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    Celtic Blue New Member

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    I'm posting this as a helpful warning to others. These water heaters are not worth the resources used in making them and will fail early, VERY early. American Water Heaters (aka U.S. Craftmaster, etc.) produces water heaters for Whirlpool which are then sold through Lowes. I guess if you really want to conserve on hot water this might be the brand to buy...since you won't have any hot water eventually. :eek:

    Ever since the FVIR regs took effect several years ago these new "Flamelock" systems from American Water Heaters have had problems. What happens is that typically in about 1-2 years the pilot becomes unreliable and the owner finds him/herself manually lighting it each time the hot water runs out. This doesn't last long, since soon the pilot won't light either. Then the fun begins...as the owner either has to hire a plumber, or do it him/herself while trying to get warranty parts sent.

    With luck a simple thermocouple replacement will get it going...for awhile. Of course it isn't that "simple" because one has to disconnect the gas line, pilot line, igniter, a safety switch, plus the thermocouple. Then one must remove the burner assembly, install the new part (Unitrol Robert Shaw valve), reassemble, leak check, and cross fingers hoping the pilot will work.

    If it doesn't work (about 50% of the time) then one must replace the whole gas control valve/thermostat. That means draining the tank, pulling things loose again, installing the new parts, leak checking again, and again crossing the fingers.

    Sometimes this doesn't work either. One might then be tempted to make modfications to the burner assembly and partcularly the flame arrestor (there is some indication that the flame arrestor is ruining the draft...all the old units I had without flame arrestors worked flawlessly for decades...if I had one of those old burners handy I would Jerry rig it in place and cut ventilation ports like my old heaters had.) Or one might succeed in RMA'ing the whole unit under warranty. At any rate the plumbing costs will eat them alive. Some have actually gotten full store credit from Lowes. Many eventually purchase a new water heater from another manufacturer.

    In my case the burner stopped firing sometime overnight on Friday. I succeeded in relighting the pilot twice on Saturday. Sunday the pilot failed and would not work with any amount of persuasion. The local Lowes to their credit had the thermocouple and gas control valve/thermostat, and the appliance manager told me I could take both (the last ones) figure out which one(s) I needed, then bring back the old parts for credit. Turns out I needed both as the thermocouple didn't do the trick. He owns one of these as well so it was a pretty easy conversation. I've got it running again and the pilot is staying lit.

    For the record, I didn't buy this 16 month old water heater, it was selected by the previous homeowner. When I researched it later I realized we were in for exactly this sort of trouble, but I kept my fingers crossed hoping that routine maintenance and our reduced water heating demand would prolong its life.

    If you want to learn more, check out this thread over at Terry Love's about the update kit (with a pilot reset), the class action lawsuit (Whirlpool settled), and the many theories about what is wrong and how it might be fixed. Whirlpool Flame Lock water heaters, reviews, troubleshooting, repair and support. - Terry Love's Plumbing & Remodel DIY forum

    As to what to buy in place of this? So far the water heaters made by Rheem/Bradford White (including GE's at Home Depot) have gotten high marks. The thing that concerns me is that when I was buying a new gas fitting today I noticed the GE's use a Unitrol thermostat/gas valve that looked just like the Unitrol I had in my hand...except for a different colored knob.

    I'm feeling a lot better about not going to gas with the dryer. Right now it appears that buying the cheapest, shortest warranty tanks might be the best bet until the FVIR market becomes reliable. Better to spend half as much on something you expect a short life on, then replace it when the products mature rather than spend twice as much expecting a 15 year life and only getting a small fraction of that.
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    oxnardprof Member

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    For what it is worth, I bought a Whirlpool flame lock 50 gallon water heater in September 2004. I have had no problems whatsoever. Also, it is efficient, (energy factor is 0.62), and I received a gas company rebate of $75 on it. It has a 12 year tank and parts warranty, although I admit to being skeptical about that. The warranty only covers the original consumer.
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    cycledrum PSOCSOASP

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    Our company put in American water heaters for a couple years. We've had incredibly high number of repairs on those units. We don't stock Americans any more.

