Question about RTO W4 A.O Smith Gas Hot Water Heater Draft Inducer
The pilot light, will light with no problem, but ranomly goes out. My last attempt to repair was to clean some minor lint off the firebox air supply screen on bottom parameter.
Tried getting to the pilot assy within the sealed cover, but was unsuccessful. Looking for pointer in getting the access panel off to ensure all is tight and secure with pilot assy also.
Any advise will be much appreciated.
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 and 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 couldn’t 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 heater’s 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 ’flame arrestor’ 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 heater’s 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. Smith’s own Instruction Manual (#184165-003) and Service Handbook (#TC-049RC). In these manuals, the word ‘humid’ 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. Smith’s 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 doesn’t actually ‘occupy’ 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 ‘too humid’ as A. O. Smith maintains and therefore is not likely to be the cause of their product’s 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. Smith’s 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. Smith’s 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 ‘routinely’ (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 plumber‘s 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 ‘humid’ conditions.
I am out almost $1,000 for A. O. Smith’s measly 30-gallon gas water heater.
Posted on Dec 12, 2009
Thank you for the excellent warning on the AO Smith water heaters. I have a 15 year old 40 gal AO Smith water heater that is still working but is not keeping up with my growing family. I was just about to buy the high efficiency 65 gal model when I came across your post. I will now look at the recommended models on the link you provided. I will not buy from a company that does not stand behind its product. It is completely unacceptable for AO Smith not to honor its warranty.
The only solution I can suggest is to file a claim against AO Smith in smail claims court to refund your money and the expenses you incurred trying to fix the problem. Instead of giving more money to your plumber give some to your lawyer. You have excellent documentation and have tried every reasonable means to resolve the issue. I hope you are keeping track of dates and the names of the people you have already talked to. You should also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau to warn other unsuspecting buyers. You may be able to file a complaint with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC could force AO Smith to recall the product if there is a potential safety issue. I could see a safety issue with frustrated consumers trying to bypass the safety device because it not working properly. I have found that writing a letter to the president or CEO may also help resolve the issue. You can also try contacting your local TV news station. Some stations have consumer advocate segments that may be interested in telling your story to a broader audience, especially if they can not help you resolve the issue.
I hope you get some resolution to your problem, and I hope AO Smith learns a lesson in customer service. In today's digital world, the cost of negative advertising far exceeds the cost of doing the right thing for your customers.
Posted on Jan 01, 2010
I have a AO Smith GCV 50 10 that was installed in March 07. After one and a half years the pilot lite began to fail, once a week or so, thought it might be wind though water heater is located on the lowest floor and vents outside nearly three stories up.
First service call Plumber said he would clean the dust from the disk flame arrestor from with a brush... he actually didnt get much dust, outer protector was shining bright and I had a mechanics mirror to look inside...minimal if any dust on the bottom side, it failed while he proudly watched and he called AO Smith and got a new pilot light kit (no charge on part - warranty) but I did pay him $95 to install it...it worked for another year and a half and now exact same thing. I removed access shield and brushed minimal dust from on disk flame arrestor...pilot always lights 1st or 2nd try but fails daily - local AO Smith wholesale distributer is out of stock on the part. I reached national AO Smith at 800-433-2545 - they said problem was not pilot but needed to service flame arrestor (done that not a bit clogged) and said plumbers always blame the pilot.
I have talked to six AO Smith dealers plumbers - they all say this is a known problem with this pilot light...so I'll call AO Smith national service and try to get another pilot (still under warranty for parts only)...
In the mean time my family in 5 bedroom 4 bath house have to wait for water to heat up after I light pilot...failing 100% now but at least I can get one cycle before pilot quits...just wrong to have to replace whole thing - it but most unreliable appliance I have ever owned.
