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Thread: Whirlpool Flame Lock water heaters, reviews, troubleshooting, repair and support.

  1. #526
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    I have 432 apartments with gas water heaters and American Water heaters are by far the worst. Although Rheem/Richmond are becoming a clear second. Contrary to what some are posting they are not much better as we have had some fail after only 2 - 3 years. The safety device inside them is a small temperture sensitive burst vial which Rheem does not consider a replaceable part if it fails they want you to return the water heater to them so they can see why. After having to pull a couple of these It's easy to see why. The screen is smaller than an American's and is only accessable from the inside of the unit which makes it hard to clean properly as all of the accumulated dirt and lint is under the screen and unreachable. To make matters worse the screen is covered in the oil they use when they stamp the screen and acts as an effective dust magnet. We have had conversations with Rheem regarding this and they think there's no problem with it. We have started cleaning the screens with solvents prior to installation to see if this will extend the life of these heaters. Only time will tell...

  2. #527
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Building Chief View Post
    I have 432 apartments with gas water heaters and American Water heaters are by far the worst. Although Rheem/Richmond are becoming a clear second. Contrary to what some are posting they are not much better as we have had some fail after only 2 - 3 years. The safety device inside them is a small temperture sensitive burst vial which Rheem does not consider a replaceable part if it fails they want you to return the water heater to them so they can see why. After having to pull a couple of these It's easy to see why. The screen is smaller than an American's and is only accessable from the inside of the unit which makes it hard to clean properly as all of the accumulated dirt and lint is under the screen and unreachable. To make matters worse the screen is covered in the oil they use when they stamp the screen and acts as an effective dust magnet. We have had conversations with Rheem regarding this and they think there's no problem with it. We have started cleaning the screens with solvents prior to installation to see if this will extend the life of these heaters. Only time will tell...
    That's why I say Bradford White...

  3. #528
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Verhouze View Post
    Do you happen to know what the "among other problems" are?
    36 Pages of reading right here...

  4. #529
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim in Fort Worth View Post
    Based on my observations, disconnecting the switch will not affect the normal operation of the water heater. The problem is that you are back to the original problem of low air flow and burning out the thermocouple. If you have the switch connected, it should prevent the thermocouple from burning out. Since the thermal switch is resettable it seems preferable to let it pop instead of replacing a thermocouple that is now about $15.



    I haven't tried keeping the manifold door loose, because I don't want the entire assembly to be able to rattle around. Probably wouldn't hurt anything, but since I am working with natural gas I don't want to risk doing something that might cause the connections to start leaking. Since the switch is nothing more than a fuse for a fuse, there is no reason to bypass it until it craps out and Whirlpool wants to sell you a new manifold door assembly. If you bypass it, you are back to replacing the thermocouple on a regular basis.

    The thermocouple adapter is the key to the whole operation here. I have never bought a thermocouple before I got this water heater, so I don't know how many different ones there are. But I remember the first time I went to Lowe's after it burned out the first time they pointed me to a "standard" thermocouple that had standard threads before I told them it was a Whirlpool Flame Lock water heater. I don't know how much cheaper, if at all a standard thermocouple is. But if it's just a few bucks then it's still cheaper than paying shipping for a new manifold assembly or $15 for the reverse threaded thermocouple.

    In regards to the window, as I stated earlier the window is larger and lets in a lot more air. The flow is so strong that the pilot light really flickers. I was worried it might go out so I put some folded metal window screen over it and that calmed down the pilot flame.



    That was my theory when I popped out the smaller, round glass a year and a half ago. At that time I also considered attaching a hose to the hole and running it under the house where there is a constant draft that would feed air into the space under the water heater. The square hole is too big for that.



    I'm not a licensed plumber, and I wouldn't advise anyone to do it, either. But trust me. "Someone" has popped that glass out and made it more like the old style gas heaters. That's the only reason I think I got a year and a half out of the last thermocouple. Based on everything I have read about the problems associated with the Whirlpool Flame Lock system, it seems that a lot of people are replacing them every few months. If this one lasts a year and a half before popping that resettable switch the new manifold assembly should be good until the warranty expires. I've got 5 years left on the warranty, so using 1.5 years as the guide the thermal switch should pop 3 times before the warranty expires.