    Rheems are much more reliable. We've had few warranty repairs to this point.

    Our 13 year old Rheem at home is still going strong.
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    blippo New Member

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    I was in the market for a gas water heater. I was thinking of getting one of those tankless units
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    MJFrog Active Member

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    Now why didn't you post this three weeks ago when I had to have my water tank replaced? :(

    Normally I go to Home Depot, but I was pressed for time and Lowes was closer. I got a 40 gal. 34,000 BTU tank. I didn't notice if was the Flamelock unit, but it is a Whirlpool water heater. It has the 'gas-grill' igniter for the pilot light and I thought that was pretty neat...not having to use the foot-long matches or rolled-up newspaper to light the pilot.

    It was installed by the husband of my daughter's co-worker (and he does good work too). He set-up all the fittings so I could do the job myself next time if I needed to.
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    mgb4tim Noob

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    my 66 gallon Rheem electric unit was installed when the house was built... in 1967
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    spinkao New Member

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    Hobbit has a very interesting post on his webpage regarding the water heaters, here:

    Water heater

    I would definitely consider the Reem "Marathon":

    Marathon Water Heaters

    if I was an American looking for a water heater ;).
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    blamy Member

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    I had a tankless in my last house, loved it! Got all the hot water I could handle (teenage boy=long showers). When the one I have now goes I will go back to a tankless. It was nice not heating water 24 hours a day.
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    Celtic Blue New Member

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    Not arguing against the tankless, but the burner for my tank isn't running very frequently (post repair...it wasn't running at all this weekend.) It pretty much ran on demand for large users (showers and such), didn't need to kick in for small uses. I think what you intended to say is "It was nice not storing hot water 24 hours a day." My tank losses work out to about mid-30's therms/yr.
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    Celtic Blue New Member

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    That's electric though.

    Looks like he has soft water. When we had electric water heaters as a kid I was the one who changed elements and scooped out buckets of encrusted lime from the tank. Our water was about as hard as it comes. Still, the tanks lasted a long time and never recall replacing one. I just was accustomed to frequent element swaps. On the other hand, the one I had in Georgia ran fine for several years with I think only one element changeout--the water wasn't as hard.

    I wouldn't touch electric water heaters now unless that was the only option. It's inefficient to produce electricity by boiling water then use that electricity to heat water...about mid-30's on the thermal efficiency. This makes it relatively expensive to operate compared to gas. Don't be fooled by the high energy factor of the electric unit vs. the gas unit.
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    jayman Senior Member

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    I should have stocked up on old fashioned gas water heaters. If I had to deal with a fraction of what you went through, I'd run monkeys*** and bad things could happen, especially to the hot water heater
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    hyo silver Awaaaaay

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    How 'old fashioned' do you mean? When built, the house I'm in had a little hot water tank in the closet next to the stove, which was half electric and half wood-burning. If you wanted a bath, first you had to chop some wood, then make a fire, and wait for the water to heat up. Laundry worked the same way, and was only a marginal improvement over beating the clothes on a rock by the river. The 'modern' boiler in the basement, originally coal-fired, only fed the radiators, and was upgraded to gas a few decades later. About five years ago we installed a real system, with pumps and everything. :cool:
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    jayman Senior Member

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    I want a major appliance that isn't a giant PITA that quits on you when you depend on it the most

    Eg: modern gas condensing furnaces. Once the temps are -30 C and colder, folks have reported the intake air pipe freezing. Once the intake pipe freezes, the furnace can't prove combustion and locks out: no heat

    Those horrible old gas furnaces with non-sealed combustion and a pilot light, you could actually leave in the middle of winter on a 2 week vacation, and not have to worry about the stupid thing locking out at -30 C and colder.

