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

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by Terry, Nov 19, 2005.

  1. jtjgvle

    jtjgvle New Member

    Greenville, NC
    Thanks, I'll check to see if I have a "B" hopefully so since I just bought the thing presumably it was "new stock". Does this "fix" make the thermocouple last longer or does it just allow any old standard thermocouple to be used?
  2. jtjgvle

    jtjgvle New Member

    Greenville, NC
    I do have the "B" model number, hopefully it solves at least some of the problem.

  3. No, all it does is take care of the thermocouple issue they had but it still requires that specific type AFAIK.
  4. Whirlpool heaters....

    The dead thread comes alive again....

    their is a class action lawsuit in California right now

    Their is one in Illinios too.....

    and what does whirlpool and American Water Heaters do????

    Go to Lowes sometime and check out the new
    "energy smart" gas flame lock water heater
    with a special "honeywell" gas valve.....

    It Looks very impressive at first glance,
    but it still is the same old dog
    and they have not increased the air intake
    under the unit at all, so it will probably
    have the same old problems too...

    give it 2 years in a laundry room and it will
    be gasping for air too

    the enjeneers at Whirlpool are some real smart cookies......

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2009
  5. Tim in Fort Worth

    Tim in Fort Worth New Member

    It was my "guest" post that started this thread. I sent in another one which was posted on 11/30/05. This was around the time the thermocouple fried the last time. At that time, I removed the glass viewing plug, left the shroud cover off and kept the door to my indoor water heater closet cracked open. The thermocouple lasted from 11/05 until last night. The only difference this time is that if I keep at it, I can get the thermocouple to stay lit and fire the burner. It goes out before the water is fully heated, but I can repeat the process (so far) and eventually get a tank of fully hot water.

    I just got off the phone with Whirlpool. The service center now appears to be in India. The rep was very polite and apologetic. I guess class action lawsuits have that effect on a company. The first thing he asked me after he got the serial number for the water heater was if I had the "enhancement kit". I told him that other than several thermocouples and the thermostat unit they sent me out of the blue all I had received was the plastic filter to wrap around the bottom. He told me that they would sent me the enhancement kit, which includes a thermocouple and replaces the entire door to the water heater. The enhancement kit seems to be an external "reset switch" that somehow resets the thermocouple. He advised me that if it happens again I just need to press the reset switch and reignite the pilot in the normal manner. The kit is free. The shipping is $6. After some mild complaining he agreed to waive the shipping charge. Estimated arrival is 5 business days. Fortunately, I have extra thermocouples (once bitten, twice shy). He also told me that if I went to Lowes and bought a replacement thermocouple they would reimburse me for it.

    I'm not sure how the mechanics of the enhancement kit function, but at least there seems to be some movement on this problem. And after reading about how often the thermocouple croaks for people, I believe that popping the glass viewing window, keeping the shroud off and leaving the door slightly cracked did have an effect on the longevity of the last thermocouple. Still hate the product, believe it to be substandard and will never purchase another Whirlpool product again. Hopefully this enhancement kit will be a permanent solution, and not just a patch to get past the warranty period (9 years for mine). So for you professional plumbers, when you get calls from customers about their crappy Whirlpool water heater you might give Whirlpool a call and get this kit. It's only available from Whirlpool and can't be purchased at Lowes or anywhere else. It's supposed to be easy to install. I'd guess it's close to the same procedure for replacing the thermocouple, so your fee will probably be about the same.

    The sad thing is before I called Whirlpool I was having crazy thoughts about removing the On/Off/Pilot knob, grinding an indent into it and using a C-clamp to hold the pilot light button down. I never would have done that, but the fact that those thoughts even entered my head show how frustating these experiences are. I really feel sorry for the people who have no clue and wouldn't attempt to change out the thermocouple themselves, and end up paying $100 or more for a service call a few times a year.
  6. Call LOWES....

    Thank you for the update

    Just for fun , meaness and spite too....

    why dont you call LOWES and ask
    them why they sell a product that presently has a
    class action lawsuit going on in California and one
    being filed sometime soon in Illinois too.....

    ask them why they sell a product that they KNOW
    is trouble ..,

    ask the why they dont have a "let the buyer beware "

    sign posted near their water heaters that they sell.

    the reason is that they get a large rebate back from American
    Water heaters for selling certain quotas of water heaters
    every year....

    that rebate actually comes to quite a lot of money...
    .probably about 200k to 500k or more per region of the country...

