AO Smith Vertex GPH, Customer Satisfaction & Repair History

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by Leaky1, Nov 21, 2010.

  1. Leaky1

    Leaky1 New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    California

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    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 2, 2011
  2. Serene

    Serene New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    PNW
    Posting 3 months after the original question, I know that the OP will not see this response, but for others searching this forum I will share my opinion. I have the GDHE 50 which is very similar to the GPHE except that it has both direct exhaust and intake vents and increases the btuh from 76,000 to 100,000. I had it installed about 2 years ago. At a little over $2,000 (which included installation/disposal costs) it is much more money than a conventional tank WH and will take me almost 10 years to get to the breakeven point from gas savings. Mine did qualify for the federal tax credit (and gas company rebates), which took some of the sting out of the price. For installation, I needed to up size about 4 feet of gas line in addition to adding the PVC intake and exhaust pipes. Although it only needed 2†dia. Pipes, I used 3†in case I ever wanted to replace it with a 200kBTUH tankless. Other than that, it installed just like a 50 gal. Tank WH.
    The good: very efficient (2/3 gas usage over previous WH); FAST recovery (takes less than 15 minutes to get to 120F from 55F when returning from vacation), 50gal Vertex will replace a 75gal conventional.
    Not-so-good: noisy when actively heating. About as loud as a refrigerator, but more like a jet engine starting noise (fan noise from exhaust fan). Required up-sizing the gas feed line to the Vertex. Moving parts implies more repairs.
    The bad: It stopped working once (at 20 months) when the exhaust got clogged. The inside of the heat exchanger shed enough rust flakes into the U joint of the exhaust and clogged the condensate drain line. The unit's computer diagnostics were helpful in pointing to where the problem was; something like “Error – blocked exhaustâ€. I cleaned out the rust and it's been working fine since then. I hope that rust blockage doesn't become a regular maintenance item, otherwise I'll be testing out that AO Smith warranty.
    To those critical of my Vertex choice, please know that my machine room space and gas line infrastructure would not support a tankless or a 75 gal conventional WH. With the original 50 gal WH I had, I was always running out of hot water. I'm very satisfied with the performance. Reliability? - um, we'll see.
  3. dx

    dx General Contractor

    Messages:
    156
    Location:
    Michigan
    When you say rust, are you saying the heat exchanger is not stainless? I'm thinking if enough rust to clog the vent fell off the thing in 2 years, how long before it rusts through?
    Are there 2 heat exchangers, primary and secondary like in condensing furnaces?
  4. Leaky1

    Leaky1 New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    California
    Thank you for your reply. I am still considering the Vertex, but your experience with the heat exchanger has me concerned. I snipped the following from HVAC-Talk.

    http://hvac-talk.com/vbb/showthread.php?t=759242

    Thanks for the reply. Yes welding stainless can be tricky. But, it solves a lot of corrosion issues. My concern about the Vertex is the steel heat exchanger as opposed to the Polaris. Have you installed any Polaris system that also do forced air heat?. I will check out the Phoenix too thanks for the info.
  5. Serene

    Serene New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    PNW
    @dx – the heat exchanger is not stainless. To be clear, the 3/8†dia. condensate drain was clogged by the rust, not the 2†exhaust PVC. The exhaust was clogged by the water build up from not being able to drain. Re: 2 heat exchangers – I don’t know. I thought that there is only one, but I only have access to the installation and marketing materials.
    @Leaky1 – There is such a dearth of info on the Vertex (that’s why I decided to share my experience). I know from searching numerous other forums that there is at least one other home owner that had this blockage problem. The marketing materials state that the Vertex water contact surfaces (including heat exchanger) are glass lined – not stainless. The Polaris is stainless, but so much more money.
    The long story is that I called for service when it stopped working. The story from AO Smith (second hand via the technician) is that this condition is rare but familiar. It occurs as a result of “breaking in†and conditioning the surface of the gas side of the heat exchanger. Supposedly, after a period of 1-2 years, the surface metal is conditioned and should not occur again. Cleaning the U joint and condensate line is part of maintenance. Personally, I don’t believe it. The AOS install and owner’s manuals make no mention of cleaning the exhaust joint/condensate drain. There’s no mention of it in the trouble shooting section, either. I suspect that there are lapses in quality control and there was some number of inferior grade heat exchangers that made it into final product. To be fair, the installer company stated that they had sold a large number of these units (no figure given) and this was only the second problem that they had heard of (the other being a bad pressure switch). On the web, you only hear about the complaints. I suspect that there are many more Vertex owners who are satisfied and see no need to post to forums. That is, I’m probably the exception, not the rule.
  6. highfalonian

