Find the Best Water Heater Brands
Compare Top Water Heater Reviews
|Rheem Water Heaters||Read 175 Reviews|
Rheem Manufacturing Company was founded in 1925 in Emeryville, Calif. It began producing automatic gas storage water heaters in 1931. Today, it is the largest manufacturer of water heating products in the North America.
|Shop on Appliances Connection|
|A. O. Smith Water Heaters|
Read 531 Reviews
A. O. Smith produced its first water heater in 1939. Today it is headquartered in Ashland City, Tenn. and manufactures gas, electric, hybrid and tankless water heaters.
|Shop on Appliances Connection|
Read 213 Reviews
Bradford White is headquartered in Philadelphia. Working with contractors, homeowners and home builders, they manufacture water heating, space heating and water storage products for wholesale distribution worldwide.
|Ecosmart Water Heater|
Read 20 Reviews
EcoSmart’s focus is heating water with a goal of saving consumers money on their energy bill. They offer high-efficiency, tankless water heating solutions for homes and businesses.
|Reliance Water Heaters|
Read 181 Reviews
Reliance is a sub-brand of A. O. Smith. They focus on providing a wide variety energy efficient, gas, electric, tankless and commercial water heaters.
|Whirlpool Water Heaters|
Read 1,721 Reviews
Headquartered in Benton Harbor, Mich., Whirlpool is the number one major household appliance company in the world. They offer a variety of natural gas, liquid propane and electric water heaters.
|American Water Heater|
Read 275 Reviews
American Water Heaters is based in Johnson City, Tenn. They offer a wide selection of residential and commercial water heaters including solar and electric pump tanks.
|GE Water Heaters|
Read 211 Reviews
Headquartered in Louisville, Ky, GE Appliances has been manufacturing home appliances for over 125 years. They offer two sizes of their hybrid electric heat-pump water heater which is known for big energy savings.
|Kenmore Water Heater|
Read 90 Reviews
The Kenmore brand has been around since 1913. It offers a wide range of home appliances including many types of water heaters and water heater parts. Kenmore’s Elite and Pro products offer the latest innovations.
|Rinnai Water Heater||Read Author Review|
Founded in Japan, Rinnai has been providing the world with gas appliances, specializing in residential and commercial tankless water heaters, for nearly 100 years. They expanded to the United States in 1974.
|State Water Heaters||Read Author Review|
State Water Heaters is a brand of State Industries, Inc. based in Ashland City, Tenn. They manufacture residential and commercial water heaters and currently have over 500 water heater products available.
What water heater features matter most?
As of April 16, 2015, all residential water heaters manufactured in the United States must meet increased National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) energy-efficiency standards. The most notable change requires a higher Energy Factor (EF) rating. According to the Department of Energy, this will save approximately $63 billion in energy costs from 2015-2044.
- British Thermal Units: BTUs measure the amount of gas or electricity used per hour to heat water. The higher the BTU, the quicker water is heated in the tank (recovery time). This is important when considering energy efficiency because the larger the tank, the more BTUs are required to heat it.
- Energy factor: Energy Factor (EF) is a water heater’s overall efficiency. A higher EF means a more efficient unit and therefore more energy savings.
- Self-cleaning: Some companies offer self-cleaning units, which remove the sediment and lime buildup from cold water. Self-cleaning units maintain their energy-efficiency longer resulting in lower operating costs.
Sizing and capacity
The first step when purchasing a water heater is determining the unit size. When determining tank size, consider things like family size, average shower length and the number of rooms per household. When selecting a size, storage capacity is important for tank water heaters and water flow rate is important for tankless water heaters.
- Capacity: Measured in gallons, capacity is how much water your water heater stores. When looking at which tank capacity to buy, consider family size, the number of rooms per household and peak usage times. Most companies provide a broad range of tank capacities from under 30 gallons to over 100 gallons.
- First hour rating: One factor that goes together with capacity sizing is First Hour Rating (FHR). This figure estimates how much hot water the water heater will produce during the first hour of use. It combines the heaters capacity in gallons with its recovery time.
- Flow rate: For tankless systems, water flow rate, also known as gallons-per-minute (GPM), is used to determine the system size. To determine which flow rate you need for your tankless water heater, add up the GPM of each hot water device you expect to use at one time.
If you are using a natural gas water heater, it needs to be properly vented. Each venting system must be sized properly depending on the total BTU input for the water heater. There are three types of venting systems: atmospheric, power-vent and direct-vent.
- Atmospheric venting: Typically the most common type of venting system, atmospheric venting works like a chimney. It draws the flue gasses out of the unit through a vertical metal pipe which allows the gasses to be released into the atmosphere.
