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Review Kenmore Energy-star natural gas Water Heater

Kenmore energy-star water heater
Kenmore energy-star product manual
Manufactured by American Water Heater Co/ owned by AO Smith Co.

Quick review

Kenmore energy-star water heater/ Made by American water heater
Kenmore warranty is usually printed clearly in the manual, and in the year 2012, the Kenmore warranty exceeds typical residential warranties offered by other vendors. The energy-star 40 and 50 gallon flue-damper water heaters with EF .67 cost $271 per year to operate and saves about $28 per year over ordinary EF .60 non-dampered water heater. Price about $700 for 50 gallon tank, $525 for 40 gallon tank. Payback 2-8 years compared with less efficient non-dampered series make this a good offer. Payback assumes 120volt electric outlet is available. The damper and electronics require electrical outlet that should be dedicated and should be protected from electrical surge that can knock out water heater controls. This water heater is repairable following FVIR event, saving money over water heaters that must be replaced.. Plastic drain valve and air intake on bottom of heater are workmanlike. There is no specific service manual posted for water heater. Product manual has good instructions for maintaining and repairing water heater. Warranty is 6 years tank and parts for single-family residential installation.


Year 2012
Warranties can change, read product manual for warranty, installation and maintenance.
Warranty 6 years when installed in single-family residential home: Kenmore 6 year warranty
Page 6 Kenmore energy-star product manual
6 years tank, 6 years parts. Tank warranty covers leaking tank. Part warranty is for parts that fail due to defective workmanship, and part warranty does not cover failures due to lack of maintenance and improper installation.
Warranty 1 year full replacement with labor for water heater tank that develops leak. No other water heater vendor clearly states this in their warranty.
Other water heater manufactures and vendors, the warranty is not as clear, especially Rheem/GE water heaters which have pro-rated warranty. Be mindful, if you buy the Rheem/GE extended warranty, that warranty is pro-rated, and requires professional installation of product. Sears also sells extended warranty, and it might also require professional installation of product. Check local store.
Kenmore warranty is not void if homeowner installs product BUT Kenmore warranty applies to original owner, single-family, residential installation when 'installed and maintained according to printed instructions in product manual.' Read the manual, and also review the installation tips shown on this webpage.
Kenmore warranty is 2 years for commercial application such as apartment or business.

Customer reviews

Kenmore is only seller of water heaters that displays customer reviews
Largely customer reviews seem negative. Here's my opinion why.
1) Rheem/GE/ Home Depot don't allow customer comments. Lowes does not allow customer comments. Lowes sells exact same American water heater products just like Sears. But somehow other box store products seem more reliable than Sears. Truth is, other vendors do NOT sell more reliable water heaters because I check for returns at local Home box stores and find returned water heaters frequently. And like Sears, the returns are a very small percentage.
2) Homeowner can install Kenmore water heater without voiding warranty, assuming corect installation. New gas water heaters are different today because they require plenty of clean air, and should not be installed in dusty environment or exposed to household chemicals. Read the product manual, and read installation tips below, so you are successful. How to install gas water heater
Kenmore flue damper series
American/ Kenmore
Energy Factor: combined thermal efficiency and standby efficiency of water heater in new condition
'Glass-lined' enamal coating inside steel tank, combined with anode rod protect tank from rusting, same as all steel water heaters.
EF energy factor .67, Expected annual cost to operate $272 will save $28 each year over typical gas water heater with EF .60
Government EF information site
Flue damper located on top of unit. No pilot light. Water heater plugs into outlet.

Recovery: How many gallons can be heated in 1 hour
1/2" Gas line
Recovery 40.9 gal per hour is typical of ordinary gas water heater.
40,000 BTU indicates burner size and fuel consumption. Higher BTU heaters use more fuel and heat water faster, but generally are less efficient since more wasted heat goes up the vent stack.

