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2012

Review AO Smith Effex Water Heater

More complicated water heater, with advanced features, reduces energy consumption
Requires properly-wired electrical outlet within 10 feet of unit. No extension cord.
AO Smith Effex water heater
AO Smith Effex
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Buy high efficiency fan-assisted/ ez installation/ electronic ignition/ LCD user interface located top of tank:
AO Smith Effex 12-year gas water heater with power anode rod at Amazon
Effex has power anode rod/ eliminates rusted tank and tank odor in most circumstances

Buy other brands water heater:
50 gallon Gas water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon gas water heaters at Amazon

Resources:
Effex at AO Smith
Kenmore Elite reviews (Effex with 12 year guarantee)
Product manual
Example Effex warranty
Read about anode rods and power anode rods
Read more below for installation, tips and maintenance details

Quick review of Effex

The Effex can save $30-35 per year, but might cost $400 more than simpler box-store water heater. Payback would be 12 years. However the Effex includes powered anode rod which sells independently for more than $225. Warranty is 6 years for original owner and residential installation.
Effex plugs into outlet and possibly requires dedicated outlet to avoid interference. Surge protector is recommended.
Offsetting the long-to-improbable payback is that Effex has other benefits: Service manual is available, product manual has clear maintenance steps, powered anode rod keeps tank from rusting and helps solve possible odor problems, error code shows if power anode malfunctions, digital LCD readout with error codes for simplified troubleshoot, easy temperature control at eye level, and water heater can be reset after FVIR incident instead of needing replacement. Service manual is available. Maintenance is typical for all water heaters.

Warranty

6-12 year warranty
Warranty applies to: Single-family residential installation
6-12 -year full replacement for failed Tank, and 6-year replacement parts
Example Effex warranty
Water heater must be installed and maintained as shown in manual for warranty coverage. Read product manual
AO Smith Effex water heater
American water heater version of Effex
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American residential high efficiency/ 6 year warranty
40-50 gallon Size 22" diameter x 62" high: requires 12" space above water heater, 5" clearance front, 0'" clearance sides and back
3" or 4" vent/ Minimum 6" clearance between vent pipe and combustable materials
If set in drip pan, maximum depth of pan 1-3/4". Drip pan is recommended to prevent water damage. Set water heater on bricks if pan too deep.
If used to store solar-heated water, water cannot exceed 180
Water pressure over 80 psi can damage any water heater: check household prerssure using pressure gauge on water heater drain valve, install pressure reducing valve and expansion tank to prolong life of any heater.

Brass drain valve instead of plastic. Will not break off when replaced. American, and Kenmore versions of water heater have plastic drain.

Dip tube keeps sediments stirred off bottom to resist lime and sediment build-up. Flushing tank once per 6 months recommended.
Effex LCD digital control and display.
Easy temperature adjustment located near top of tank at eye level
Diagnostic error codes
FVIR reset sequence

Sell Sheet with model numbers and specs

Effex has powered anode rod

All steel-tank water heaters have anode rod. Most water heaters have sacrificial anode rod.
Anode depletes over time, and this chemical process protects tank from rusting.
Sacrificial anode rod is inspected and replaced each 2-4 years

Power anode rod is different than sacrificial anode rod. Both types of anodes protect tank from rusting.
Power anode rod uses small electrical current to prevent tank from rusting.
In theory, power anode will not deplete, and will protect tank indefinitely.
In real-world, if you buy power anode rod separately for $220+, the anode warranty is seven years.

You can buy powered anode rod and install in most water heaters, but AO Smith has included this  advancement with the Effex. LCD displays error code if anode has problem.
Read page 24 Effex manual

Additional links:
Buy separate powered anode rod with LCD readout for water heaters up to 75 gallons
Read about anode rods

If you buy separate power anode rod, it can normally be used again on next water heater. Effex power anode rod is not independent of Effex, and cannot be moved to another water heater.