    ANYWAY.....thank you for the update on their new futile attempt to
    contain this lawsuit....


    it sounds like that they are addressing the problem with a re-set switch
    that sounds something like the BRADFORD WHITE unit presently has.

    but if they have not enlarged the size of the air intake under this unit
    it will be all in vain..... just another cluster-fu////.
    all they got to do is make a larger air intake screen under the unit.....

    from what I have seen so far, the total stupidity and incompetence
    that their enjeneering department has shown ,

    I really honestly doubt that they have fixed their problems..

    guess I need to go down to Lowes this
    weekend and take some pics of their products.

    I am very interested in getting an update again from you
    when your new repair parts arrive...

    please post another update when you have a chance....
    digital pics would be nice to see too....


    Last edited: Feb 15, 2009
  7. Tim in Fort Worth

    Tim in Fort Worth New Member

    Well, turns out the part was sent to an old work address I used one time when I had them send out a new thermocouple and didn't want to miss it in the event a signature was required for delivery. Funny that they didn't verify the address before they sent it out, or just send it to the address associated with the warranty. In the interim, the "waiting for the burner area to cool down and holding the pilot light button down for three minutes so it would stay lit for one cycle" routine has stopped working. On Friday I had to use the spare thermocouple I had. I was hoping I would only have to do this once, when the enhancement kit arrived. They are now sending another one over night, and it should be here tomorrow. I'll post some pics at that time. I hope that the enhancement kit is the entire slide-in assembly. The gas feeder tube for the pilot light has taken a beating because of the number of times I have had to replace the thermocouple. The threaded nut that connects it to the thermostat is almost completely deformed because it is in a difficult place to get a wrench around and the tube itself is getting crimped because it has to be moved out of the way when removing the burner assembly.

    One thing I would suggest to people who one of these water heaters is to make a "relief call" to Whirlpool a few months after they get replacement parts, and tell them it went out again. That way they will at least have a spare the next time it really craps out and they won't be without hot water while waiting for a new part.
  8. flame lock gas lines

    thanks for the update........

    I have had a number of customers that broke that
    gas line off inside the heater where it was welded to the
    inner the burner plate .....and that was the last straw for them
    we installed new Brad White units

    once that goes---cracks, snaps, , just consider putting in a new heater...

    it really amazes me how much trouble Whirlpool thinks
    people are willing to put up with....

    if someone asked me to break down a gas heater and
    put new parts on it every 6 months.....

    the heater might
    get thrown through the store window some dark night..

    its jsut a matter ot time before someone blows up or burns
    down their home....http://www.weilhammerplumbing.com/galleryiii/
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2009
  9. Tim in Fort Worth

    Tim in Fort Worth New Member

    The BFG Conversion Kit

    Here we go. The part arrived today and I immediately snapped some pictures of the parts. I uploaded them, but I don't know how to get them to appear as inline images. In previewing this message the images show up in a list below the text and you will need to click on them.

    The BFG Conversion Kit showed up in a 10"x10"x10" box delivered by DHL. It contained a replacement plastic filter (two pieces) for the base of the water heater, a new manifold/door assembly, thermocouple adapter, ferule nut, two wire leads and a sticker to apply to the heater.

    The first image should be a view of the entire BFG kit with parts, laid out generally where the parts go. Note that the viewing window is now square and a bit larger than the old style. The thermocouple adapter can be seen on the left in front of the viewing window. The piece on the right is a thermal switch. The wire leads attach to the thermocouple adapter and the thermal switch. The thermal switch is apparently a thermal breaker. My assumption is that it is supposed to pop before the thermocouple burns out. The only way I can see that it works is on the same principle as the igniter wire system--when it gets too hot the switch pops and sends an electric current to the thermocouple adapter, which shuts off the pilot light and burner. The sticker attaches to the water heater, just to the right of the manifold and thermal switch. There's probably a federal law that this sticker has to be attached.

    The second image is a closeup of the thermal switch. The little white button in the center is the reset switch.

    The third image is a closeup of the thermocouple adapter. It attaches to the thermostat, and the thermocouple attaches to the adapter.

    The fourth image just shows how the thermocouple adapter connects to the thermal switch. The wire leads have straight-on connectors for the thermocouple adapter side, and flag connectors (same connector, but at a 90* angle) for the thermal switch.

    The installation process is pretty straightforward. Remove the old manifold and burner, remove the burner and attach it to the new manifold, reinstall. Connect the external wires and tubes, then connect the wire leads between the thermocouple adapter and thermal switch. Ignite using the standard procedures. If the thermal switch pops, it can be reset by depressing the white switch in the center. The "BFG Conversion Kit - Manual Addendum" contains the following statement:

    "IMPORTANT: This water heater has a resettable thermal switch installed as part of the FVIR Safety System. DO NOT attempt to disable or modify this feature in any way."