FYI www.Hotwater101.com > hot topics >gas heater> filter clean...know it by heart myself but does describe filter cleaning process...so easy a caveman could do it if only it was the problem but worth a try if you haven't seen the video it is informative
Posted on Apr 21, 2010
I have had the same issue CONSTANTLY I replaced everything . HERE'S THE SOLUTION !!!!!!!!!!!!!!I have talked to every plumber there is. The SOLUTION!!! that Dang ceramic filter was Plugged ! the top was full of rust and the bottom full of dust. I took the whole burner out and sucked all debris first then blew it all out then cleaned again. then put back together.. I have not seen a good flame on the burner till now WOW what a difference !!!! this is the problem for sure !! I had every symptom mentioned now there all gone it runs like new !!
Posted on Jun 08, 2011
My A.O. Smith heater is only 5 years old. In that short span of time I have had to have the pilot assembly replaces, serviced twice, pulled off its base and serviced, it has cost me fee to have the dryer vent cleaned as well as the fluke. This has all been down at various times in a 3 year period. I have been told that each item is required to keep the pilot light on. I now live life constantly checking that the pilot light is on and wondering what the next course of action is.Today I have a tech coming out yet again. Once I finally have a resolution to the problem I be more than happy to post it. Right now I'm in a wait and see what happens next cycle
Posted on Jan 11, 2010
The pilot creates heat that generates an electric current to power a coil that keeps a safety valve open It is possible that the generator OR the coil is defective. Check out the out put of the generator with a mili-volt meter. Manufacturers do not design the coil to be easily removed for testing or replacement. Since this failure is somewhat rare, it is easiest to blame the owner than the part.
Posted on Jan 10, 2010
No appliance should require this level of attention to work basically.
DO NOT BUY AN A.O. SMITH PRODUCT. Perhaps shortly, a class representative will find an attorney willing to file a class action alleging defective design.
Posted on Jan 21, 2013
Remove burner and pilot assembly. Break out filter with a ball peen hammer or right angle pry bar. Extract ceramic particles with elbow fitted to shop-vac hose. Replace burner and pilot assembly. Relight heater. Problem solved!!!
Dumb Carperter, Fremont Ca.
Posted on Jun 09, 2013
I have the same issue with the AO Smith water heater real piece of work. This company needs to be closed down for allowing this defective water heater to be sold. I will post my experience with this product on every website I can so others don't fall into the trap. Pilot goes out every week.
I’m happy to assist further over the phone at https://www.6ya.com/expert/michael_7352893a6c77efb3
Posted on Dec 14, 2013
I advise against AO Smith Water heaters as they use inferior products. The gas valve "intelli-vent" is the worst and most unreliable one I have run into as a service plumber. I am amazed they still use this product today as it must hurt their sales. My preference of water heater is bradford white. They seem to give a Quality product and have a good life expectancy. http://www.toddsmech.com/
Posted on Sep 02, 2017
PAUL2513, You said it all my friend! the perfect answer! I'm a 35 yr. veteran journeyman plumber, and my first response to the problem would have been to check the height of the flue vent above the roof. If the vent is near the ridge line peak, two foot above is required, to prevent a reverse draft from blowing out the pilot...yes, even with a vent cap. One foot is typical otherwise.
Posted on Nov 28, 2014
Just got off the floor after the 200th time lighting the pilot on an A.O. Smith GCV 50 100. New pilot assy last year, cleaned arrestor and burner pan...all for naught.
It seems to me the pilot stands alone from the main fire circuit and should just stay lit via its own supply line/thermistor, so sometimes I suspect the thermostat body for shutting off the gas...
But how much more time and material do I throw at this unit?? A T'stat is a lot less than a new Water Heater, but...
I came here hoping to find a user's solution, and I see it's a wide-spread issue. It's hard to believe this SC Mfr is saying "lalala can't hear you!" I'll keep looking ....gotta go now, and check the pilot.
Posted on Mar 03, 2013
Save hours of searching online or wasting money on unnecessary repairs by talking to a 6YA Expert who can help you resolve this issue over the phone in a minute or two.
Best thing about this new service is that you are never placed on hold and get to talk to real repairmen in the US.
Here's a link to this great service
Posted on Jan 02, 2017
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