PowerVent Water Heaters

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Dunbar Plumbing, Sep 16, 2006.

  1. Any plumbers on this site in the biz on doing the troubleshooting/service and repair on these?

    I get about 40-60 calls a year to work on these and every time I refer them away, here's the reasons why:

    1. HD no longer sells them because they wasn't making money. Too many callbacks within the warranty periods and killed their profit margins considerably.

    2. Sears/Kenmore I believe they may still sell them....but go try to buy one on impulse and you'll be waiting for it to be shipped to that area. I think they do this because of past case histories where servicing them under their warranties (which are long, 9-12) and slicing the profit margin.

    3. In my area, there have been 4 different service reps for A.O. Smiths, all of them end up quitting due to frustration and just get fed up with the problems. Some are easy fixes but for example.....I put in a power vent heater and it would delay ignition causing a small "boom!" when lighting....scary at best.

    The service rep came out 4 times in total.....3 times replacing the smart valve, adjustments, flame sensor and this is a brand new heater. The 4th was a replacement of that new heater. Granted, defects are uncommon from the start but the rep told me that it is mind grinding of a day to deal with some of those units.....it isn't always cut and dry.

    Now when customers call me in regards to replacing these units, I'm having to buy from plumbing supply houses which are fine.....but lack the longer warranty and availability to buy at big box stores and bigger national chains. Okay to a certain degree but the core issue is the problem with repairs.

    The people that have these are pushed into a corner since they don't have double wall B-vent going up through their houses. I've done a few gas to electric conversions back in the day but I see a distinct pattern with these devices running error free like we are accustomed to with the non-power vented models. A thermocouple is usually the only call on those.....rarely a gas control valve.
  2. Bradford white power vents

    I put a few Brad ford white power vents
    a month and have not had any problems
    what-so ever......

    their are service techs in town for both Bradford and Rheem that I will call if it falls in the first year
    so its not my problem....

    their is simply no money in being the service tech
    for any of the power vents.....

    The A.S.O.Smiths are Dogs

    States are DOGS....

    Kenmores are DOGS

    and if you are stupid enough to get one from Home Depot you truely deserve the troubles you will have when it goes down....

  3. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    I work on them when ever I get calls on them. Some are easy others hard. As long as the customer pays I will work. :)

  4. It's "was" the cheapest power vent installed. Hovering around $500 range. Those customers find the cheapest thing made....the reason why Craftmaster water heaters are still found in homes when HQ and BS were pushing them. I make good money on a HD heater because a A.O. Smith is coming out most times......reconfiguring the water/flue piping is an understatement and it is time consuming.

    That's good Cass if you have the patience to work on them. I just tell them to call me if they want it replaced. I fear the the first time I work on one.....short of replacing a vaccum tube up top and them calling me back within weeks for some big ticket item breaking. Now I'm the bad guy for not swaying them to have it replaced.

    That knowledge will keep you employed though....might lose some hair along the way. ;)
  5. knowledge is power but sometimes.......

    knowledge is a goood thing, but with the powe vents

    I honestly dont want to know how to fix them,,,,

    Every time I do someone a favor and try to make the repairs

    on them it has always come back and bit me in the ass......

    and usually on the very next Sunday morning

    I might sound stupid and not on top of my game
    but how do you charge someone a half days labor
    on a 9 year old power vent??

    So I try to talk them into a new one or point them in
    the righ direction.....

    but to sink 600 into a 1997 Smith power vent is foolish
    but I have seen it done...
  6. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    B4 I start talking about repair I tell them that if it is repaired they may spend a 2-4 hundred $$$ to repair an old heater. I stress all the possibilities then discuss all their options give them my opinion and let them decide. All I guarantee is the parts I installed and the labor to install them. Not if something else fails the next hour or day or week or month. I have never had anyone let me repair a PV for over $500.00. They all have decided to replace once the repair bill starts to exceed that.
  7. I had a guy on another site try to get me into working on them. Granted, those calls that come in are dollars wasted, that's for sure. But for the most part I explain that most plumbers farm it out to the guys who work on them every day. They have the parts on the truck....and working on them isn't random like I would have to do.

    On the call yesterday.....all I did was ask how many times the light was flashing.........3.

    So, I went here to look up page 32 of 60 and diagnose from my office what most likely it was. One of two switches, finding one on a weekend with a plumber/service tech was a long shot without the customer spending $300 to do so.

    I ruled out restricted pathway or too long of a run from the unit.....it's only 8 feet long with 3 turns of direction.

    So in essence, I know enough about these to get in trouble. I certainly don't work on my computer when it breaks by pulling off the back panel, I definitely don't want to do this to PV water heaters. Two thumbs up to Cass; that knowledge is great and will make you money. If you lived closer I could belt you calls on these.

    One other point; the majority of those calls are tanks under the 6 year warranty. Meaning....even if I did want to work on them, I'm cheating the customer by charging them, knowing well enough that if they talk/hire the right guy....it doesn't cost them a dime. I get more brownie points for that action alone that I've done work for those I referred away from me, solely on the honesty part. I sincerely appreciate it when that "nobody" on the other end of the phone does it to me. In another thread here I mentioned about some knowledge divulged by my account rep at my phone company. That knowledge equated to thousands in sales and at least a couple thousand saved by NOT hiring someone to build a website for me. Me was happy after that. :p
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