A.O. Smith water heater

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by aaabbb, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. aaabbb

    aaabbb New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    TN
    We have to replace our gas water heater and our plumber wants to install an A.O. Smith. All of the other brands that he carries are more. I knew that A.O. Smith also makes Whirlpool and Kenmore units which aren't very highly rated. Are the A.O. Smith branded units sold by plumbing contractors any better than the Whirlpool/Kenmore ones? I read something on here about A.O. Smith units having trouble if they aren't kept in the clean room. Since we are putting it in a utility room, keeping the unit clean would be a problem.

    The only other economical alternative we have is to purchase a GE model from Home Depot. We aren't planning on living in this home for much longer so we want to keep the price as low as possible. We don't want to purchase a unit that will give us any problems in the next few years though.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2010
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Personaly...If I were you I would buy the GE before I would put in a Smith...thats just my opinion...

    The GEs are made by Rheem...
  3. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    How old?

    I show 15.5 yrs expected lifetime for the "average gas water heater".
  4. smiths are junk

    do the Ge like Cass has stated

    the smith has decided to destroy their own
    design and make their new
    design just like the whirlpool

    here is a pic of the bottom
    they will have big trouble soon


    [​IMG]
  5. Runs with bison

    Runs with bison Member

    Messages:
    897
    Location:
    Midwest
    Tough to say whether the GE will be troublefree. The flame arrestor design is superior but unfortunately it uses the same Unitrol Robert Shaw valve as the Whirlpool. This part is not in the combustion chamber but has a high failure rate.
  6. it does not matter


    that valve is fine,, its the application that the valve is being used is is what makes the valve fail....

    their is no comparison between the two designs...

    the rheem was good from day one


    the smith is acutally makeing theirs worse....

    i dont understand them at all


  7. Runs with bison

    Runs with bison Member

    Messages:
    897
    Location:
    Midwest
    We aren't talking about the Rheem, but the GE with the same Unitrol Robert Shaw valve as the Whirlpool. They share the same offending/failing part, the Rheem does not. The Rheem part has a different layout than the GE, but since I don't have one in front of me I can't tell how much real difference there is.

    Explain how your proposed failure mechanism would work. What would make the valve fail in the Whirlpool etc. design? The valve is not in the combustion chamber. In many cases the TC's in the combustion chamber are not the problem, the valve is. It makes no sense that the valve would gradually fail due to a combustion issue when it is not exposed to it (and as in my case when the flame arrestor screen is/was clean and the unit has adequate draft.) TC failure possible because of combustion problems? Yes. Gas valves/thermostat failure? No, not unless the gas valve that is in the GE/Whirlpool is killed by the TC. That would be a shared design flaw.

    I'm not disputing that the flame arrestor design is insufficient and can eventually starve the system for air. However, that does not explain the gas valve failures we are seeing where it eventually refuses to light the pilot even with a new TC. The pilot takes so little air that the air starved explanation won't fly...not when the gas valve is the part actually failing and preventing the pilot from staying lit. The thermostat itself was still functional as turning the dial revealed, so the problem with the Unitrol Robert Shaw valve appears to be localized to its sensing of the TC. It experiences early senility.

    By the way, I just did a google search on some model numbers and noted several gas valve failure posts for the GE that sound identical to the Whirlpool gas valve failures.
  8. Bison.....rheem makes ge for home depot ok??

    to the best of my limited knowledge..

    Rheem makes Ge ,
    and the internals design is the same for both

    I cant find a ge pic but you get the idea??.


    Now you could be 100% correct about the valve if they had a bad batch
    of them and have a recall on them........

    Or Perhaps Rheem could be useing cheaper parts on their GE line

    maybe some cheap knock off crap made in china for robert shaw....



    You know that is is a giant rat race to the very bottom
    and we have had our souls sold off to this global economy


    The new motto for the world is...
    he who can cheapen their product the most and get their stock
    price up the highest ......if only for a month or two .......wins........

    .
    .


