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www.DunbarPlumbing.com
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Let this be the catch all for one of the most incorrectly made water heaters I've seen in my plumbing career. For those of you who come to this site seeking information about these water heaters, I'll do my best to provide pictures that don't require you to log on/register to see, so I'll link off of photobucket to do so.

In my area of Kentucky, The Lowes Store that sells Whirlpool Water Heaters:


They are sending out on average, 30 burner assemblies, along with a number of gas valves per week, nearing 150 units a month with customers that have malfunctioning water heaters.

A Lowe's Whirlpool Water Heater is made by the American Water Heater Company. It is also named as the CRAFTMASTER. There are also other brand names that have been using this unit which will be named in this thread once I get clarification from the right resources.

If you want to describe your situation, file a complaint then you need to go here to get your voices heard and find out what others are dealing with in their purchase.

The issues of this water heater involve premature thermocouple failure, burner assembly malfunction, gas thermostat malfunction. Another problem is the spark arrestor for intake air found directly underneath these water heaters that clog easily due to simple dust buildup and the most likely known problems with these units starving for oxygen have been directly related to cat hair. Cat hair is extremely fine and if you have a cat, this water heater can fail prematurely due to buildup under the unit.

These water heaters have a FEDERAL LAWSUIT following the failures of these gas fired water heaters. In order to retain your replacement retrofit parts at any LOWES Home Improvement Store you will need a SERIAL NUMBER along with MODEL NUMBER off your gas water heater so they can track the units in use that register back to the federal lawsuit.

To contact American Water Heater Company

1-800-999-9515

or visit them online at http://www.americanwaterheater.com and click on the Contact us online link.


What to Expect


When you first contact the mfg. of your water heater regarding problems, you'll be asked the following:


Model Number

Serial Number


These two series of numbers dictate the age/lot run/# of gallons/ the water heater is.

Then the technician will ask numerous questions of what you are experiencing. Troubleshooting questions with your answers will dictate the problem solving solution.


WARNING: Left handed threads are used on these units. Incorrect installation will cause cast aluminum threads to damage, resulting in gas thermostat becoming non-functional.

WARNING: You must remove burner orifice and install on new burner assembly when switching out defective parts. Non-installation of this will result in excessive gas consumption and overheating of unit, causing damage to wiring harness and destroying temperature sensor.

WARNING: You must carefully reinsert the panel screws that hold the panel to the burner assembly onto the formed opening of the water heater without damaging the nutserts. Incorrect installation will result in stripping of these screws which will not seal the combustion chamber. This will lose the protection of FVIR (Flammable Ignition Vapor Resistant) design found on your water heater.


Do NOT attempt to work on this unit if you are not aware of the inner workings of how this unit operates. Contact a licensed professional plumber to perform these duties as someone not aware of the numerous considerations to retrofit your existing water heater could spell financial loss.

I'm going to post a terrible situation that unfolded for one customer of mine, and how much money it is costing just to have hot water back.
 

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www.DunbarPlumbing.com
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5,480 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
CONTACT A LICENSED PLUMBER TO WORK ON YOUR WATER HEATER


A customer called up this week to have me fix an American Water Heater that wasn't working. What this woman failed to tell me was that someone else had tried to install the parts that were sent to repair it.

This fellow did considerable damage to both the water heater and this customer's finances. They paid this fellow $80 to fix the water heater, two trips, because the first time it didn't stay on.

This fellow when he replaced the parts, stripped out the fine threads entering the thermostat and the retrofit temperature sensor adaptor was loosely hanging in the opening that serves as the connection to the thermocouple.

Along with that, he didn't switch the orifice from burner assembly to burner assembly, causing the unit to fire incorrectly with too much gas entering the unit. This caused the water heater to overheat and burn the wiring inside, destroying the parts that were sent at no charge to the property owner.

At this point, this customer has a water heater that was installed in 2005 and $325 later, still no hot water.

I have to come back tuesday to install this 2nd burner assembly to connect to the new thermostat that was sent.

When I arrived at this property two days ago the wiring for the heat sensor was disconnected. Not a good situation because this heater was heating now operating incorrectly till it stopped working.

By the time it is all done and over with, over $450 will be spent to get this water heater operational again.

This warranty was honored by replacement parts.

The first guy damaged the unit by not knowing how to replace the parts.

My labor is not one but 3 visits to this home to get the new parts in my hands and get this water heater working again.

I asked this property owner to get me a new burner assembly to "clean sweep" and have no chance of problems with what the other guy did, but the lady said there was nothing wrong.

I found out different today when the unit wouldn't fire. I warned them of this possibility and I'm not going to insist on taking the burner assembly out and proving that. Having all new parts in my hands is the best insurance in a bad situation involving these water heaters that have a history for failures.​
 

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I have a 9yr warranty craftmaster that I took out of a house that was leaking. Its still in warranty. I need to find out who sells them around here or call craftmaster so i can get the replacement.
 

