I bought a Whirlpool Flamelock, LPG , 1 year ago from Lowes. The old B.W. blew a leak late on a Saturday, Lowes is nearby, blah blah blah. This new one went out about 3 weeks ago.
To shorten this post up I'll say that the thermocouple is fine, checked with a multimeter during lightup, and I have a clean flash arrestor in the bottom of the unit. I also checked for voltage before and after the "circuit breaker" located below and to the right of the gas valve, 22mv in (black wire), 19mv out (white wire).
Lowes did not have a LPG valve in stock, and most of the local plumbing supply places only carried the normal "I could care less" looks.
I called the # on the water heater, got them to send me a new gas valve, under warranty, so no cost to me. The new valve would not be in for a few days because this took place on a Friday. So I pulled the gas valve out of my old B.W. water heater, all the connections lined up and she fired right up even with the old thermocouple in place.
All I had to do was adjust the burner pressure down a bit to eliminate the slight yellow flickers off the ends of the burner flames, the yellow was not present when the Flamelock was in operation before this.
This past weekend I pulled apart the original Flamelock gas valve to see how the pilot circuit is setup. I found out that the white wire from the "circuit breaker" runs up into the temperature sensing element that protrudes into the tank and thru what I figure is a thermistor that must cut off the pilot circuit at some really high water temperature.
I'm figuring the thermistor breaks down internally over time and the pilot won't stay lit. When I get the time I'm going to try and rig up a test stand to put a controlled
heat source on the temperature sensing probe of the gas valve and see if the mv signal to the pilot circuit drops after a bunch of on / off cycles.
I would have to say the the problem I am diagnosing is centered in the RobertShaw gas valve and not the flash arrestor like some people here are saying. When I first started to lose the pilot, upon restart the burner would light right up and burn all blue flames, no yellow at all, stay "burner on" all thru a heat up cycle, shut off and then I could see the pilot slowly lose gas till it also died. I'm pretty sure if the main burner can work at all the pilot will not be starved for air between heat cycles, so pulling out the glass or drilling some holes in the unit won't help.
I don't know if the new gas valve has any changes from my original, but they do look identical. That would explain why the "upgrade" kits seem to have the same problem down the road. The thermistor in the temperature sensing tube would be the quick fix AWH and RobertShaw came up with to replace the left hand threaded thermocouple on the early models.I think I saw in a picture somewhere that left hand thermocouple had a bulge in the tubing back a bit from the coupling head.
Maybe if an AWH or RobertShaw employee is going thru this pile of post they can look into this.
And no, I still have not changed to the new gas valve.
I might just remove the sensing tube first to see if they changed that thermistor to a different spec part. Shes' still working fine with old B.W. gas valve.
But apparently you take me for an idiot. Want me to prove it?
I've been in the biz too long to know why so many of these heaters are being installed,
They are the cheapest on the market, that's why you go there. Now, it doesn't stop at Lowe's,
this tracks to Home Quarters, aka the Craftmaster.
Before then, Furrows, and Central Hardware.
Customers going after the rock bottom price on a heater and they found it. Whoopee, want a gold star for that?
So you have people that don't have a effing clue to how a water heater operates, they just know the damn thing makes them feel good in the shower or on their hands, that's about it. Everything else is "Oh look honey, you can save $50 by going to Lowe's."
I'll say it again; the MAJORITY were driven to LOWES FOR PRICING, not quality, not brand name, not warranty. PRICE.
It's always about the price because every time I have to work on these damn things, I have to hear "Well I don't have a lot of money to fix this, how much is this going to cost" attitudes like it's my damn fault you made a stupid buying decision. Not so compadre. I didn't buy my logic in the sunday's sales flyer with your morning coffee and donut after church.
I can't even get customers of mine to join together and file a lawsuit...they got hot water! At least for the current moment, why waste all that time?
I CYA myself real well; I used to dump these service calls on these heaters and now I got smart:
Get those free parts, I'll put them in...but I'm not guaranteeing **** because I've done my job as a licensed plumber in trying to enforce logic and understanding over the phone that "you'll eventually rip this piece of crap out of your home, sooner than later" mentality and once again, the consumer fails at thinking knowledgeably and instructs me to part the unit together.
It almost always goes bad again, given the customer calling me back days/weeks/months later that somehow it's my fault it broke again? Screw you! I did my job, so did chuck or bill, larry from india...
you just didn't listen to reason when the product failed and it went into the twilight zone of repair after repair after repair.