    highfalonian New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    High Falls, NY
    unsatisfied Vertex AOS owner/installer

    Serene...I know it's been several months since your post but I had to try replying. We have the same Vertex, installed in December of 2008 with the same clogging issue that hasn't ceased. In fact, we get a call every 3-6 months because of a failure/no hot water/no heat only to discover another clog. Each time we've contacted AOS and we've received the same answers..."the unit requires cleaning and maintenance". The first time the problem created a circuit board failure and the entire CB had to be replaced. Most recently we're receiving blower prover failure messages. Today there was another error, blower prover switch - removed the switch and it has water it in. blew the water out and the unit started up.

    It's annoying because we've installed Polaris units in three other homes and have never had a callback, no cleaning or maintenance. The Vertex on the other hand has shed several cups worth of this "rust" with no explanation or solution.

    Does your unit continue to become blocked? Tomorrow I will call about getting a new blower prover switch. Winters still here in upstate NY, can't afford to not have heat and hot water.
  7. westzone

    westzone New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    West LA
    Very unhappy and regretted buying this heater

    Installed one in my basement (where all my heaters etc are located) about 8 months ago and the display board connection was completely corroded and malfunctioned. Tried to contact AO Smith for warranty and was told that the unit could not be installed in a humid environment so they would not cover any warranty. The humidity in my basement averaged about 40% but can be as high as 50-60% on some days since it is connected by a crawl space to the outdoors. I was told that this was a sensitive electronic equipment and should be installed and treated as such like computers. Nothing in the specification said that. The display board was completely exposed inside the plastic enclosure. Now I have to pay close to $300 for the parts and $ 240 for 2 trips of the technician since no one carried this part. Should have just bought conventional water heater. Who would have thought this thing is so fragile. My last conventional water heater lasted 10 years with no problem.
  8. chalnick

    chalnick New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    new jersey
    I am a homeowner and have had the Vertex 100 (GDHE 100) for about 3 years now. I get about a cup of rust every few months in the exhaust pipe. I need to disassemble the pipe (which is messy) and clean out the rust or the unit will block up and stop working. I can't imagine most homeowners doing this. Other than that problem, the unit works well. I am worried where all the rust is coming from - something must be rusting out.
  9. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,984
    Location:
    01609
    Chalnick: If you use B-vent or other metal piping rather than PVC/CPVC it's guaranteed to rust, since the exhaust is guaranteed to condense even at temps well above room temp. Stainless steel venting works, but it's a lot more expensive and not necessary.

    If you have plastic venting throughout and it's collecting rust, that's an unhappy symptom- a cup every few months is a LOT of material.
  10. sebgrady

    sebgrady New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Oakland, CA
    Bad Hot Surface Igniter Just Replaced

    I have had the GDHE-50 for about 6 months now and the hot water stopped working. AO Smith sent someone out within 24 hours and they replaced the Hot Surface Igniter for free. 6 years parts and 1 year labor covered it.

    The plumber said it would cost about $100 if it happened while not under warranty and said this is rare and I should not expect any more problems.

    Other than that this unit has been a complete rockstar. 3 showers and a bath going at the same time in a 3,000 SF house and no shortage of hot water. My old 75 gal standard water heater was garbage and would last maybe one or two showers before somebody had to wait another hour. No chance of filling the jacuzzi bath but now it is all very easy.
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