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philosopher and statesmen
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DUNBAR had a bad day...

Dunbar, you must have had a real bad day with one of them....:thumbup:

they are all complete pieces of junk.

I have read that both Rheem and Bradford White both have cried foul
a long time ago becasue American heaters was allowed to modify their heaters
after the class action lawsuit but did they not have to pass the antsi and ul standards on the new design........

My opinion is that
many power people in the senate and congress have been bribed
to let them slide on all of this.....

and "we the peasents " just have to deal with it



on consumer reports their are presently 188
pages of complaints on thi sdog.... yes 188 pages...

some one is being bribed , and bought off .

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/homeowners/whirlpool_water_heaters.html


here are my pictures if you want to copy them

http://weilhammerplumbing.com/galleryiii/
 

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Certified Lunatic
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Throw that POS in the trash and go get a Bradford already, Jeez.
Thats what I do!

I'm on commission and if I get a callback on the POS within 6 months I lose my commission...:cry:

Being and employee the company policy is a 6 month guarantee on repairs and I am not empowered to change it under any circumstances.

With the piss poor design of the air inlet, its better than even odds there will be a callback, especially if this POS is installed anywhere near a clothes dryer. If American Water Heaters made cars they would have made the air intake for the engine on the front face of a mud flap.:whistling2: They would then say its not their problem that the air cleaner plugs up all the time. Their initial design with the fused thermocouple was the dumbest thing they could have done, and their recommended fix of the customer cleaning the intake screen every 3 months is a freakin joke!

http://411plumb.com/troubleshooting-flame-guard-flame-lock-water-heaters

The fact that they have such a small air intake so close to the floor on the bottom of the unit is just plain stupidity. What makes Bradford White so much better is the Intake is on the side not on the bottom, and the screen which serves as the flame arrestor has a huge surface area so the air volume is lower per sq. in. and less likely to act as a vacuum cleaner.

http://411plumb.com/bradford-white-defender-water-heater-review

The customer that is having problems with a Flame Guard water heater I give them 2 options:

  • I replace it with a Bradford White.
  • They find another plumber that doesn't mind working for nothing, because that is what I would end up doing if I touched it.

Have a nice day my plumbing works.:thumbup:
 

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residential service
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My 2 cents worth

This is old news for most plumbing professionals but for the benefit of any home owner, diy, lurkers seeking info as Dunbar suggests, let me add this.

The link he provides to ConsumerAffairs.com is a very good one. I did not scroll through the entire list and his link goes directly to American water heaters but the last time I searched this site for "whirlpool water heater complaints" there were 173 pages of complaints. This alone should be enough to enlighten you enough to stay away from these products.

The second thing you should know is that, with all due respect to Dunbar, he is one of the lowest priced plumbers I know of, and especially if you live in any major metropolitan area your repair costs are likely to be considerably higher.

The primary problem with these water heaters is in my opinion, a design problem. The basic design does not change with the repair, so what this means is that you will in all probability be making this repair again if not numerous times over the life of this water heater (life being the point at which it finally rusts through requiring replacement of the entire water heater, this according to the Department of Energy is 10 - 15 years).

I myself had a client within the last month who had one of these water heaters (Whirlpool from Lowe's) that had the exact same problem. I explained the situation which they were already becoming aware of having already contacted customer service. I quoted them the repair price, advised them that in all probabilty this would not be the last time that it would be necessary, and I quoted them the replacement cost with another brand that does not have these design deficiencies. They elected to cut their losses and replace their 1 year old Whirlpool water heater with a quality product installed by a quality company. They made the wise choice.

Now you should also know that I do not generally share my knowledge online with diy types. I feed my family with the knowledge and skill I have aquired with my labor, blood, sweat, and many, many, hours both in books but especially in the field. I am generally against diy projects both from self interest (because you are not paying me to do it for you) but also from a genuine interest in what is best for you. I clean up horrendous messes all over town quite frequently that were caused by "diyers" which in the end cost much more than they would have had they simply called me or some other qualified professional to begin with. I understand that money is tight and nobody wants to spend more than they have to but if you have any number of years on you at all, life experience should have taught you by now that things are seldom as simple as they seem. I say all this in order, hopefully, to help you grasp the value of what I and others are saying to you in this thread. These products are fraught with problems that will repeat themselves even when repaired.

Caveat emptor.
 

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I agree Smells!

This is clearly a case where an educated consumer is our best customer!:thumbup:

That link Mark Provided is 188 pages of complaints at 10 per page!

Another great forum thread on this topic can be found at Terry Love's with 455 replies and over 87,000 views as of this morning.

Terry Love's Whirlpool Water Heaters Defect Thread

The product is a dog and the fix under the class action lawsuit didn't do much to fix it.
 

