Stay Away From A.O. Smith Promax Gas Water Heaters
Posted by Dan on 2008-10-28
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN -- After my previous water heater failed after 31 years, I had a 30-gallon A. O. Smith Promax gas water heater installed on October 30, 2007. On November 17, after 19 days, the pilot light went out. For the next seven months, the pilot light continued to fail and had to be relit.
The pilot failed sometimes every few days, sometimes every day, sometimes four times a day or more.
Eventually, I had to relight the pilot light every time we needed hot water. The plumber who installed the Promax returned five separate times to try to fix it, without success. An A. O. Smith Authorized Technician tried and also failed to fix it. To help find the problem, I installed a camera at the heater viewing window, and videotaped the pilot failing four times. No one looked at the tapes.
I began to think that this water heater must be pretty bad if an experienced plumber couldnât fix it after five tries, and an A. O. Smith Authorized Technician, who works on nothing but A. O. Smith products, also could not get it to work.
Over seven months, I had to relight the pilot 63 times. At 10-15 minutes per relight (according to A. O. Smith instructions), this comes to a total of between 10-16 hours I spent lighting this heater. I can assure you that having to lay on your stomach at all hours of the day and night, in a cold and dark cellar, is not a pleasant job for an old man.
A. O. Smith, and the Factory Authorized Service Technician (who is paid by A. O. Smith) blame me for the Promax failure and refuse to refund my money. They say (without any tests or proof) that water vapor coming through the dirt floor in my cellar causes excess humidity which clogs the heaterâs flame arrestor, disrupts the air flow to the heater, and puts out the pilot flame.
In 2003, the Government got into the water heater business. It required all water heater manufacturers to fit a âflame arrestorâ into water heaters. A flame arrestor prevents the burner flame inside the heater from igniting flammable vapors outside of the heater. All heater manufacturers were allowed to come up with their own design of flame arrestor.
I learned from some plumbing websites that the real problem with the Promax may not be my cellar, but the design of its flame arrestor. All incoming air for the heaterâs operation must pass through the flame arrestor. The Promax uses a flame arrestor made from a Corderite ceramic disc. This ceramic disc is about the size of a saucer, so limits the air coming into the heater. In addition, the openings in the disc itself are small, further restricting air flow.
Aside from any design problem with the Promax, there are several reasons why A. O. Smith blaming me for the Promax failure is nonsense.
I was given no warning before purchasing the Promax, either from the plumber or A. O. Smith, that humidity was a limiting factor for the operation of this heater. No one told me that this heater needed a certain humidity range in order to work, much less what the humidity range was supposed to be. If I had known beforehand of a potential problem, I would not have bought the Promax heater.
The excess humidity conclusion is not supported by statements in A. O. Smithâs own Instruction Manual (#184165-003) and Service Handbook (#TC-049RC). In these manuals, the word âhumidâ is mentioned only once in 93 pages, and then only as an indication of tank leakage, not as a cause of pilot flame failure. These manuals are available on A. O. Smithâs website http://www.hotwater.com/lit.html.
Saying that my cellar is too humid, does not make it so. During December 2008-January 2009, I tested the relative humidity in my cellar using a Honeywell hygrometer. For these two months, the relative humidity was in a range from 51%-65%, staying mostly in the mid-50s.
A 30%-65% range for occupied areas is recommended by The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE thermal comfort standard for Human Occupancy, Standard 62.1-2004). Their chart can be seen at http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/thermal_comfort.html.
This means that even though my family doesnât actually âoccupyâ our cellar, the relative humidity there is within ASHRAE standards. This normal reading is more significant in that during January 2009 we had four times as much snow (i.e. more moisture thus more humidity) than during the same period in 2008 when the Promax was installed. In other words, during January 2008, the humidity level in my cellar was probably even lower.
I also tested the wooden beams in my cellar with an Extech moisture meter. All the wood tested normal at 20% or less moisture. My home was built in 1924, so these normal readings are after 85 years of supposedly excess humidity.
These tests show that my cellar is not âtoo humidâ as A. O. Smith maintains and therefore is not likely to be the cause of their productâs failure.
My films of the Promax pilot light failure show that the pilot fails in several ways; it goes out by itself, or when the burner tries to go on, or when the burner is lit and then turns off. A. O. Smithâs lack of air explanation for the pilot failure seems suspect considering that the burner itself, which must require thousands of times the air the pilot does, had no trouble staying lit (once the pilot was lit) during a heating cycle.
The solution for pilot flame outages, A. O. Smithâs Legal Department says, is to clean (vacuum) their ceramic disc flame arrestor top and bottom routinely. To do this the burner must be removed, not a job the average customer can or would want to do.