    I can understand the concern with flammable vapors in proximity to gas water heaters, especially for those installed in garages where paints, solvents and gasoline are also stored. But my water heater is in the house, in it's own closet. The only flammable vaporous liquid in the house is a couple of bottles of rubbing alcohol, and they are 20' away from the water heater. I've got a keg of Blue Dot Smokeless Powder that is closer to the water heater than the alcohol (yes, it's in a different room and stored properly).

    Edit: On a whim I Googled these heaters to find out about the class action law suit that is in the works. Here's the link to the search results. There are four returns, including one to this thread:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...=Google+Search

    I read the Consumer Affairs articles, and noticing that one of the people quoted lived near me I called him. It seems that he figured out the trick about removing the viewing window, too. He also told me something that was very interesting because it conflicts with the advice being given by Whirlpool about cleaning the filters. The city where he lives has a code requirement that when you replace a water heater you have to put a catch pan under it. The catch pan is about 3" deep, which makes cleaning the bottom of the screen impossible unless you disconnect every single connection on the water heater and lift it out of the pan for cleaning. He also told me that he asked a manager at Lowes how many of the thermocouples they had sold. The manager told him that they sold 40 of them in 3 months. One store. He calculated it out for that store for a year, then for the number of stores in Texas, then for all the Lowes in the United States. The $$ figure he got was in the neighborhood of $10,000,000 at $15 per part.

    For those interested, the class action lawsuit against Whirlpool and AWHC in California is set for August of this year. If it succeeds it will spread across the country.
    I've done everything including connecting the thermo switch wires. I have also tested the thermocouples and they aren't fried. Pounding on the control valve with my hand seems to extend the time between re lights which I have done (relight) 6 times in as many hours. Sometimes I can get it to stay lit 3 or 4 days. I've been doing this pretty much since the tank was new. This is why I replaced the tank in the first place. They have sent me a new control valve but from everything I've read that is a waste of time also. Maybe the best thing to do is just sue as an individual. There has to be some compensation for all the parts and work I've done on these POS heaters for the past 10 years not to mention the inconvenience of myself and my family. going to try leaving the sensor end of the coupler outside and heat it with a bunsen burner. Just for giggles.

  5. #530
    DIY Junior Member Verhouze's Avatar
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    Default 36 long pages

    Yes, thank you. I read about all I could read.

    I am just going to have to trust my plumber. I am not in a position to make changes now.

  6. #531
    DIY Junior Member whdettmer's Avatar
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    Default not fried thermocouples in flame lock water heaters

    A three month old whirpool flame lock water heater has developed the shut off problem. I installed a new control valve sent out by whirlpool. I then replaced the thermocouple. I noticed that the galvanized steel part that holds the thermocouple appeared to be damaged. It looked like the zinc plating on the nut and the bracket has been burnt off. If the base of the thermocouple gets hot, like hot enough to damage the zinc coating on the part that holds the base of the thermocouple, could that heat at the base reduce the temperature differential between the top and bottom of the thermocouple and temporarily reduce the output which would cause shut down? Has anyone measured thermocouple output during heating cycle when shut down occurs? My guess is that the combustion chamber is too hot around the base of the thermocouple.
    Also is there a test to determine if the filter is clean enough? Thanks

  7. #532
    DIY Junior Member JimD's Avatar
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    Thanks Terry, Redwood, etc. You saved me from becoming another victim. I have a tip for you pro's. (This is not for the inexperienced).
    I used a 1.5v battery and 1 or 2 diodes in series (1N4000, 1N4001 1amp are about .65v to .7v at 100mA). So 1.5v - .7v = .8v etc.
    I touched the lead for about 1/2 sec to the valve and could here it "click" .Good. Then like you, I checked the voltage and current output
    from the hot thermocouple. At that point I was confident that everything would work, so put it all back together. It has worked ok for 20
    years. This was a furnace burner but similar to your HW burner. Hope this helps you.
    Thanks again for your priceless information.

