Pros:Good capacity and recovery time. Initial price was good. Reliable.
Cons:Not the most efficient model on the market.
The Bottom Line: The Kenmore Power Miser 6 has been a dependable appliance. There are more efficient units available though, so compare prices and energy usage ratings before buying.
What do you do when your hot water heater starts leaking? That usually means it is time for a new one. When this happened to me I initially called an appliance dealer where I had bought a washing machine a few months earlier. However, they sold only electric models and I wanted natural gas.
UPDATE: As of Augusut 2007 I am still very satisfied with this hot water heater.
I then turned to Sears since I remembered seeing hot water heaters on display in their appliance section all the time. Fortunately I was able to get a Kenmore Hot Water Heater installed within 24 hours, so I bought it at Sears.
I wanted a hot water heater that would be big enough for my needs and was somewhat efficient. It probably wasnt a good idea to say that to the salesman up front, since I think I ended up with a larger unit than I needed. Nevertheless, I like taking long, hot showers, especially in the wintertime, and I was willing to pay a little more for the extra capacity.
They had a chart (which I saved) showing approximate water usage, which helped me gauge the size of the hot water heater I needed. A condensed version of the chart is as follows:
Adult Shower: 10-20 gallons of water
Shaving at sink: 1 gallon
Wash face at sink: 2 gallons
Wash dishes by hand: 3 gallons
Dishwasher: 12 gallons
Cooking/Meals: 2 gallons
Washing Machine: 10-20 gallons
Looking over the chart I figured that the 40-gallon unit I was replacing was on the edge of how much I could potentially use in an hours time. With a lot of help from the salesman I decided to get the 50-gallon unit. Thats probably too big for a single person, but I went with the larger size anyway. At least when someone else is over I know that two people can shower and theres no worry about the hot water running out. On the other hand there is 50 gallons of water being heated up all the time. Oops, maybe bigger isnt always better.
At the time of this purchase in 2001, Kenmore had a model called Power Miser (which they still sell). It comes in several levels of efficiency such as Power Miser 3, 6, 9, or 12. I ended up with Kenmore Power Miser 6 Model 336552, which operates on natural gas, the same as the unit I was replacing.
This unit is 20 inches in diameter, about 56 inches in height and light tan in color. The salesman specifically asked me if there were dimension restriction for where the unit would be installed. Fortunately I have plenty of extra room in the utility area of my home.
The Miser 6 has a 76% recovery rate. This means that 76% of its capacity (50 gallons) can be restored within 1 hour. That was a good selling point since I dont like running out of hot water. This unit has 1 of foam insulation and an R Value of 8(In comparison, the Miser 12 model has 2 of insulation and an R Value of 16, which is much better insulation properties than the Miser 6).
There is a yellow "Energy Guide" affixed to the side of the unit and it contains information about energy usage. This unit is rated as using 266 therms of natural gas/year, based on normal usage. The guide indicates that other hot water heaters of this type would use between 216 and 283 therms. I currently pay about $0.90/therm (this cost should be on a utility bill statement) so annual operating costs should be about $240. Considering how much I like hot showers thats not such a bad deal.
Overall, this unit is not the most efficient. This is a storage-type unit, which stores the hot water and keeps heating it all the time. A more efficient hot water system heats the water only as it is needed (demand-type). However, those units were more expensive up front. A smaller unit would have been more efficient too. But I opted for the 50-gallon tank knowing it would cost more to operate anyway.
I set my hot water heater at 135 degrees (F) and that seems to work fine. My dishwasher does not heat up its own water, so I need it at least this hot for dish washing. Water at that temperature can cause scalding in 10 seconds though. If you drop the temperature to 125 degrees (F) it takes nearly 2 minutes to scald someone. On the other hand, 155 degrees will scald in just 1 second!
When I leave home for more than a day or two I turn it down to 120 degrees (F) to save energy. I have never turned it off completely while gone, but it can be drained out and shut down if you are gone for an extended period of time. The Owners Manual has instructions on what to do.
This unit cost just $189, which seems like a steal. However, the installation costs were even more at $220. I also paid $40 to have the old unit disposed of, and a permit fee (will explain later) making the total cost about $475. If you can install these yourself youll save a bundle and the Owners Manual had some very specific instructions for doing so. But I wasnt up to fiddling around with natural gas and plumbing, so I paid to have it installed.
The city I live in required me to get a permit to have the hot water heater installed since plumbing work was involved. This was another $20 or so. You should probably check with the area you live in before installing it, just in case its a necessity.
There are some risks with having a hot water heater. They can leak and on rare occasions even explode. Some of the problems are due to plumbing issues or sediment buildup inside the unit, from minerals in the water.
The Owners Manual has instructions on how to drain the unit and some other basic care instructions that should be done periodically, such as opening the Temperature-Pressure Relief Valve. There are lots of warnings and cautions in the Owners Manual. I guess that when you combine natural gas, very hot water, and a guy with a wrench in his hand all kinds of bad things can happen.
If you live in an earthquake zone make sure the unit is affixed somehow to prevent it from tipping over in a quake. A filled unit will weigh hundreds of pounds and could easily leak if jolted lose.
Sears offered a one-year warranty covering both the hot water heater and installation for the first year of owning this unit if it failed due to defects. After one year through the sixth year the cost of the unit (not installation/labor) is covered by the warranty. The warranty does not cover service calls to re-light pilot lights, or natural gas/plumbing problems.
I have been very satisfied with the Kenmore Power Miser 6 Hot Water Heater. I have had no operational problems in four years of usage. It is easy to regulate the temperature controls and it has not leaked or made any strange noises. This is not the most efficient nor is it the best insulated unit though. If you want maximum efficiency the "Demand-Type" or solar-powered units are a better bet. But for the average homeowner I think the Kenmore Power Miser 6 Model 33655 is a pretty good bet.
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