December 8, 2009

Power Vent Water Heater, Feel My Rage!

In 2006, our water heater started hemorrhaging water and we had to replace it. We had moved into the house just a few months before, and we knew the water heater was ancient, but it wasn't exactly the first Thanksgiving in the new casa that we were hoping for. This was no ordinary water heater, by the way: It was a "power vent" model that vents to the outside, not through the chimney. We soon learned that we'd be shelling out about twice the cost of a direct vent water heater to get this baby replaced.

Fast forward three years to the week after Thanksgiving, 2009. Our three-year-old 50-gallon power vent water heater stops working. The controller is blinking an error code that translates to "ECO Failure: Lockout condition." Intense Googling reveals that this is a problem only a plumber can diagnose and repair.

Because our water heater has a 6-year warranty, we call the manufacturer, who confirms that we need to hire a plumber. Which we do. The plumber comes out, calls the manufacturer's technical service support, and announces the verdict: Fried motherboard. A new one will be sent via FedEx overnight service, and the plumber will return to install it. Diagnosis charge: $144.00.

(I'd like to take a moment here to ask what in the hell this water heater is calculating such that its motherboard could become "fried" after three years. Has it been commandeered by the government to devote some of its processing power to the SETI project?)

Anyhoo, the next day the part arrives and the plumber returns to perform 15 minutes of installation work. Repair charge: $160.00.

Hey! What about that warranty?

"The PARTS are under warranty, but you still have to pay for labor," the manufacturer tells us. Sweet.

That's $304.00 for repairs, which is around 1/3 the cost of a new unit. So, we resign ourselves to this cost, chalking it up to the price of home ownership. At least we have hot water!, we tell ourselves. For the next 36 hours.


The damn thing stops working again! In the middle of my shower. On Saturday morning.

We refuse to hire an emergency / after-hours plumber ($$$$) so we bathe at the gym until Monday, when we get the manufacturer and our plumber on the phone. Turns out, the manufacturer gave the plumber bad advice, and sent a part that was inadequate to get the job done. So they'll have to send ANOTHER part, and we'll have to pay the plumber to come out AGAIN. Estimated repair charge: $240.00.

For those of you keeping score at home, that's 3 trips from the plumber at a total of $544.00 to repair a 3-year-old water heater.

But hey, at least those parts are under warranty, right?

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