This 55-gallon Kenmore electric water heater is a budget model that only meets minimum standards for energy efficiency. However, it costs much less than the most energy-efficient water heaters, is sized for a family of four and gets glowing reviews from recent owners. Unless your rates for electricity are unusually high or your utility or local government offers incentives to offset the cost of a more energy-efficient water heater, this water heater is about as good a buy as any. We did find quite a few complaints from owners of similar Kenmore water heaters, however, saying that they break or leak prematurely and that only parts are covered by the six-year warranty, making repair-labor costly. As a brand, Kenmore water heaters earn well below average ratings from builders and professional plumbing contractors. If you can afford to pay for a better-rated brand, consider the 50-gallon electric Bradford White M-2-50T6DS.
We found the best reviews of the this specific Kenmore electric water heater at Sears.com, where a handful of owners rate it and add detailed comments. We also found useful owner-written reviews of more expensive Kenmore water heaters, which show a pattern of complaints that seem to apply throughout the entire brand. Brand ratings by builders and contractors, at BuilderOnline.org and J. D. Power and Associates, are also helpful, as is a comparison review of appliance retailers at ConsumerReports.org.
Our Sources: Kenmore Water Heater Reviews
The handful of owners reviewing this budget electric water heater give it a higher average rating than most Kenmore water heaters, though only about 75 percent would recommend this model to a friend. One owner reports that hers only lasted three years. Another says that the water heater didn't work from the get go -- but that the warranty doesn't cover any repairs even right after purchase. Similar Kenmore models, even those with longer warranties, have accumulated some very unhappy complaints.
Review: Kenmore 55 Gal. Tall Electric Hot Water Heater (32656), Contributors to Sears.com
Several owners give heavy criticism of the 50-gallon Kenmore water heater that's in the series one step up from the PowerMiser 6. Owners complain of repair problems involving long frustrating delays and parts that wear out but can't be replaced.
Review: Kenmore Power Miser 9, 50 Gallon Electric Water Heater 32756, Contributors to Epinions.com
In ratings for water-heater quality, Kenmore ranks almost at the end compared with 12 other major brands based on a 2007 survey of 3,428 builders and contractors. Only Maytag earns a lower rating here.
Review: 2008 Builder Brand Study, Editors of BuilderOnline.org, March 31, 2008
4. J.D. Power & Associates
A. O. Smith, the company that manufactures water heaters sold under the Kenmore brand, receives below-average ratings in this brand-comparison survey of almost 900 contractors and subcontractors. Seven factors were measured, but it's interesting that warranty service and repairs are more than twice as important to professional subcontractor as the product itself, which matches pretty well the owner-written reviews we find from homeowners at Sears.com. The actual product accounts for only 10 percent of the total satisfaction rating.
Review: HVAC and Water Heater/Boiler Subcontractor Satisfaction Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, September 2006
Based on a survey of almost 25,000 subscribers, editors rank retailers of large household appliances, comparing Sears with five other stores plus local "independents." The rankings are based on ratings on seven factors: price, selection, product quality, shopping ease, service, checkout ease and knowledgeable staff.
Review: Appliance Store Ratings, August 2009
This single-product review covers a 40-gallon water heater in the same PowerMiser 9 series that owners review at Epinions.com, but a gas model. The anonymous reviewer praises the water heater's performance but notes that Sears charges more for installation than the price of the water heater itself.
Review: A Review of The Kenmore Miser Water Heater, "Clever Shopper", Oct. 26, 2007