    Last winter, I had to babysit a neighbors house while they were away for a couple of weeks. I got smart, and put a giant outdoor thermometer on the inside of their living room window. All I had to do was look through my window, see the pointer at 60 F, and not worry about it

    Until that one very cold -38 C morning, I looked at the thermometer and saw it hovering at 45 F. Uh oh. Went over, sure enough the furnace was locked out. Wouldn't reset either

    Went outside, the intake air pipe had an ice plug so that was the obvious problem right there. Trudged back across the street to my house, got the heat gun and an extension cord, and within 5 minutes had the pipe thawed. Then the furnace fired up just fine

    Those who use the one-piece termination collar (Intake collar with the exhaust pipe in the center of it) have far fewer problems. The reason is that the slight heat from the exhaust pipe is *just* enough to melt any ice from the combustion air side, and the furnace still runs even at -40 C

    Do they even test these things at -40? Or is their idea of "testing" a place where it rarely dips to -18 C??
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    blippo New Member

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    My Kenmore gas furnace has lasted 18 years so far. I'm going to get it replaced because I don't want to press my luck too much. It's probably working on borrowed time now.
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    KK6PD _ . _ . / _ _ . _

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    I am completly sold on the Tankless route. I used to have 2-40 gal heaters in the house, when the first one went I went Gas Tankess, and installation was very easy, takes up 1/4 of the space, and produces ALL the HOT water you coud ever use!!!

    It worked out so well, when the other tank unit finally died, you guessed it, another Gas Tankless!!!

    Love those units, they just run and run and run....
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    blippo New Member

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    I ask the plumber about going tankless. He told me they would have to do a few extra things to install it. Price around $3000.00 by the time they were done with it.
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    Celtic Blue New Member

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    The retrofit in existing homes can really bite you on these sorts of changes. A tankless water heater will have about the same gas capacity as my existing furnace and water heater combined. To go tankless I would probably have to side vent a new furnace while trying to make use of the existing chase and stack for the water heater.

    The other problem for me is where to mount it? The water heater tank is at the end of the HVAC system off a protruding corner (L shaped room...so it is in the center.) Note, protruding...I'm not keen on hanging anything on the short wall sections of flimsy closet or breaking up the perfect-fit shelf space I presently have in the room.

    I doubt the 1.5 gpm showerheads would be operated below the minimum flow threshhold of about .75 gpm hot water demand that I've seen on some tankless heater models (less than 50% mix), but it is something I would want to check.

    I really would like to see the condensing tank water heaters become common place as it would be a better fit for me. I'm still waiting for the Energy Star ratings to come out on these. Should be between 82 and 87% overall efficiency (90-96% thermal efficiency.) The ones presently available appear to be very high recovery rate--about the same as tankless burn rate. The same venting issues come into play as for tankless.
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    hill High Fiber Member

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    The worst part is that natural gas buring causes moisture ~ then rust eventually, and that rust (holes) can cause carbon monoxide to enter your living area. An old gas furnace? A good reason to have a carbon monoxide tester. C0 can kill. Never mind the inefficiency

    Family Survives Bout With Carbon Monoxide - Omaha News Story - KETV Omaha

    +1
    What brand did you get? We got the Noritz, about 2 years ago ... that means we still have 8 more years on the warranty
    ;)


    .
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    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    My personal favorite with old gas water heaters is when the bottom of the tank rusts through. With our hard water, all water heaters turn into a limestone cave in short order. With electric units, the lime builds up until the lower element fails, and then you scoop out the lime when replacing the element. If you are good with preventative maintenance, you would scoop it out ahead of time, but most don't.

    With the old gas units, the heat is applied at the bottom, like a giant kettle. The lime plates the bottom and acts as an insulator. Eventually the metal burns through and whoosh, you have an indoor waterfall.

    Tom
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    KK6PD _ . _ . / _ _ . _

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    Boy there's a plumber who is trying to put his kids thru college on your dime!!! Completly outrageous price!!! The units I purchased were approx $600.00 ea!!! It took 3 hours to install, cutting copper, and sweating the joints.
    Same water IN, and OUT as a standard tank. I just added a couple of "Ball" shutoff valves to make servicing easy. Look for a better quote!!!
    $3000.00 ...Rip Off!!!

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