As you probably already know, Kenmore is a house label. Kenmore appliances are made by various manufacturers to Sears' specs. They are usually not superior products. Water heaters in particular are suspect. If yours was made by Whirlpool, I'm afraid you likely have a lemon since even the heaters sold as Whirlpool are junk. I can't answer all of your questions, but I can tell you that a Bradford White would be head and shoulders better than what you have. Some of the pros will likely chime in on this, so stay tuned.