    The kit looks complete, but I'm not sure how the ferule nut is going to seal the pilot light gas tube when I attach it. The ferule nut freely slides over the pilot tube. It seems to me that there should be another part for the tube and nut to compress against. Hopefully, it is iniside the fitting in the thermostat. If anyone can explain how this functions, please let me know. I'm familiar with flare fittings, and have used compression fittings but I seem to remember that second part for a compression fitting. All that's left now it the installation. I'll let everyone know how that goes.

    BTW, if there is a way to include these images as inline images without linking to an external web site, please let me know and I will switch them over so you don't have to click on each image.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 15, 2007
  10. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Did it come with the wrap around filter also?
  11. Tim in Fort Worth

    Tim in Fort Worth New Member

    Yes. It came with two wrap around filters and two identical instruction pages, one for each filter I guess...lol. No doubt the two identical pages cover liability. I can see some yahoo trying to sue because they only got one instruction page, but two filter pieces. Funny thing is I would think that you could get more air inside if you popped the new and improved larger viewing window out and stuck a piece of window screen over the opening. Easier to clean, too.
  12. gmt

    gmt New Member

    That ferrule you are talking about is a break-away ferrule. Just place it on the aluminum tubing then insert the tubing and ferrule into the control as far as possible. Then once you proceed to tighten the nut the ferrule will break away from the nut, setting it to the tubing.
  13. its doomed to fail

    Thanks for the PICS.....

    they have not addressed the amount of air this unit
    is able to take in ,,,,and cannot ......

    so my bet is the thermal switch will keep poppping out
    untill it starts to give out due to being tripped too many times.....

    ....when it starts to overheat....due to poor air combustion

    I wonder if the thermocoupling is of the same design and
    shorts out too when it gets too hot??? Does it still look
    the same to you??

    the only way to get a decent life expectancy out of this
    heater looks like popping out that viewing glass..to let more air into it....

    or leaving the manifold plate loosley installed so air can get around the edjes of the plate....

    of course this defeats the purpose of the FVIR design
    and is probably illegal to do..

    So I dont recommend it...although it would probably work...

    Installing this is really a lot to ask a homeowner to atttempt
    on his own.....

    In my opinion,
    WHIRLPOOL should be forced to pay a plumber to make
    this modification to these gas heaters instead of
    possibly having the homeowner have a bad accident ..

    still a lawsuit waiting to happen....http://www.weilhammerplumbing.com/galleryiii/
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2009
  14. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    No, the 2 filters connect to make 1.

    They are adjustable, depending on how you connect them, so it will fit any size heater.
    Last edited: May 15, 2007
  15. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    When you go to put the filter around the heater, over lap it and instead of trying to snap it together and pulling your hair out trying, just take a drywall screw or 2 and screw it through both filters and it will hold fine.

    It also makes it easy to remove so you can clean the air intake that you can't get to to clean.
  16. Tim in Fort Worth

    Tim in Fort Worth New Member

    That was my thought, too. I think the thermal switch is just a piezoelectric fuse that is designed to pop before the thermocouple burns out--kind of like a fuse for a fuse. [sarcasm]Now that's the good old American ingenuity that made this country great [/sarcasm]

    Funny you should mention that. I haven't gotten around to installing the new kit yet, but after I read your post I screwed the thermocouple onto the thermocouple adapter. The threads were standard threads. I thought for sure that the threads on all the previous thermocouples were reverse threaded, so I went out to the trash and, risking old food and other rubbish I dug around and pulled out the old thermocouple. I couldn't get it to thread onto the thermocouple adapter at all, left or right. So the guess from this non-plumber is that the thermocouple adapter has reverse threads on the male end, and standard threads on the female end. This leads me to believe that any standard thermocouple should work on this water heater as long as the thermocouple adapter has been installed first. I'd like to get a hold of an extra thermocouple adapter to play around with. It would be interesting to see how it reacts when various voltages are sent through it. The instructions state that it doesn't matter how the leads between the thermocouple adapter and thermal switch are connected, and nothing is color-coded.

    Come to think of it, if the problem is with the thermocouple itself, shouldn't the thermocouple adapter alone be sufficient, as any thermocouple will now work? If so, why is the switch even needed?

    That was my theory when I left the viewing glass out. The thermocouple lasted longer than any previously did. This time I also left the door to the hot water heater closet cracked open for added air flow. If I do the same with this one I think I will go ahead and stick a piece of window screen over the opening, if for no other reason than to see how much dust and debris accumulate on it.