First Hour: How much hot is available in 1 hour
40 gallon water heater model has First Hour delivery 67 is good for home with 1-3 people.
50 gallon water heater model has First Hour delivery 81 is good for home with 4-5 people
80 gallon first hour delivery is general rule of thumb for home with Whirlpool bath or oversized bath
Kenmore flue damper Model 33704
AO Smith version
Larger image
Kenmore is made by American water heater company, owned by AO Smith company

Whirlpool 333595 and 333594 Energy Efficient sold at Lowes is same product as Kenmore
Product manual

American Residential gas water heater model FDG62/ is same as Kenmore energy-star
American FDG62 product manual

AO Smith Flue Damper Series water heater GCF40 and GCF50
/ almost identical to Kenmore energy-star flue damper
Difference: AO Smith has brass drain, air intake located on side, but models change rapidly and there may be no difference when actual Kenmore water heater is purchased.
AO Smith Product manual
AO Smith Spec sheet
AO Smith Estimated annual cost GCF40 and GCF50

EF .67, anual cost to operate $272
1/2" Gas line
Recovery 42 gal per hour
40,000 BTU
40 gallon First Hour 67
50 gallon first hour 81

Whirlpool tub requires 80 gallon first hour rating
What size water heater?
40 gallon tank for residential homes up to 3 people
50 gallon tank for residential homes with 4-5 people
50 gallon tank if home has oversized bathtub
Minimum 40 gallon for resale of home.
First hour is how much hot water is available from fully heated water heater before water turns cold.

Homes with more than 5 people, then Kenmore energy-star is small unless people conserve hot water and schedule hot water use. Increase thermostat setting will increase first hour delivery.

Water temperature is factory-set to 120 degrees.
Increase temperature if hot water runs out too soon
Flue-damper series water heater plugs into 120V outlet to power gas ignition sequence and damper. Best to have a dedicated circuit with nothing else on the line, including fluorescent lights. Check outlet with circuit analyzer to ensure proper polarity of outlet. Water heater must be grounded or gas control will not operate.
Important: Do not use extension cord. Unit comes with 10 foot cord.  
Electrical connection shows page 27 manual

Power surge can knock out gas control when water heater plugs into outlet. Ordinary power-outage can cause surge when power is restored. Protect water heater with surge protection. Example surge protector at Amazon.
How to wire whole-house surge protector
Kenmore water heater gas valve
Larger image
Honewell gas control valve has error codes Error codes page 26 & 40-41
Typical service manual for water heater with Honeywell gas control valve
How to light Honeywell gas control valve
Diagnostic error codes are handy for homeowner and plumber when repairing water heater.
Most water heaters today are shifting to new electronic gas controls. Advantage is error code troubleshoot, and more control options when designing water heater including higher EF energy factors. For example, the gas control can more acurately measure water temperature, and better control combustion sequence.
Honeywell is major manufacturer of gas controls found on heat-air systems. Today's heat-air systems have reliable electronic gas controls.
Disadvantage of electronic control is that water heater should be protected from surge. Surge will knock out electronic gas controls. Surge at Amazon
Whole-house surge protection is recommended for homes because so many appliances, like microwave oven, clothes dryer, washing machine, and heat-air systems have electronic controls that are not protected from surge. Whole house surge at Amazon
How to wire whole-house surge protector
Kenmore water heater flue damper
Larger image
Flue damper increase efficiency
Flue damper slows the release of hot vent gases, causing more heat to enter water and less wasted heat to escape up vent pipe. Venting is necessary to remove toxic combustion gas from home.
Damper is main reason water heater has .67 EF energy factor and costs $272 per year to operate.
Flue damper series saves $28 per year vrs ordinary EF .60 gas water heater
Compare flue damper series with typical non-dampered water heater with EF .60 that costs $300 per year to operate
How to install gas water heater