Some plumbers state (see links below) that it is impossible to properly clean the bottom of this ceramic disc at all, as that part is nearly inaccessible. In any case, calling a plumber âroutinelyâ (every three months? every month?) is expensive and irritating, considering that your old heater may have lasted for decades without any attention at all.
I believe that most people would consider it intolerable if a brand-new car failed to start 63 times in seven months. After experiencing similar inconvenience, not to mention cold water, I replaced the Promax with a Bradford-White heater (my choice and in spite of the plumberâs objections) on May 24, 2008.
The Bradford-White has a stainless steel flame arrestor, the full diameter of the heater, and lets in plenty of air. The Bradford-White has now been installed for a much longer time than the Promax, and has worked perfectly in the exact same location, in the exact same âhumidâ conditions.
I am out almost $1,000 for A. O. Smithâs measly 30-gallon gas water heater.
Do yourself a favor and stay away from A. O. Smith.
Was this review helpful?YesNo
Read 8 RepliesAdd reply
User Replies: Close commentsAdd reply
Will not own another A.O. Smith Water Heater
Posted by Jay on 2009-04-11
AKRON, OHIO -- This is what to expect of customer service for any warranty claim through A. O.Smith.
It all started when the pilot kept going out on just now a 2 year old water heater after each cycle.
I sent AOSmith an email stating this (4\3\09):
I purchased this heater (2) years ago to date. Since last week or so the pilot has to be reignited after every cycle. I'm thinking along the line of a thermocouple problem. Warranty should cover this correct?
No response from that after two days I sent this(4\5\09):
I submitted a question days ago, still have not received an answer. Your Customer Service is sub-par. The equipment alike. (2) years old and I have to replace parts. Will not use or refer your products in the future.
Still nothing, so I sent this(4\6\09):
4 days and still no response. You're right on top of things here. Good CS\PR you have.....which excuse will it be, First rodeo? Really busy? Family emergency? All techs are assisting others? Computers were down? Bad weather in Tibet?
Big "hurry" to take our money when purchasing your products, but thanks for "nothing" when somethings wrong with them?)
Finally, I get a response, or at least I thought it was. Typical reply from them asking for all the info that I'd already given them while registering onto their website(4\6\09):
We sincerely apologize for the delayed response to your email. We would like to ask a few questions for troubleshooting purposes. Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support center. Below is a summary of your request and our response.
We will assume your issue has been resolved if we do not hear from you within 96 hours.
Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.<----"That's a joke!"
Pilot outages can be due to a variety of things.
We would like to help you with determining what the root cause might be, and will need the answers to some very important questions to do so:
1) When was your water heater installed?
2) When did you begin experiencing pilot outages?
3) How often is the pilot going out?
4) Does the pilot go out in conjunction with anything else in the home turning on or off or anything else that you can think of (temperature outside, winds outside, doors opening and closing)?
5) Where is the water heater installed in the home (basement, attic, closet, utility room, etc)?
6) What is the size of the room where the water heater is installed?
7) How is fresh air supplied to the water heater?
8) How is the unit vented (from water heater to outside termination, include number of elbows and degree - 45, 90, etc.)? What size vent pipe is used? What is the length of the vent?
9) What is the altitude where the water heater is installed?
10) Are you using natural gas or propane (LP)?
11) What is the system gas pressure, static and in use? And, what is the manifold gas pressure, static and in use?
*A plumber with a digital manometer will be able to check the gas pressure readings.
12) If this is a flammable vapor ignition resistant model (FVIR/C3), is the LDO screen (Lint, Dust, and Oil screen) clean and properly in place? (If the LDO screen was not in place or if it is dirty, there could also be debris within the water heater clogging the corderite disk and blocking air flow).
*The LDO screen is located on the front of the water heater, beneath the burner chamber. It is a black screen, similar to what you find on your household dryer.
13) How many people are using this water heater?
14) If you have a digital camera, it would be helpful if you could send pictures of the installation from water heater to termination outside. If you can do this, we will need them in. jpg or. jpeg format.
(I waited 80+ hrs for you to only be given 96 hrs to reply back to a 14 part questionnaire with requests of pictures and a manometer? What is this BS? Already gave date of installation, problems that are happening, serial & model #'s, name, info, first born...etc etc I've answered enough of your questions now please answer mine? I have receipt of purchase of the water-heater (2) years ago to date of the second of three submissions (4\3\07)I've sent to you. I've already had a licensed H\AC contractor here and diagnosed that the thermocouple is bad. Question is: Is replacement of the thermocouple for a just now (2) year old AOSmith 40gT Pro Max Gas Water Heater under warranty?)
(We apologize first of all that you had to wait for a response. I was out of the office due to a family emergency.) <----"Hmm, What did I tell you?"
