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I have a Bradford White gas water heater. By coincidence, we noticed that the burner flame pops all of a sudden and a big flame starts up in the unit (see video for location).

I sat for an hour in the garage to observe. The burner came on as we used hot water, everything was normal. After 5 - 10 minutes, there was a big pop sound as if a burst gas was supplied and a big flame came on as can be seen in the video. I then moved the temperature knob to low and the flame died down.

See attached video. Any idea why this would happen? Recommendation?

Video updated on March 15th at approximately 3:30 pm ET. https://www.dropbox.com/s/cfi95sw371rls14/Video%20Mar%2015%2C%2010%2054%2014%20AM.mov?dl=0

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Want to share what I learned.

Thanks to Ed Beal who provided suggestion. I opened the unit and removed the burner assembly and cleaned the filter area. There was not much there. This did not help the situation.

Called our local plumber who guessed that the burner assembly was damaged. He was right. The burner assembly which looked like a exhaust on a car had a tear in the mesh. New burner assembly was installed and we are all good.

I have been told by multiple plumbers that they highly recommend Bradford White including the most recent plumber. With that said, I am not too thrilled with their product. Within the last 5 years (unit was purchased in 2014), we have had to shell out close to $700/- in repairs. This does not include parts because the unit was still under warranty. First two incidents dealt with the control unit by Honeywell that was bad. Now the burner unit.

Anyway, wanted to share my experience.

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The video did not load for me. But your description sounds normal. The gas valve opens, there is an in rush of gas/ air mixture when it contacts the pilot or hot surface ignighter the flame can be pronounced or large at first. When the temp set point is met the valve closes and the flames consume the remaking pressure and go out. Your flame should be strong and mostly blue with possibly some yellow at the tips, if your flame is lazy and alk yellow you may need to clean the burner assembly and the venturi that allows the air to mix with the gas . from your description it sounds normal.

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  • Ed, Thanks for your response. I am not an expert but feel that what I am experiencing is not normal. The pop is loud and the flame occurs in the area around control unit. I have uploaded another video. Hopefully this works.
    – BluedogVIP
    Mar 15 '19 at 19:33
  • If spiders have plugged the air venturi this could be a cause I have seen this many times, I did not realize you had flames other than at the burner so this would be a good area to check. There are usually adjustable openings on water heaters there is usually just 1 but I have seen 3 on larger units check this area because tiny spiders love to get in there and there webs and or bodies are enough to mess up the flow and cause problems like I think you have described. I did look and the video worked this time but I can't quite see enough to give any other advice.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 15 '19 at 21:55
  • Many thanks. Will check this out!
    – BluedogVIP
    Mar 17 '19 at 15:35
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Our water heater from the same company had the same problem, namely intermittent loud booming sounds with a sudden burst of flames. We did get the run around from our local plumbers, HVAC repairmen, mechanicals, and radiant heat experts, but ultimately the issue was a tear in the metal mesh of the burner assembly that needed to be replaced.

We just had the repair completed and our hot water is back and no more booming noises or backfiring of the burner. We spent $340 for the inspection and ~$500 for the repair, so all in around $800-900. You could also buy a burner assembly for $200 and YouTube it, but you’re dealing with wires and flames, which I personally didn’t feel comfortable with.

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