Questions about Installing and owning Kenmore water heater

Kenmore water heater installation
Image from product manual
How to install gas water heater
How to solder pipe
1) Can homeowner install this water heater?
YES. Warranty covers residential installation and does not say that professional installation is necessary.
Other water heaters, such as tankless, can require professional installation or warranty is reduced or null.
For installation steps: See page 6 thru 20 of product manual#1 or page 9 thru 26 product manual #2
Also read information on this webpage
Also read:  How to install gas water heater

2) Is Kenmore water heater more or less reliable than other water heaters?
Same reliability. All brands of water heater are good. Kenmore is manufactured by American Water Heater Co, owned by AO Smith. All brands have lemons now and then. This product comes with solid 6-year warranty.
Read the warranty because there are customer responsibilities. Water heater is for single-family residential installation, and has to be installed correctly as shown in product manual, and maintained as outlined in product manual. This is true for all residential water heaters, no matter which brand.

3) Is Kenmore more expensive to repair than other water heaters?
Same as other water heaters. Parts are available. Service is available. 1-800-469-4663 The product manual has very specific steps for maintaining and fixing the water heater. If water heater is maintained, it will last many years beyond the 6 year warranty, and have fewer problems. Maintainance starts page 28 of product manual.
Also read How to maintain water heater plus read information on this webpage

4) Can homeowner repair this water heater?
Probably Yes, if homeowner is experienced with tools and repairs. The manual shows several important repairs, and has troubleshoot guide. The key is reading the product manual. There is a service manual that applies to the honewell gas control valve, and specific tools and testing equipment are required. You can also post question on pro water heater forum
attach vent to damper Flue damper can raise height of vent pipe. Draft hood installation page 20 manual
Cut old vent pipe using tin snips.
Connect vent pipe using 3 sheet metal screws.
All vents pipes should have 3 screws per joint and be made of approved material such as galvanized steel or stainless steel. Use either 3" or 4" vent pipe. How to install gas water heater
Do not use aluminum vent pipe. Aluminum is for clothes dryer and NOT code for water heater. 
Kenmore water heater
Kenmore flue damper water heater has 3 legs
Models change frequently
If water heater has 3 legs, then stand water heater on bricks so air intake screen can be cleaned once per year. Use mirror and flashlight to view screen.
If water heater does not have 3 legs, then air intake is located on side of tank, and bricks are not needed.
Remember, code says water heater must be installed 18" off floor to prevent flammable vapors such as gasoline vapors from entering water heater.
AIR INTAKES MUST BE KEPT CLEAN/ read manual and advisories
Do NOT install water heater in dusty environment. Today's gas water heaters need plenty of fresh air, and air intakes must be kept clean.
Adding bricks will raise height of water heater by 2-1/2"
How to install gas water heater
How to install gas water heater

Use compressed air to blow dust from arrestor screen
Air intake located on bottom of tank.

Set heater on bricks so air intake arrestor screen can be cleaned using vacuum cleaner.
How to inspect air intake
Why clean the air intake

Or use compressed air to blow out dust from inside combustion chamber  Page 27 manual

Another option is buy the debris filter.
At Goodwood
Water heater debris filter
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Kenmore FV sensor location
Kenmore FV sensor located near bottom of tank
Today's gas water heaters have FVIR systems to prevent flashover or explosion if flammable vapors, such as gasoline or petroleum-based paints, enter water heater combustion chamber. FV system can also trip if water heater is not maintained as shown in product manual, or air intake gets clogged with dust.
Turn off water heater when using flammables such as contact cement, shellac, varnish, petroleum-based solvents, etc.
If water heater is set in drip pan, keep FV sensor higher than top rim of pan so water leak will not short out FV system.
FV sensor can be replaced, gas control valve may need to be replaced.
Read more about FVIR causes and prevention
How to install gas water heater
Drip pan can prevent water damage

If water heater is set in drip pan, keep FV sensor higher than top rim of pan so water leak will not short out FV system.
See drip pan installation
Water heater drip pans at Amazon
Water detectors at Amazon
Auto-shut-off valve at Amazon

Maintain water heater

Warranty and longevity of water heater depend on regular maintenance
6-year water heater can last many years beyond warranty if maintained
Read Kenmore manual page 7 & 28-34
Read AO SMith manual page 25
Also read: How to maintain water heater
Kenmore drain valve Plastic drain valve will last many years.
Can be repaired by replacing washer.
Drips fixed by installing hose cap over drain.
Install water heater in drip pan to prevent water leaks from causing damage.
Make sure water heater is installed so water hose can connect to drain valve.