(The thermocouple on this unit cannot be replaced as an independent part. The entire pilot assembly would need to be replaced. If your plumber feels this is the problem with the unit then he may go through the local distributor for the part in warranty however, if the problem continues we will not be able to assist you further without troubleshooting.
(Troubleshooting has already been assessed and diagnosed the thermocouple\assembly is bad? What will I need to pick up this [Quote:\]for the part in warranty[UnQuote:\]? I purchased and picked up the heater from the distributor, it will be myself (not the plumber) going to get the part.)
(You would need to contact the distributor where you purchased the unit to determine what they will require from you for the part in warranty.
(This is the whole reason I've contacted you or (A. O.Smith). The distributor where I purchased the heater from is no longer practical to which is why I followed instructions (As listed under "claim procedure"). The part in warranty that you referenced (thermocouple assembly) for the Pro Max GCV 6yr tank\6yr parts Ser#M06AO27556 Mod#GCV 40 100. All required warranty applications are in accordance as specified under terms and conditions. (See attachments) [Quote:\] A. O.Smith Water Heaters (the warrantor) will furnish the ORIGINAL OWNER, 1) a replacement A. O.Smith water heater of equivalent size and current model if the glass-lined tank in this water heater leaks and, 2) a replacement part for any component part which fails.[UnQuote:\] Photo's show proof of purchase per residential installation, residential gas warranty and rating plate.
I've purchased this heater to "heat" my water, it's not doing so. I've logged onto your website and sent the claim of the thermocouple assembly not working properly almost a week ago. Six days later you've referred me back to the original distributor along with apology including an unfortunate family emergency? All the while I'm still without hot-water. Please, just supply the name of a local (A. O.Smith) distributor that has the part in stock, address, phone # and a claim reference # to pick it up. Regards,)
The closest distributors in your area are Wolff Brothers and Johnstone Supply. A reference number is not necessary for warranty however, I do need to be sure you are aware that our distributors are wholesale only and some will only work with plumbers and contractors.
Thank You, Mary
The warranty doesn't say anything about wholesale, or retail distributors. Nor does it say this requires a plumber or contractor is needed to pick up a replacement heater or parts. Says under "Claim Procedure" Any claim under this warranty should be initiated with the dealer who sold the heater, (or with "any" other dealer handling the warrantor's products). Now I went to both Wolff Bros and Johnstone, they won't warrant the part because I don't have acct's there. To which is why I've been talking to you. Since there's already question on your behalf of knowing the difficulty of myself obtaining it through a wholesaler, why did you refer them?
I've received apologies for delays and family emergencies, asked and answered (with photo's) numerous questions for troubleshooting, had a licensed plumber diagnose thermo-couple being bad, referrals to wholesalers that won't help, no hot-water for over two weeks. I believe I've done everything just short of giving up my first born in obtaining this part. These actions alone should warrant a resolution on A. O.Smith's behalf of any further issue with cost of shipping\delivery charges of the part. If you cannot help in furnishing such request, please refer this matter to someone there that can.
This is the stores policy and it would have to be followed. Typically, they will charge you up front and reimburse you when the claim is filed. The other option would be to contact our Customer Care Center and the part can be sent out however, you will be charged for the shipping. The rates are:
UPS Ground $10.00
UPS 2nd Day Air $25.00
UPS Next Day Air $50.00
I have A. O.Smiths (warrantors) policy and it would have to be followed. This is your product, not the distributors. I've already spent seven days and well over the price for shipping costs with this charade following your referrals. What part of the last few emails that I sent don't you understand that those distributors will "not" warrant the part because they are wholesale only? Meaning, can't even "purchase" the part there to be reimbursed...... "contact our Customer Care Center"? I asked you to do such prior to your last five replies. I feel you have been biased, and done nothing but give sub-par answers, family emergency excuses, and run-arounds. Everything that you've presented has only escalated the problem. Nothing you've stated coincides with the warranty at hand. As stated in my last reply, I no longer wish to deal with you on this matter. Send this email of it's entirety over to whomever "manages" the customer care center to get my part. Not a customer care associate, the manager.
As of (4\8\09) I requested that I be sent to a CCC(Customer Care Center)Mary(A.O.Smith) replied (4\9\09) a run-around and made reference of contacting the CCC, I replied back yet again (4\9\09) to actually have this claim sent to CCC, it's now (4\12\09) and still had no assisstance\service from anyone from A.O.Smith.
Will update as it proceeds.......still in the works here.
As of Monday(4\13\09)Rapidly Replied:
I have sent your request to the supervisor.
Note: Due to a CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: Problem Resolved!
I do not (Recommend) by shown e.g. A.O.Smith heaters due to homeowner difficulty in finding\getting warranted parts. This is "my personal experience".
Hope this helped in your decision whether "YAY" or "NAY"?