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Trust me. I'm a doctor.
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Alright, I'll be the one to say it and take all of the heat.

This is old news.

American made a big mistake with the putting the thermal fuse in-line in the thermocouple. They have paid for it through the class action suit (as they should have) for this horrible design and have since changed to a thermal switch. They are no longer the same product that brought about the lawsuit. Why are we all talking about them as if they are still the same product?

Right now I beleive Rheem to be the biggest piece of junk a on the market with their TRD and a flame arrestor that seems impossible to clean. I won't be a bit surprised if I hear about a class action suit against them. (If I was an attorney I would have already filed that money maker in court.)

I beleive Bradford has the best product on the market even though their flame arrestor can't be adequitly cleaned in my opinion.

Every manufacturer has a flame arrestor on their heater and they are all susceptable to lint and dust. Some more so than others (only because of size) but again, they are all susceptable.

The advantage that every other manufacturer has over Rheem and Bradford on their flame arrestors is they are easy to clean with satisfactory results. If American or A.O. Smith or State or any of the others would change to a full size arrestor like Bradford I beleive they would have a better product.

I have seen FVIR shutdowns on every brand of heater that is sold in my area, including Bradford White.

I still beleive the problem could be all but completely resolved by using a design like Bradford White's where the make-up air enters the heater through the side of the jacket and adding a pleated filter to prevent dust and lint from being sucked into the unit and down to the flame arrestor. It works for my furnace. Why not my water heater?

Dunbars customer should have called him in the first place instead of compounding their problems and using a handyclown that cost them even more money in the long run. I don't see how that is the fault of American.

[slips on body armor and enters the bunker] Okay, fire at will.;)
 

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Trust me. I'm a doctor.
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..........
I have read that both Rheem and Bradford White both have cried foul
a long time ago becasue American heaters was allowed to modify their heaters
after the class action lawsuit but did they not have to pass the antsi and ul standards on the new design...
Mark,
Would you please site a source on this? I am most interested in reading this.
 

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٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶&#
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I install American. The design I install is nothing like that. Are there 2 types or something? Mine have a wrap around filter that is removable for cleaning. I'm doing one on Tuesday. I'll shoot some pics.
 

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That's what my preimier/american heaters have. It can be removed for cleaning to, just like a reusable furnace filter.

Alright, I'll be the one to say it and take all of the heat.

This is old news.

American made a big mistake with the putting the thermal fuse in-line in the thermocouple. They have paid for it through the class action suit (as they should have) for this horrible design and have since changed to a thermal switch. They are no longer the same product that brought about the lawsuit. Why are we all talking about them as if they are still the same product?

Right now I beleive Rheem to be the biggest piece of junk a on the market with their TRD and a flame arrestor that seems impossible to clean. I won't be a bit surprised if I hear about a class action suit against them. (If I was an attorney I would have already filed that money maker in court.)

I beleive Bradford has the best product on the market even though their flame arrestor can't be adequitly cleaned in my opinion.

Every manufacturer has a flame arrestor on their heater and they are all susceptable to lint and dust. Some more so than others (only because of size) but again, they are all susceptable.

The advantage that every other manufacturer has over Rheem and Bradford on their flame arrestors is they are easy to clean with satisfactory results. If American or A.O. Smith or State or any of the others would change to a full size arrestor like Bradford I beleive they would have a better product.

I have seen FVIR shutdowns on every brand of heater that is sold in my area, including Bradford White.

I still beleive the problem could be all but completely resolved by using a design like Bradford White's where the make-up air enters the heater through the side of the jacket and adding a pleated filter to prevent dust and lint from being sucked into the unit and down to the flame arrestor. It works for my furnace. Why not my water heater?

Dunbars customer should have called him in the first place instead of compounding their problems and using a handyclown that cost them even more money in the long run. I don't see how that is the fault of American.

[slips on body armor and enters the bunker] Okay, fire at will.;)
 

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A pleated filter? Have they changed?
 

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Alright, I'll be the one to say it and take all of the heat.

This is old news.

American made a big mistake with the putting the thermal fuse in-line in the thermocouple. They have paid for it through the class action suit (as they should have) for this horrible design and have since changed to a thermal switch. They are no longer the same product that brought about the lawsuit. Why are we all talking about them as if they are still the same product?

[slips on body armor and enters the bunker] Okay, fire at will.;)
Thats just it Pipedoc...

It still is the same old product...

The air inlet is still so small that it acts like a vacuum cleaner because of the high flow volume. It is still too close to the floor. For those that have the filter wrapping the base it is a little better but still requires higher maintenance than a home owner will provide in most cases. The retrofit kit and the changes from the FG to BFG models while it did eliminate the thermal fuse in the thermocouple did nothing to fix the basic design error of the Flame Lock, Flame Guard FVIR Systems and that is the design of the air inlet and screen size. The fixed models are now experiencing a rash of gas valve failures due to the frequent trips of the FVIR and they have band-aided that with a new and improved gas valve.