    [​IMG]

    http://images.google.com/imgres?img...ater+pics&um=1&hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENUS281&sa=N
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2009
  9. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,062
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    heater

    Go to the Rheem plant and watch their production line. I'll bet you will see heaters coming past. The first one will be a Rheem, the next a Ruud, then will come a GE, then a Vanguard, next a Richmond, followed by a couple of other makes. Probably no difference in any of them. And some will be 6 year heaters, some will be nine year, and others 12 year, but still the same heaters.
  10. Runs with bison

    Runs with bison Member

    Messages:
    897
    Location:
    Midwest
    I've looked at the GE's right there in Home Depot and they have the same gas valve as the Whirlpool. Same casing, same piezo, same reset, same tubing arrangement, same TC position, same dial positions and shapes. They do mirror reverse the runs to the burner (as well as the window), but the left/right positions on the gas valve are not reversed.

    Now it might not bother you to suggest replacing a water heater with a new one that has the same frequently failing part, but I consider it to be reckless to assume that the part that fails often in one tank will be fine in the other tank. It's like buying the old Firestone tires and assuming that if they aren't put on an Explorer they will be fine...never mind that both the vehicle and tire manufacturer had major problems. And if the answer is to replace the vehicle because of frequent tire failure...would you really suggest buying a new vehicle with the same tire?

    Here is the really confusing part: the Rheem online images show a different gas valve arrangement...but when you look at their online manuals the drawings are of the same controller that is on the GE and Whirlpool.

    So has Rheem changed to the same gas valve as is on the Whirlpool? The same gas valve that has a high and rapid failure rate. Those of you that look at these daily in various homes should be able to quickly distinguish between old and new if this is the case. I'm curious to hear what you find.
  11. you aint getting it....

    Bison,, you just are not getting what I am saying...


    The robert shaw gas valve has been around for decades
    and decades,,, on occastion they have had bad ones,
    but very rarely....

    The WHIRLPOOL heater does not have the same air intake
    as the RHEEM AND GE... we agree on that....

    The WHIRLPOOL DOG overheats and constanty kicks off the thermostat when their high limit thermal fuse on the side of the heater thinks their is a fire..
    this is constantly shutting down the unit...

    So between over heating and starveing for air while it is burning and constantly shutting down every few hours or days, the HIGH LIMIT circuit in the ROBERT SHAW gas valves wear out quicker on the whirlpool ,

    becasue it is being taxed to its maximun limit


    The SMITH DOG, also is giveing me fits lately too...

    we are going out on smith heaters and installing new T-stats and
    burner assemblies ...about once a week, becasue they are in
    laundry rooms and are sucking up lint...


    that same valve is interchangeable with any older pre 03 unit
    but when you put it on a FVIR heater, the LINT kills it off quicker///.










    Last edited: Sep 16, 2009
  12. Runs with bison

    Runs with bison Member

    Messages:
    897
    Location:
    Midwest
    Mark,

    That is a plausible scenario and the sort of explanation I was looking for. How is the overheat detected by the owner/plumber after it occurs? Is there something visible on the thermal switch to indicate it has activated?

    I've never seen evidence of mine overheating during a run or shutting down early. Instead all I've observed is the pilot is out. I've also not seen any evidence of lint on the flame arrestor (and I was expecting it and checked both sides.) I don't have a lint problem in the utility room since I've fixed the original poor/leaky HVAC duct installation by the professionals. I tracked down the Whirlpool Flamelock thread here early enough that I had been diligent about keeping the water heater screen clean months before this happened.

    Instead, much like many others have reported: the pilot went out, it could be reignited and stay lit a handful of times...until the burner cycle ended with a fully heated tank. Then the pilot stopped. A fully heated tank (as in: to setpoint) doesn't indicate a thermal switch cut out. I could even hear with the dial where the temp. was at in the tank when this occurred when I swept back and forth around set point. The water temp was right in the shower without readjusting valve positions. After a few times (two in my case) the pilot could not be made to stay lit.

    I still don't have any direct indication that the system is restricted enough to overheat. But if it is a draft issue, that can be easily and safely fixed...actually it would be safer than the original design and could still fulfill the FVIR role.

    If I have thermal shut down problems I expect a combination of things to occur: 1. The pilot will go out, requiring a manual relight. 2. And either the tank will short cycle and not get hot (~120F setpoint for me.) 3. Or the tank will get too hot--but that requires the thermostat portion to have already failed. I'm not seeing evidence of either of the last two and #1 is very short.

