If you have a whirlpool flamelock water heater, chances are you have had problems with it. The water heaters go cold seemingly out of nowhere and then you discover that the gas pilot wont light, because the Whirlpool flame lock thermocouple doesnt work! It turns out the original thermocouples on the early models had left-hand threads, so you cant buy a universal thermocouple at the store, and plumbers very rarely will have it in their truck or in their shop.
Then you get on the phone with Lowes or contact Whirlpool directly and find out there was a class-action lawsuit against these water heater models, and they require new parts that you have to install. The new parts arent always readily available and you have to pay for the shipping and labor to have the new parts installed, EVEN IF IT IS UNDER WARRANTY! That means money out of your pocket and possibly a few days of cold showers while you wait for the parts.
Whirlpool Flame Lock Water heater ProblemsAfter going through the motions, contacting lowes, contacting whirlpool, paying for a plumber, and having several days of cold water, you will get a hold of something called the enhanced burner assembly, or enhancement kit. (pictured on the right) If you can get it installed, you might actually get hot water again.
As it turns out, the whirlpool water heaters are manufactured by American Water Heater Company (AWHC) otherwise known as US / Craftmaster Water Heater Company.
From 2000-2006, the models with FL (flamelock) in the model number had issues with the new FVIR technology required by the government. All water heaters have to follow this new standard, as FVIR stands for Flammable-Vapor-Ignition-Resistance. The idea being a safety issue, as previous to this law, water heaters could have flammable vapors waft into the gas combustion chamber and ignite, potentially igniting the flammable vapor source and causing an explosion or serious fire hazard.
Whirlpool Flame Lock Water heater ProblemsAnywho, the problem that many have found out over the years in the frustration of troubleshooting, is that even if you get the enhancement kit from whirlpool, you will find it doenst last very long and sooner or later, the hot water will go out again, and the pilot wont stay lit.
In my opinion, the whole design on these water heaters is flawed and people who have them in their homes are in for a ridiculous amount of headaches and cold showers, while they deal with all the problems and maintenance issues that come with these flame lock and flame guard water heaters. You see, even if you have the new enhanced burner assembly, the flame arrestor screen underneath the combustion chamber (pictured right) on the left side, underneath the tank easily gets clogged with hair, lint and dust. This air intake screen has to be cleaned with a brush or vacuum to get it clear again, and then you will have to reset the thermocouple adapter on the enhancement mess kit.
Ok, so now youve fixed the weirdo, left-threaded thermocouple, youve installed the new enhancement kit, youve got your air intake screen all spic and span and finally, the flame lock water heater is no longer having a flame lockdown!!! So you are all set right? Wrong!!! Many consumers have reported having to clean the flame arrestor air intake screen on their flame lock whirlpool water heaters 3 or 4 times/year in order to prevent the pilot from going out! That is just ridiculous imo.
Listen, Ive been a service plumber for years, and I have dealt with all kinds of water heaters, and the best advice I can give you readers out there is to forget all about trying to fix these water heaters, and just buy a brand new water heater from a reputable manufacturer. There are other water heater companies out there, and while you are at it do some research on tankless water heaters.
A new Tankless water heater could replace this inconvenience, and you will enjoy endless hot water in your shower, while saving some money on your utility bill. Heck, if tankless isnt for you, just buy a regular gas water heater, but get a good one like Bradford White, or Rheem. Do some research on water heaters BEFORE you buy, and dont just buy the cheapest one you could find at Lowes or Home Depot, because that is what got you this huge piece of junk that doesnt stay lit in the first place!