  8. #533
    DIY Junior Member DIYGurl's Avatar
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    Default A LEMON in waiting? (new Whirlpool UG1H5040T3NV Gas Water Heater)

    I got a new gas water heater installed last night. They quoted a Rheem, but when the installer came out he said the quoter thought it was a tankless and he suggested a Whirlpool. I've had good luck with Whirlpool appliances in the past, so I said OK. But I woke up in the middle of the night nervous about the way it happened and wanted to check on rebate and tax credit potential... I googled the model number ( Whirlpool UG1H5040T3NV ) -- needless to say, I was horrified!

    Finally at 4am after searching, I decided that I would cancel the check this morning and ask for a different water heater. I called the plumber to discuss and and he was emphatic that this is a very good water heater and he stands by it. I mentioned the law suit and he said he remembered the problem a couple of years ago (was even contracted for the mass repair work by Whirlpool), but that Whirlpool redesigned the unit to now use a "burner assembly" which is like a coil, not a flame (is this true?) and that he hasn't had a problem with them any longer. He offered to double his labor warranty (to 2 years) and said that if I have any problems with it he'll swap it for a unit of my choosing.

    I was worried that I got some old inventory, but I checked and they are still selling this model at Lowes.

    I feel like I have a "time bomb of hassle" ticking in my house... Next time I will do my research beforehand now that I know about terrylove.com.

    I will wave some chicken bones over the warranty registration form before I send it in...

    Any other guidance welcome. Thanks for this thread. Too bad I didn't see it sooner.

  9. #534
    DIY Junior Member bigbuck576's Avatar
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    Hey I'm a plumber in Shreveport, La and from experience i can say that the air intake screen should be cleaned but does the heater have the black filter screen that goes around the heater??

  10. #535
    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    Whirledpooh still working fine well over a year after replacing the gas control valve/thermostat...for free. The real culprit on many of these is the gas control valve/thermostat. (See Curlysir's document about this manufacturer's defect earlier in the thread.) Unfortunately, other manufacturers often share the same Unitrol Robert Shaw valve arrangement (hecho en Mexico) and it has been problematic. So while you can get a better combustion air intake design from a competitor, you might still be saddled with the same poorly manufactured controls.

  11. #536
    DIY Junior Member curlysir's Avatar
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    This thread just will not fade away. Haven't been here in a while but it is still alive. I still have the old control valve from my old hot water installed and running in my hot water heater. Has been a year since the original control valve failed, have the replacement they sent me but can't really see the need to replace it as the old control valve just keeps on working. The valve was in service about 10 years before I replaced the heater and stripped it for parts, usually don't do that but am glad I did. I know I lose the "safety feature" of the heat sensor but it is not any worse then what it was with the old heater and it was a direct screw in replacement, no modification required. This does lend some credibility to the control valve/thermostat being a big part of the problem.

  12. #537
    DIY Junior Member junkzoo's Avatar
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    Well, add me to the long list of unhappy Whirlpool Flamelocker's. Tho i suppose i was lucky and had this beast for only 4 yrs b4 the infamous pilot loss problem appeared .Tho i DID have to return the first one i bought,, after lugging it downstairs only to find it musta got dropped from 10 feet and left a huge dent in the tank's body,, with no sign of any such damage on the outer cardboard box, and lug it back up the stairs, drive another hrs roundtrip , to find they did not have a replacement and had to wait 3-4 days to make the run back to get it.