    If the Robert Shaw valve were to fail after only three shutdowns, then there is a problem with the design or execution of the Robert Shaw valve. That is not a robust design. In that case while the U.S. Craftmaster/American Water Heater/Whirlpool/A.O. Smith ventilation design appears to be marginal, it is also revealing a serious flaw in the Robert Shaw valve which then masks the flame arrestor problem. This is not an uncommon troubleshooting scenario. Often it takes the presence of several weak design aspects to produce a serious problem. Looking at the flipside: a better ventilation design may be masking a weakness in the Robert Shaw valve in other equipment.

    Looking now I see the same Unitrol Robert Shaw valve on the conventionally ventilated Bradford Whites (or at least in the Defender information for them.)
  13. I have the answer....

    Take this 44 and pump a bunch of holes in that
    Whirlpool heater you got...

    it will give it more ventilation and that robert
    shaw valve wont be pestering you anymore....



    [​IMG]


    perhaps a smaller caliber would be wiser,
    you only want to go half way through the
    heater for better air intake...

    you dont want to kill the neighbors...



    seriousley now, once that theermal fuse
    begins to fail it usually keeps failing, I dont know if
    it is in the fuse or acutally a heat issue...

    perhaps they are just cheak junk that will worsen over time
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2009
  14. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I would consider Bradford White to be the best designed FVIR water heater with Rheem/Rudd etc. a close second.

    As soon as the combustion air inlet switches to the bottom of the water heater we are talking about just plain stupid designs...
  15. vtxdude

    vtxdude New Member

    Messages:
    127
    Location:
    NH

    This statement makes me feel a LOT better taking the Kenmore out and replacing it with a Bradford White
  16. dargo

    dargo New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    MA



    So the lint from a L room is making it a bad product? Not the heaters fault since people cannot follow the manual or a poor install.
  17. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Yep you are absolutely right...
    It's just that putting a small surface area air inlet down against the floor is a good vacuum cleaner design, not a good FVIR water heater air inlet design...

    As Ron White says "You can't Fix Stupid."
  18. dargo

    dargo New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    MA
    Okay but what is not small? I do not see an issue. Is it the best, no but not the heaters fault. Plus, if you have lint issues from a dryer, you need to look at other issues. Then again people love buying and doing ZERO after it...LAZY!!!!!YMMV

    Heck I have more chemicals by my tank / furnace then most.. but they cause not issues since I am not lazy.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2010
  19. Runs with bison

    Runs with bison Member

    Messages:
    897
    Location:
    Midwest
    dargo,

    There are reasons that an average utility space will gather more lint/dust. (I'm ignoring an impoperly vented dryer because that is a dryer problem.) The primary reasons are the presence of fired water heaters and fired furnaces/boilers, as well as the dryer. All suck substantial volumes of air through the room. An additional source of problems is the typically poorly sealed HVAC unit and ducts. The monkeys who installed ductwork/HVAC units in prior years often left huge gaps so that a considerable amount of air recycles in the room.

    Going to sealed combustion systems will reduce a large amount of the airflow through the utility room. Of course, that option really only arises when you replace a unit. However, if the utility room is internal this will reduce air infiltration into the home, so it has considerable benefit.

    Sealing HVAC ductwork/gaps will improve efficiency and comfort (better distribution at the ends of the trunk) while also reducing the amount of dust in the utility space. The impact I've seen in the utility space is very substantial. I've measured a several fold reduction in differential temperature in heating and cooling season in the utility space, as well as noting much less dust accumulation.

    Even so, the dryer will still pull in air from the room while operating. However, this can be minimized by using a front loading washer or other with a very high speed spin that removes more of the water. This and using dryer moisture sensors will reduce drying time, and therefore the amount of air throughput in the room. Cuts your utility bill too.

    One can also reduce the air volume through the utility space by better sealing/insulating the home (reduces total furnace run time), by reducing hot water use (reduces water heater burner firing.) Hot water use can be minimized by adding insulation to hot water piping, using lower flow showerheads, front loading washers, and adding insulation jackets to fired water heaters that have less than about 2" of foam insulation.

    All FVIR screens are going to work as lint filters, unfortunately. Placement and size can reduce the magnitude of the problem. Those with the FVIR screen on the bottom appear to have smaller and less well placed openings.

    GE's have the same FVIR layout as the Bradford Whites from what I can tell. The controls may differ however. The Unitrol Robert Shaw valves appear to be an Achilles heel on many units of both FVIR designs.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2010
  20. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    We've had this discussion with "Logical" Engineers before...

    The world will revolve fine just as long as we go to the poorhouse while installing their junk designs.:D
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