Numbers are for 40-50 gallon and are for comparison only, and apply to new water heater operating at peak performance.
Effex has .70 Energy factor
"Energy Factor indicates combined thermal efficiency and standby efficiency of a water heater."  Government EF information site

Cost comparison
Compare Effex and typical water heater, both working at optimal performance:
Effex EF .70 = $261 per year operation cost + 9 electric cost = $270
Typical box store gas water heater EF is .58 to .62 = $300 per year
Effex expected energy savings: $30-34 per year

All costs are energy
If Effex costs $400 more than box-store 6-year heater, then payback period at $32 per year is 12 years.
However Effex includes powered anode rod which sells separately for more than $200, but is not transferrable to another water heater.
Figures assume no repair cost for either water heater
Your comparison shopping may reveal different numbers.
AO Smith/ American maufactures water heaters for Sears Kenmore: Same water heater:
AO Smith Effex Sell sheet
Kenmore Elite  At Sears

State high efficiency Manual

EF energy factor .70
40 gallon first hour delivery 70 GPH
50 gallon first hour delivery 81 GPH
Rule of thumb for oversized garden tub or whirlpool tub is 80 gallon first hour

Full wiring diagram image
Effex water heater has 24volt electronic controls
Unlike typical box store water heater, the Effex is more complicated.
There are more parts. More things can go wrong.
However electronics are reliable and increasingly common for new water heaters, and have been used in heat-air controls for many years.

Why is Effex more complicated
1) To reach .70 energy factor, the Effex must control burn sequence carefully.
2) Internal blower is required to force combustion by-product through baffles that recycle more combustion heat into the water. This reduces wasted heat escaping out vent pipe.
3) The Digital control and display, with error codes, add convenience but also additional wiring
4) Error codes are handy, but add layer of complexity. For example Effex monitors the anode performance. This convenient service prevents water heater from rusting.

        

Effex blower requires 120volt outlet within 10 feet of unit

How to wire whole house surge protector
Effex plugs into 120Volt outlet
Ordinary gas water heaters usually do not have blower or require electrical outlet
Electricity is needed to power Effex blower and 24volt electronics
Effex comes with 10 foot power cord. Do not use extension cord.
Best if outlet is dedicated. Dedicated outlet means no other appliance shares same circuit, and no fluorescent lights or other possible interference.
Outlet must be properly grounded with correct polarity. Check outlet with circuit analyzer.
Test ground prong on plug for continuity with manifold tube.

Surge protection recommended
Power surge can knock out gas control, and electronics. Simple power outage can create surge when power is restored. Example surge at Amazon
Homes today should be protected by whole-house surge protection  At Amazon
How to wire whole house surege protector


Example flame rod and flame sensor
Effex does not have pilot light

Hot surface igniter saves fuel cost over standing pilot light. This is one reason Effex has .7 EF

Hot surface igniter, or flame rod, is common in water heaters and other household gas appliances.
Simple maintenance can include using sandpaper and sanding carbon off flame rod, replacing flame rod assembly, and checking X and Y distances between burner and flame sensor.

End of flame sensor has to sit directly in front of burner port.
Do not touch flame rod.

Effex operational sequence

Does Effex require more maintenance?
NO. All gas water heaters today require yearly maintenance outlined in manual.
AO Smith manual is complete. AO Smith burner can be removed without needing replacement gasket.   Typical Effex manual shows maintenance page 24
Adequate, unobstructed air supply and proper venting is required by all gas water heaters.
Maintenance protocol for Effex is same-similar as box-store gas water heaters.
READ manual, and follow advisories and maintenance schedule to avoid problems.

Is Effex more reliable than typical box store water heater?
Probably the same. All brands of water heater are good. All brands have a lemon now and then.
The key for longer product life is reading installation manual, observing product advisories and following recommended maintenance.
Electrical outlet must have correct polarity and be grounded. Use surge protector.
AO Smith offers good warranty service, and major brand name.