    Noticed hot water waning yesterday, and checked it out,, found the pilot out, and relit it,, thought it might have been a one time thing(or a t-couple acting up) and checked on it through the evening. Yup, it went out a few more times, removed the silly lil dust ring from the bottom, and since the new ones are sealed up pretty well (compared to the old school ones) i went along with the thinking that maybe combustion air might be part or all of the problem. left the ring off over night, and found i had hot water (and the pilot still it) in the am. So that sorta confirmed my thinking (I'm a industrial electrical tech, so t-shooting is kind of my forte') Thinking i was on the right track, i assumed(you all know what happens when that is done) my wife would have hot water when she goe home from working midnites as a ER nurse this morning. Well, she had "sorta" hot water, and of course the pilot went out since i checked a few hrs prior. Got all needed info off the heater and starting my search online for a new t-couple(It's a LP use one, so i figured my only chance of finding one would be either at my local hardware store, and not "up north" where LP is not the norm.) And during my search i find all the sites regarding this water heater, and happy and sad when i learned of many many problems like mine. For whatever reason , i lucked out since this is the first time w/ a problem in 4-5 yrs of having this unit. I DID try to blow out the screen from below (on the floor w/ no blocks to raise it higher) and relit, but that did not help at all. So,,, looks like cleaning the screen/flame trap is my next move,,and then what? dunno. if that does not fix things, then a t-couple is probably the next action. You folks think /know that i would have much luck finding a replacement t-couple at my local True Value type stores, or am i stuck with going online to the e-stores that carry parts and/or Whirlpool itself? Of course in this situation, you want it fixed NOW , vs. when you have to order one and wait for the brown truck to bring it x amount of days later.

    Also, do i have any recourse with maybe getting money reimbursed from Whirlpool over this, even after the class action lawsuit is long over?

    Glad i found this forum, and like i said happy AND sad i found a direct discussion regarding this problem,

    Thanks you guys!(and gals i guess)
    Last edited by junkzoo; 10-05-2010 at 03:50 PM.

  13. #538
    DIY Junior Member junkzoo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbuck576 View Post
    Hey I'm a plumber in Shreveport, La and from experience i can say that the air intake screen should be cleaned but does the heater have the black filter screen that goes around the heater??
    As stated in my 1st post above this one, i removed the black "filter" ring (would prob only stop the biggest of dust bunnies IMO) last evening and the pilot stayed on overnite, longer than prev attempts prior to doing so. BUT it DID go out (with ring removed) after i confirmed in the morning it was stil lit, a few hrs later.
    IMO, it does not appear to be the kind of filter to do a real good job it trapping anything since it's not much of a filter ,so to speak it's prob just a kneejerk reaction to Whirlpool's problem with this unit back when it first came out. Do i re-install it? likely. do i hold any faith that it does any good? NOPE.

    Well, other than looking up a new t-couple , i guees i better get busy pulling the combustion ring unit, and get to cleaning/blowing thing out b4 i commit to getting/trying a new t-couple.

  14. #539
    DIY Junior Member junkzoo's Avatar
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    Well, did a good blow out/vacuum/clean of the Flame Lock screen, (was not covered or clogged at all, but i'm assuming there might have been some stuff in the openings) and nothing much else more to it.
    The pilot has been on now for 6-7 hrs since, but that is not saying i'm out of the woods yet

    I'm hoping i was just one of the lucky ones (probably a small group, right? ) that got lucky with a screen cleaning (but like i said, there was probably very little there) and i might be good to go, and will need to clean/check this a few times a yrs from now on.

    Since it's been running w/out a problem since 2-15-06 til yesterday, even one more flame out of the pilot is gonna put me back in my bad mood, and back in the larger club of hating and regretting they bought this tub of crap.

  15. #540
    DIY Junior Member curlysir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by junkzoo View Post
    Well, did a good blow out/vacuum/clean of the Flame Lock screen, (was not covered or clogged at all, but i'm assuming there might have been some stuff in the openings) and nothing much else more to it.
    The pilot has been on now for 6-7 hrs since, but that is not saying i'm out of the woods yet

    I'm hoping i was just one of the lucky ones (probably a small group, right? ) that got lucky with a screen cleaning (but like i said, there was probably very little there) and i might be good to go, and will need to clean/check this a few times a yrs from now on.

    Since it's been running w/out a problem since 2-15-06 til yesterday, even one more flame out of the pilot is gonna put me back in my bad mood, and back in the larger club of hating and regretting they bought this tub of crap.
    If you will go back and read most of this thread you will see that it is more then likely not your thermocouple causing the problem, it is the control valve assembly. What you describe are the classic symptoms of the valve failing. You may be able to limp alone for a short period by replacing the thermocouple and the other things but the control valve will fail shortly. The manufacture should replace it under warranty, they even paid the freight for me and would have sent someone out to install it if I wanted it.
    Last edited by curlysir; 10-05-2010 at 04:37 PM.

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