    If anyone here has both the curiosity and tinkerer's gene they might buy a few of these water heaters to examine and play around with. If all the talk about class action law suits pans out, there will be a need for expert witnesses to testify on behalf of the plaintiffs. Expert witnesses in class action lawsuits get paid pretty well. Then there are the articles on the subject that can be written for various trade magazines. Once your name gets out there you start showing up on the morning shows that wives love to watch, getting interviewed for news stories then BAM! Before you know it you have a show on the newly created plumbing channel on satelite TV. Anyone here want to be the Emeril Lagasse or Rachel Ray of plumbing?
  17. already been asked....

    Believe it or not, I have alrealdy been
    asked by some lawyers to be a "expert witness"after
    they saw my web site...

    I gave one lawyer the name of a customer of mine
    that had to completely change out his heater
    cause he broke off the internal gas line...
    he was interesteed at first.

    but they dont pay anything for it, maybe 4,000,
    for all the traveling expences, ect ect and thats after
    all the time and effort spent , thats not much...

    in fact they hem hawed around when I inquired about
    who ends up getting all the settlement money .....

    even my customer that started the complaint only wil
    end up with maybe 10,000.. ....5 years from now......

    So guess who gets all the money when they finally
    get it al resolved??? The Lawyers themselves...
    for all the work teh put into getting the case filed

    he told me bluntly that is why they DO these sort of cases......

    they could honestly care less about the dumb ass consumer....LOL

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2009
  18. Tim in Fort Worth

    Tim in Fort Worth New Member

    Got the new manifold installed today. Nothing really different about this from previous installs, but the two screws that hold the manifold on now come pre-installed and held on to the manifold door with plastic retaining washers. That made it very difficult to line up the holes on the manifold with the holes on the tank. I almost took the plastic retaining washers off because without them you can shine a flashlight through the holes and see if you are lined up. After several minutes I got it attached without removing them. The only obstacle in the install was the ferule nut for the pilot tube sliding down and getting stuck because the tube bent a little bit.

    The larger, square glass window was interesting. With it removed, the pilot light flickered like a candle. With it in, there was a steady flame. I also tested it with a piece of metal window screen, folded over into 3 layers and held in place with a tab cut into the screen to hold it in the hole. The flame didn't flicker that way. There was obviously significant air being drawn into the burner area with the larger hole. It didn't do that with the smaller, round glass.

    The thermocouple is definitely different from the previous thermocouples in that the threads are no longer reverse threaded. The thermocouple adapter does have reverse threads on the thermostat control side, and standard threads on the thermocouple side.

    This pretty much confirms my theory that the thermal reset switch is nothing more than a fuse for a fuse. We'll see how long it lasts. Elmwood makes the thermal switch, and it will be interesting to see if they start catching hell from customers when the switch wears out. One thing I wish I did (but didn't think of at the time) before I installed the new manifold kit was look at the thermal switch to see how it is attached and if it can be replaced. In looking at the unit from the outside, it looks like it's not a threaded on piece, held on by a nut. So if the switch wears out, it might mean replacing the entire manifold door assembly unless it's a pop-out part. I'm tending toward the replace the entire manifold assembly theory because the instructions that came with the kit has a parts list that includes everything but the thermal switch. The thermal switch shows up as part of the manifold door assembly for both the natural gas and LP gas parts. Has to be Whirlpool scheming on how they can continue to get money out of us. Since they redesigned the manifold door, they could just as easily designed it so that the thermal switch was a part that could be replaced.

    If I wasn't such a stubborn cheapskate I would have replaced the water heater long ago. But to me that would be like conceding defeat, and I don't like to lose. Hopefully, this thread will be helpful to others who have had the same problems with their Whirlpool Flame Locks water heaters. I know it has helped me a lot. I've changed out the thermocouple enough times over the years that I think I could do it in the dark. It's tempting to offer to do it for other people, but without a license I wouldn't even consider it. But I do think I am going to work up a billing invoice and send it to myself. I've definitely earned the money.
  19. the thermal switch

    the thermal switch will be the next hurdle
    they have to deal with....

    out of curiousity..... what keeps you from

    just totally disconnecting the thermal switch

    from the whole equation by simply jumping the wires????

    if you bypassed the switch, took out that glass port,
    got it more air from around the manifold palte

    you would basically have converted the heater back into an "old style" gas heater

    I would NEVER advise anyone to do that, but eventuallly

    someone will get around to it....

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2009
  20. Tim in Fort Worth

    Tim in Fort Worth New Member

    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&...st whirlpool","flame lock"&btnG=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.
    Last edited: May 17, 2007
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