The basic problem is that when the homeowner gets up in the morning and turns on the hot tap, hot water should come out! It should not be a I wonder if I have hot water today. With Bradford White there is virtually no wondering while American's tend to be a lot less reliable.

Protech said:
That's what my preimier/american heaters have. It can be removed for cleaning to, just like a reusable furnace filter.
While they have the wrap around filter the inlet through the base pan has not changed.
 

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Trust me. I'm a doctor.
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Thats just it Pipedoc...

It still is the same old product...

The air inlet is still so small that it acts like a vacuum cleaner because of the high flow volume. It is still too close to the floor. For those that have the filter wrapping the base it is a little better but still requires higher maintenance than a home owner will provide in most cases. The retrofit kit and the changes from the FG to BFG models while it did eliminate the thermal fuse in the thermocouple did nothing to fix the basic design error of the Flame Lock, Flame Guard FVIR Systems and that is the design of the air inlet and screen size. The fixed models are now experiencing a rash of gas valve failures due to the frequent trips of the FVIR and they have band-aided that with a new and improved gas valve.

The basic problem is that when the homeowner gets up in the morning and turns on the hot tap, hot water should come out! It should not be a I wonder if I have hot water today. With Bradford White there is virtually no wondering while American's tend to be a lot less reliable.



While they have the wrap around filter the inlet through the base pan has not changed.
I agree that the flame arrestor is too small. Every heater out there is too small except for Bradford White. Bradford White has the same problem though. I clean plenty of these as well. They don't clog as fast because their arresto is larger but they do clog.

American ended up in the class action suit because of their thrmocouple design. It was common for that thermocouple to fail even though the flame arrestor was not clogged or a flammable vapor incident didn't occur. Add that on top of failures because of clogged arrestors and you have a lot of product failing everywhere. They have changed this design and also have done away with the left hand thread.

I believe Rheem would be in the same boat with the TRD but they tell people the unit has to be replaced because it is no longer safe to operate after a fvir shutdown. Their policy (the technical bulletin can once again be found on their website) states that this is not warrantiable although it seems they have been honoring a warranty anyway. That has probably been their only saving grace from bad publicity. Now that they are going to start to service these units (some how they are now safe to service)they are going to find out that the TRD is going to fail right away again because the arrestor is clogged, unless they have devised some ingenius way of cleaning an inaccessable flame arrestor. Time will tell but I believe Rheem is going to have a design change to solve their engineering problems.
 

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Trust me. I'm a doctor.
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Protech,

If they are still using that crappy filter with large passages that still allow lint and dust to pass through, then it is junk. The solution is to have a better filter to seal and one of a pleated design, although it may have to be quite large to pass enough air to the combustion chamber.
 

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I agree that the flame arrestor is too small. Every heater out there is too small except for Bradford White. Bradford White has the same problem though. I clean plenty of these as well. They don't clog as fast because their arresto is larger but they do clog.
I have not had a problem with teh bradfords clogging but believe it's a matter of time. How do you go about cleaning the bradford white flame arrestors?
 

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philosopher and statesmen
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my plumbing supplier

Mark,
Would you please site a source on this? I am most interested in reading this.
Actually this was something that went down back in about 2003-4, I got this information from my Rheem suppliler and he got it from his rep...

Rheem and Bradford were very upset that they were forced to spend millions and millions of dollars to pass the antsi and ul rateings and for some reason,

the government let American water heater slide on their ****ty design and re-sdesign of their units....

the government has not forced them to redesign the unit and spend the $$ money to pass antsi and ul inspections...

they gave them a "pass" so what I was told is they are really not presently approved by either lab.....

This is all word of mouth , here-say... and

plumbers and their salesman chewing the fat on a Wednesday morning at my office....drinking coffe...

I just trust my source whom I wll name
"deep throat"

I will look for more concrete info for you next week...



Now here is a pic of the new SMITH design with the
ladies nylon stocking wrapped around the bottom..
and they have adopted the Whirlpoool screen on the bottom too

enlarge the pic and you should be able to see the lint filter.

this is just as dumb as hell.

 

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Certified Lunatic
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I have not had a problem with the bradfords clogging but believe it's a matter of time. How do you go about cleaning the bradford white flame arrestors?
I think you may be right about that being a matter of time...

But, Bradford has done everything right in their design so it isn't going to be vacuuming the floor, and the screen is significantly larger in its surface area so the velocity is a lot less likely to pick up the lint and will take a lot longer to clog and become a problem.

As far as cleaning I'll cross that bridge when I get there...
Haven't had the need yet...
 
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