Professional plumbers prefer brass drain valve, because brass will unscrew from tank without breaking off.
How to replace drain valve
All water heaters should be flushed each 6 months to prevent sediment build-up
How to flush water heater
Kenmore Gas water heater burner assembly Product manual has good instructions for maintaining and repairing water heater

Combustion parts are easily removed using instructions in product manual
Gasket that seals combustion chamber is reusable. No parts have to be purchased to do routine combustion chamber cleaning.
Clean combustion parts once each year using wire bush and water and then finish with vacuum cleaner.
Inspect that flame color is strong and clear blue, and that there is no soot on top of burner or on top of water heater.

Additional resources
Pro water heater forum
Troubleshoot gas water heater
Kenmore gas control valve
Kenmore gas control made by Honeywell
Larger image

Honeywell gas control valve
How to light gas water heater
How to set temperature
Typical service manual for water heater with Honeywell gas control valve
How to install gas water heater

Kenmore Water heater Parts at Sears
Remove gas valve
How to replace gas control
Replace gas control
How to replace gas control valve
How to troubleshoot gas water heater

Kenmore product manual AO Smith product manual
Highlights from manual
Warranty page 6
Basic installation tools page 9
Locating water heater/ Avoid flammable vapors page 13
Combustion air supply page 18
Set temperature page 26
Error codes page 26 & 40-41
Required maintenance page 7 & 28-34
Thermal reset switch #3 page 37
ECO lockout if thermostat fails and water temps exceed 189F #4 page 37
Anode page 29
Highlights from manual
How to light water heater page 19
Error codes page 21 31-32
Temperature adjustment page 20-21
Repair parts page 34 manual
Troubleshoot page 29 manual
Anode rod page 24
Maintenance page 25
Flammable vapor lockout page 32

Kenmore anode rod Anode rods keep tank from rusting.

All steel-tank gas and electric water heaters have anode rod to prevent rusting.
Tanks with longer warranty usually have larger anode rod or two anode rods.
Flue-damper series tank has 1 anode rod, and illustration shows the rod is installed in separate port on top of heater.
Unknown if anode is magnesium or aluminum
Prevent tank from rusting: Anode should be removed and inspected once each 2-4 years. More frequently if water is softened.
Read more about anode rods
How to maintain water heater

Flammable vapor ignition resistant
Error message: Seven Flash, three second pause
Flammable Vapor Sensor (FVS) Lockout
Contact qualified service technician to reset the sensor

From AO Smith manual: This water heater is a flammable-vapor ignition resistant FVIR water heater and is designed to reduce the chances of flammable vapors being ignited, gasoline and other flammable substances should never be stored or used in the same vicinity or area containing a gas water heater or other open flame or spark producing appliance.
In the event the FV Sensor does not prevent the ignition of flammable vapors, the FVIR System is designed to reduce the risk of flammable vapor-related fires.
The patented system protects your family by trapping the burning vapors within the water heater combustion chamber through the special flame-arrestor. The burning vapors literally “burn themselves out” without escaping back into the room. In the event of a flammable vapor incident, the FVIR System disables the water heater by shutting off the gas supply to the water heater’s burner and pilot, preventing re-ignition of any remaining flammable vapors in the area. Gas control valve may need to be replaced.
"Corderite Combustion Containment" known as “C3 Technology™” . The C3 Technology design features a sealed (from non designated air intake openings) combustion chamber and a "flame arrestor" component.
Kenmore at Kmart
Kenmore 50 gallon power damper at Kmart
Kenmore 40 gallon power damper at Kmart

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