you go to connect the pneumatic line back onto the pressure switch you may find that there is moisture in the pneumatic line. Drain that moisture.

Continue reassembling the unit. Prior to running the unit turn your water on the first. Allow water to run through the unit pushing out all of the air. Now turn the unit back on and restore to operation. When the unit first runs the burners will make a growling noise. This is normal as the stoichiometric ratio has been disrupted. It will return to normal operation. You will find that now your water temperature is easier to maintain and the unit runs much more smoothly.

On an additional note, the screws are very important. The proper screws must go back into the proper holes. You cannot lose the screws. A pro trick that I teach my apprentices is to use A number two Phillips head screwdriver with a drinking straw over the shaft. Cut the drinking straw to the exact length of the shaft. When you place the screwdriver on the screw make sure that the straw touches the wall of what you are pulling the screw out of. When you turn the screw out the screwdriver will back away from the wall in which the screw was mounted. Continue holding the straw up to the wall that the screw is being pulled from. This will assist in keeping the screw attached to the screwdriver and not falling. In addition magnetic screwdrivers are an absolute must.

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