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AG Madrid to Retailer and Manufacturer: Stop Selling Low Altitude Water Heaters in High Altitude Areas

(Albuquerque, NM) Attorney General Patricia Madrid's Office has notified retailer Home Depot and manufacturer Rheem that they are to stop selling and distributing standard low altitude water heaters in Santa Fe and other New Mexico cities that are above 5,999 feet in elevation. The letter also requests that Home Depot make high altitude water heaters available in all of its New Mexico stores.

Attorney General Madrid said, "By using a low altitude water heater at high elevations, my office has been informed that a process called 'overburning'occurs, where too much gas is used for the amount of oxygen that's present at higher elevations. Not only does this cause the water heater to use too much energy, it can also be a health hazard because of the increased production of carbon monoxide."

"I became concerned about this issue after receiving a complaint from a resident of Los Alamos, which is located 7,550 feet above sea level. The consumer discovered that the Rheem water heater he purchased from Home Depot in Santa Fe was only rated for elevations below 5,999 feet. No high elevation Rheem water heater was available for sale at the Santa Fe Home Depot," said Madrid.

The owner's manual from a Rheem water heater includes a warning that states, "Failure to install a water heater suitable for the altitude at the location it is intended to serve, can result in improper operation of the appliance resulting in property damage and/or, producing carbon monoxide gas which could result in personal injury, or death." The manual also states, "For installations above 5,999 feet, please contact your local distributor or place of purchase for a high altitude model."

In order that consumers may be adequately informed and protected, Attorney General Madrid's Office request that Rheem and Home Depot take the following corrective actions:

  • Stop distributing and offering for sale standard or low altitude water heaters in all of the Home Depot stores and other retailers located above 6,000 ft. in the State of New Mexico immediately;
  • Start exclusively carrying high altitude hot water heaters in Home Depot stores located above 6,000 feet altitude, and start carrying high altitude hot water heaters in addition to standard hot water heaters at lower altitude stores in New Mexico;
  • Providing notice to all New Mexico retailers that Rheem distributes to that there are high-altitude models of water heaters suitable for residential purposes available and then begin distributing the high-altitude models to its New Mexico retailers located above 6,000 feet;
  • Notify all consumers who have purchased standard hot water heaters from Home Depot Stores in New Mexico of the need for modification for high altitude, and offer to provide and install modification equipment to bring these water heaters into compliance.
  • Begin distribution of high-altitude water heaters in addition to standard hot water heaters at lower altitude stores in New Mexico. The letters were sent to Home Depot's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and Rheem's headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama on January 31. Although the letters were initially sent to these two companies, the Attorney General's Office will conduct an inquiry of other retailers and manufacturers who sell their products in the higher altitude areas of New Mexico. Rheem has responded to the letter, stating that they are taking immediate action to conform to the Attorney General's request in New Mexico. Home Depot has not responded to the letter, but has until February 7 to do so.

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