It's plausible when a product has one, maybe two problems that relates to product dissatisfaction, but this heater takes the crown for having multiple problems and the answers aren't found in free parts whether at the store OR from the India hotline of hot water love.
So to end this ongoing rant of mine once again, I feel sympathy for anyone who makes the call to listen to my words when I'm asking them to believe me that the poor buying decision started this mess.
We all know big box stores don't offer the "best" product reliability when it comes to these products...otherwise there wouldn't be such a gap between the businesses that sell them exclusively.
When I see a Lowe's water heater, I see somebody trying to save a buck. I've been at this too long to see anything else. Most would call their plumber, let the plumber get their own heater from a supply house...
but apparently some like to get their product from the big business model of
"We care about you until our product breaks, and you'll still buy from us no matter how little we care."
Read what the end of this sentence means.
I came up with my own solution. If my photo comes up OK, it will show that I wrapped aluminum foil around the thermocouple. This was to reduce the effect of rapid fluctuations of flame and temperature on it. I did this over a year ago and have not had a problem since. This is the second replacement of the original t.c. I will assume that if there is a real big flame or fire that the flamelock will work. If there are those that say I shouldn't have tampered with it, I dont give a c>>p, I am entitled to hot water and not having to run all over finding thermocouples. It seems that Lowes doesnt even carry it anymore. The purpose of my writing this is the hope that it may alleviate this problem for those who try it. Best of Luck. Pete
Last edited by Terry; 06-14-2009 at 10:07 AM.
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Just changed it.
Most of the time, it's pretty even keeled.
There are a few times when people but heads, that's true.
It's supposed to be a "treat each other with kindness" type of thing.
But sometimes the claws come out too.
I suppose some of it, is the way we were trained in the business.
Most of us were hammered a bit, to see if we would quit before they were done training us. It's a hard habit to quit sometimes.
They mean well, and sometimes, someone just walks into a long lasting argument, that the newcomer hasn't been aware of.
There is a lot of good information though, and they do have a sense of humor. Sometimes you just need hit them up alongside the head and get their attention. But it's never boring.
Just curious. What do you think of people that would go to Sears for a water heater? I doubt that I would go to a DIY center for a water heater but in the past I have used Sears because I have always been happy with their appliances and the plumber they sent to install my water softner did an excellent job. I am the type that likes to see and touch the product before I buy. Price is important but not number 1 on my list. I want the "best value" which is seldom the lowest price.
I encourage it. For one reason, customers have a credit card with sears. Also, sears usually tags a longer warranty on their product than the original mfg.
Not all plumbers like dealing with Sear's products, I'm a rareity. I have enough of them under my belt to say that if they were chronically defective, I'd be bashing them right here because they was costing me money.
You yourself might be one of the "best value" hunters out there, but I'm experiencing the exact opposite whenever I come across these Whirlpool heaters. It is the cheapest one out there, just like it was at HQ, Builders Square, Central Hardware, Furrows.
Seeing and touching the product is exactly why my customers usually always have faucets and disposals, toilets already there at the home for me to install because they got their hands on it firsthand. It's all good by me; if it malfunctions I'm sitting right there charging for the downtime.
We are both on the same wavelength on this topic.
Read what the end of this sentence means.
Let's take away that I'm smart, and let us say I'm just well informed. I'm like the constantly drunk uncle that you have to invite to the family gatherings even though he's like a ticking time bomb sitting on the couch, everybody stays away from him because if you talk to him, anything is capable of happening and the statements are as disturbing as Rosie ODonnell's underwear.
Informed is meaning I'm becoming a catch all for this product. I've went from avoiding working on them to taking the money because I can't convince people to dump the product. It's horrible.
Whose side do you think I'm on...Whirlpool? I've been around this thread for a long time, I've watched it grow, and as of late, I'm heavily throwing my opinion out there for all to see because NOTHING is changing with the victims of this product.
They want to keep throwing parts at this, keep laying down every night wondering if they'll have hot water in the morning. Now I'm taking a different approach, ridiculing the notion that this is logical thinking on behalf of the property owner. I'll hear the "I'm broke" excuse, or "I'll just see what happens" mentality.
With what I know, the angry customers that call me furious at Lowes and Whirlpool, why would you think that I care what a solo voice has to say about my rhetoric. Track my posts and you'll see that I offer my advice to those I feel deserve it. Being criticized means as much to me as getting thanked.
