Costly Repairs after 1.9 years of service
Dear Sir or Madam,
On June 15th, 2002, I purchased your Whirlpool Gas Water Heater with Flame Lock Safety System (model number FG1H4040T, product number 0730138, serial number 0215119499) at Lowe's. The exact store location is 5125 West Main Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 49002. Their phone number is (269)345-2110. Cost of the unit was $268.00, and there was a rebate at that time, although I do not recall the exact amount of the rebate. I installed the water heater per instruction and it has worked perfectly until last Thursday, March 4th, 2003. My wife noticed during that day that the hot water coming out of the faucets was luke warm. I checked the water heater and found that the pilot light was out and the burner was not operating. I attempted to reset the pilot and restart the water heater. I followed the instruction per the operation manual for re-lighting the water heater. I held the reset button down and depressed the igniter button until the pilot relit. After holding the reset button down for 1 minute, I released the button, which caused the pilot to go out. I attempted this several times.
After several unsuccessful attempts to restart the water heater, I contacted the gas company to check the lines. They did, and everything was in working order. I then called a local heating and cooling company to come out and service the unit. The company was not an authorized Whirlpool repair facility, but because they were local and might be able to locate the problem easily in addition to not knowing it needed parts for the repair, we requested that they take a look. After they inspected the gas lines and found one small leak in a shutoff valve (Which they replaced), they were also unsuccessful in being able to relight the water heater. They believed that the Flame lock Thermocouple was bad and suggested that it be replaced. Since Whirlpool uses reversed thread thermocouples, they did not have a suitable replacement part. My wife contacted your customer service department and they provided her with an authorization number (1575765) for a replacement thermocouple at no charge to us. I was able to pick one up at Lowe's. The thermocouple was replaced, but the pilot light would continue to go out when the reset button was released after being relit. This repair occurred Friday evening.
On Saturday, March 6th, we made several calls to Lowe's and your customer service department in an attempt to locate a Whirlpool authorized service provider. Because of the weekend, it was difficult to find a service company open; however we were able to locate Northside Heating and Cooling in Muskegon, Michigan. They were an hour and a half away. Knowing that the service call would be more expensive for that reason, as well as being a weekend, we still were happy to have them come repair the unit. Ryan Cosens from Northside came out to repair the water heater. Per his description of the work, the water heater was not sensing flame. He replaced the gas valve and installed a second thermocouple. He checked the gas lines, draft, plus the unit and found them to be good working order. He was able to restart the water heater. Although the parts were covered under warranty, labor for the repair was $393.75. I find that amount outrageous and far more than what I paid for the water heater itself. To add insult to injury, 30 minutes after he left, the unit failed again, and I could not get it relit. With the same symptoms as before, I contacted Ryan again, and was told that he did everything he could do to repair the unit. He suggested I contact Whirlpool. I did, and I spoke to a customer service rep that stated to me that he obviously did not fix the unit and to have him come back and do so. When I mentioned that this unit had a 9 year warranty, I was told that the warranty covered the tank only. Obviously, the tank is not the issue. I contacted Ryan again, and after some trepidation on his part, he agreed to come back Monday to look at the unit again. This means that either my wife or I will miss a second day of work waiting to have the water heater repaired..hopefully repaired.
We also contacted the Lowe's store where we purchased the water heater to inquire what recourse we have with this faulty unit. They took our information, and were going to inquire to Whirlpool for resolution.
So here's where I'm at. I will wait until Monday and see if Northside can get the water heater functioning again. If they can not, then I am forced to replace this unit. After 4 days of cold water, and a water heater that is only 1.9 years old, I am extremely displeased with the level of reliability and service I have received from Whirlpool. I appreciate not having to pay for parts, but the lack of assistance and outright poor attitude from Whirlpool has given me a bad taste. If I have to replace the water heater, I promise you it won't be a Whirlpool. The name Whirlpool will never again grace this household. In addition, I will find every internet based consumer advocacy group I can find and post this letter. I would not wish this level of frustration upon my worst enemy. I hope no one has to go through such a finger pointing exercise. I do not expect much of a response from Whirlpool, if their customer service is a reflection of the company's attitude. But I'm writing this letter in as much for the therapeutic effect as for any kind of resolution it might bring.