Is Effex more expensive to repair than typical box store water heater?
Probably not, when considering everything.
Effex has power anode rod to prevent rusting.
Effex can be reset following FVIR lockout. Water heater does not require replacement.
Effex is more complicated and has more parts, and has detailed burn sequence, but Effex service manual is available, parts are available quickly, and Effex can be reset after FVIR event.
Typical Effex parts list    Typical Effex service manual

Can you repair the Effex yourself?
Probably yes. The manual has very good instructions for replacing parts + troubleshoot section.
Typical Effex manual page 27
Error codes are handy start-point for repairs. Effex offers LCD error code display.
Plus AO Smith posts service manuals. Typical Effex Service Manual (large 11 Mb file)
Some companies do not post service manuals.
Advantage of service manual is in-depth troubleshoot and parts list.
Service manuals are big advantage for both homeowner and professional repairman.

Can the Effex recover from FVIR event without replacing water heater?
Usually YES. The digital LCD display has a button sequence for resetting water heater after FVIR lockout, after cause for problem has been resolved.
Some box store gas water heaters require water heater replacement.
Read page 19 service manual
Read more about FVIR
AO Smith effex Air intake located on side of water heater is easy to clean
All water heater air intakes must be kept clean. Avoid dusty environments, Avoid exposure to chemicals. Read manual page 11
Regular maintenance calls for yearly air intake cleaning. Read manual page 24
Why clean the air intake
All gas water heaters have air intakes, and all brands of gas water heater require clean, unobstructed air intake to avoid overheated combustion chamber that can shut down burner. Hybrid electric water heaters also have air intake that must be cleaned.
Some gas water heaters have air intake located on bottom of water heater, and can be more difficult to clean.

Today's water heaters: Clogged air intake is most common cause for overheated combustion chamber, leading to FVIR lockout.
Effex air intake is easy to clean. Plus air intake is higher off the ground and less likely to clog with floor dust.
Brass drain valve AO Smith Effex has Brass drain valve
American and Kenmore versions of this water heater have plastic drain valve.

Professional plumbers and homeowners who maintain water heater prefer brass drain valve.
More durable, and will not crack or break off during removal like plastic drain valve
If drain valve is dripping, stop the leak using garden hose cap.
Resources:
How to replace drain valve
AO Smith dynaclean dip tube AO Smith water heaters have 'Dynaclean' inlet tube or dip tube

AO Smith inlet tube 'features water jets that create turbulence which reduces lime build up'
Note, the quote does not say the dip tube prevents sediment build-up.
Most water heaters today have similar dip tube feature.
This feature probably does not work long-term since sediments are heavier than water and will eventually settle at bottom. Flush all water heaters once each 6 months.
You can also buy special order curved dip tube custom-sized to fit any water heater. Curved dip tube

All water heaters should be flushed each 6 months to prevent sediment that will (a) cause premature failure of power anode rod, (b) reduce tank EF
factor, (c) increase operating cost, and (d) cause early demise of water heater.
Resources:
How to flush water heater
Read about dip tubes
How to maintain water heaters
AO Smith water heaters/ and all modern gas and electric heaters/`1; have pex-lined di-electric heat-trap nipples

Avoid heat loss at top of heater and save $2 per year
Avoid degraded heater and plumbing connections caused by current flowing between dissimilar metals.

Resource:
Heat trap advisory/ pdf
Heat trap nipples shown above can cause clogs and noise and release of hot water from TP valve:
Replace with pex-lined di-electric nipples

Buy: di-electric nipples
Di electric nipple
Dielectric nipples at Amazon

Resources:
Low hot water pressure
New water heater making noise
Expansion tanks


Additional links

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Stacking

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Gas and electric water heaters Support the economy:
Buy water heaters  from my associate links:

50 gallon Gas water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon gas water heaters at Amazon
50 gallon Electric water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon electric water heaters at Amazon
Hybrid / heat pump/ water heaters at Amazon

Resources:
How to install gas water heater
Troubleshoot gas water heater
Troubleshoot electric water heater

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