Just remember that my poor attitude you've characterized me by has everything to do with the DIY/homeowner not coming to the plate to get away from this product when it clearly is riddled with more problems than fixes. If you're one of those diehards that wants to stick by your $350 investment, have at it.....because this product isn't a very expensive product in the big picture.
I can't see how the average person would take as much effort, deal without hot water, inconvenience their family out of stubbornness.
One example; dishwasher. Costs the same and after one repair people will chuck it, get rid of it. It just makes plain sense. This water heater though because it's big and clean, looks important, seems like people are looking for the hardship, and that points back to my statement about people driven by price.
The buying choice has robbed the person of a once "good deal". You shouldn't be ragging me, you should be praising me for trying to bring this out in the open.
How many Whirlpool heaters have you repaired whosyer12?
What did you tell them, how did you respond to the first, third, 42nd phone call when the person on the other end of the phone is upset that their less than 30 month old heater is not working anymore.
Read what the end of this sentence means.
I have a Whirlpool UG model that I bought in 5/08. The pilot light problems started 1/09, just 8 months later.
I called the toll free number and someone from Johnson City suggested that I check the current on the thermocouple. The thermocouple was OK.
Then I found this thread - and although I've only read pages 13 through 18, I've decided I'm not going to waste my time ordering replacement gas valves, etc., when I know that in the end I'm going to get a new water heater anyway. I just need to buy some time while I try to get a refund. Any advice for keeping the water heater limping along in the meantime?
BTW, the one point I take issue with in this thread is the notion that most of us bought these water heaters just to save a buck. In my area the choices are Home Depot, Lowes, or call a plumber. Although I was in a hurry to get a new water heater put in to keep the family happy, I figured it was a simple enough DIY project to not have to pay a plumber. So that left Home Depot or Lowes, and from past experience with other products, they both carry trusted brand names of comparable quality. So it boiled down to me just happening be closer to Lowes that day.
I called technical support again. They said they could overnight a valve to me and have a plumber install it for me, both at no charge. Couldn't hurt I figured, so I had them overnight the valve. I called the plumber to set up an appointment but he didn't want to do so until the parts arrived. The parts didn't arrive early enough today for me to schedule with the plumber, so it would have to wait until after the weekend, and I happen to be traveling next weekend.
I'm convinced that the "fixes" such as promptly sending new gas valves is a stall tactic without solving the root problem.
I didn't hear any responses to my question about how to keep the water heater "limping along" - so I assume the only solution is to light the pilot right after getting out of bed, have breakfast first, and then take my shower.
Saturday, January 24, 2009...14:50 hours...I am heading out to a Whirlpool (Cesspool) water heater call...guess for what...no hot water...can you believe that...seems hard to believe....
There is no limping along on these heaters. The most important component on these are the items you're receiving. Just get to know chuck in india on a first name basis so he remembers ya the next time you call.
Nothing wrong with taking issues about choice by price. We all know big box stores offer everything cheaper than say a plumbing supply house or building supply, it's guaranteed to be. That's why they move so much inventory; cheaper.
Without being cynical...wait, I'm going to try real hard, you could take that gas valve out, burner assembly out, turn that into a small kindling fire from sticks out back. Just stoke it like a woodburning stove, no more calls to india.
If you happen to find defective twigs in your back yard, this world is truly coming to an end real soon.
This thread died for a really long time, I thought I made a difference. History is repeating itself again.
Cass! Make sure you sell them the extended warranty! Don't back down! They must be protected!
Read what the end of this sentence means.
Ask almost anyone nowadays who sells water heaters, and likely the only places they will come up with are the big box stores. For many of us in newer suburbs, the big box stores are indeed the only option - unless we want to drive a long ways to a place we've never shopped at before. So it's not just a question of price, it's a question of (perceived) availability.
As long as AWHC is going to make crappy heaters, Whirlpool puts its name on them, and Lowe's sells them, history will continue to repeat itself. Because when the water heater goes, the average person isn't going to have time to do the research - need a quick fix ASAP to keep the family happy! But don't despair, this thread has still made a difference (at least for me) - although I didn't see the thread soon enough to avoid buying the water heater, at least I know now not to have any false hopes for long-term success. Furthermore, maybe a lot of would-be buyers have seen this thread and decided to get another brand instead? On the other hand, maybe there's a lot of people who are stuck with these and haven't seen this thread, and they're dealing multiple calls to India, thinking that they're the only one with this problem, and they haven't had hot water for weeks?
More to follow on my situation when I have more time...