- Direct venting: Direct-vent water heaters contain a sealed combustion chamber and use a horizontal flue pipe that connects to a wall leading outside. Direct venting is a quieter, more flexible venting option.
- Power venting: A power venting system uses a fan to move flue gasses outdoors. These systems can be installed vertically or horizontally and far away from the unit allowing for flexibility in the installation process. Power venting is the most expensive venting option.
With updated NAECA regulations, almost all water heaters on the market are more energy efficient and cheaper to operate than they used to be. Operating cost is calculated differently depending on the type of unit you have. You can find a cost calculator on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) website, however, most water heaters have the annual operating cost on them.
- Gas: According to the DOE, a gas water heater’s annual operating cost is determined by taking 365 x 41045/ EF x Fuel Cost (BTU).
- Electric: Before calculating the annual operating cost of an electric water heater you will need to know the unit cost of electricity and convert it to kilowatts per hour. You can find the annual operating cost of electric and heat pump water heaters by taking 365 x 12.03 kWh per day / EF x cost of electricity (kWh).
- Gas vs. electric: Generally gas water heaters are less efficient but the higher cost of electricity makes electric water heaters more expensive to operate.
One thing to consider when purchasing a water heater is the life cycle of the unit. Some people wait until their old unit fails, however with today’s energy-efficient models, replacing an old, inefficient water heater before it fails can pay for a new unit in just a few years.
- Storage tank water heaters: Tank water heaters typically have a lifespan of 10-15 years. Factors such as water quality, maintenance schedule and unit design can contribute to a longer or shorter life of each unit.
- Tankless water heaters: Most tankless water heaters have a lifespan of 20 years. They have easily replaceable parts, which can contribute to a longer lifespan.
- Prolonging lifecycle: Regular maintenance can help prolong the lifespan of a tank water heater. Test the pressure release valve to make sure it opens properly. Drain the tank to flush out sediments that have settled to the bottom. Sediment buildup can cause leaks and diminished capacity.
Companies are increasingly developing technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of their water heaters. Most companies can get funding through the DOE to work on energy-efficient advancements in water heater design.
- Glass-lined tanks: Glass-lined tanks are designed to help protect steel from the corrosive effects of water. Since the implementation of glass-lined tanks, there have many advancements and redesigns to make them even better.
- Controllable units: Some newer water heaters have control panels that allow you to adjust settings based on current needs. A low-temperature setting for people going on vacation is just one example of how being able to control your water heater can save on energy.
- Hybrid units: Hybrid water heaters are part heat pump, part storage tank water heater. Per the DOE, they use around 62 percent less energy than a standard 50-gallon electric water heater.
What are different types of water heaters?
Gas water heaters are typically less expensive to operate than electric water heaters because they burn natural gas to heat the water. They tend to cost more upfront, but they make up the cost difference in energy savings within a year. Gas water heaters have a quicker recovery time, about 50-gallons per hour compared to around 14-gallons per hour of an electric water heater. They need to be properly ventilated, allowing exhaust to escape. They can be priced anywhere from $300-$1500 and come in high-efficiency models as well.
Electric water heaters have a lower price upfront when compared with gas water heaters. There is no need for ventilation with electric water heaters making the cost of installation less expensive. Typically, electric water heaters are similar to gas water heaters in efficiency; however, the cost of electricity makes their operating cost higher. The price of an electric water heater varies, ranging from $300-$2,000.
Tankless water heaters work by heating water directly, providing instantaneous and unlimited hot water. This lowers energy costs because you do not pay to keep unused water hot in a storage tank. Tankless systems tend to use more BTUs than high-efficiency tank units when heating water instantaneously. Starting around $1,000, tankless water heaters will cost more than a storage tank water heater up front but they have an estimated lifespan of up to 20 years as opposed to the 10-15 year lifespan of a storage tank system.
Heat pump hybrid
Heat pump hybrid water heaters work by using electricity to pull heat from surrounding air and dumping it, at a higher temperature, into a tank to heat water. They can be two to three times more efficient than a typical electric water heater. If you live in a warmer climate, you can install an air-source heat pump system that draws heat from outside air. Hybrid heat pump water heaters start around $1,000.
Who buys water heaters?
The size of water heater you purchase will depend, in large part, on the size of your family. The more family members living under the same roof, the larger the capacity of water heater it will take to provide enough hot water for your home.
Business owners and property managers
Most water heater companies manufacture units for commercial use. Whether you are a property manager needing multiple units for an apartment complex or a restaurant owner needing a hot water system to meet the demands of a full-scale kitchen, there are many options available.
If you are an individual homeowner, a smaller capacity water heater should be efficient enough to meet your hot water demands. Less water usage will require a smaller recovery time for your unit, saving on energy costs.
Energy conscious people
For consumers who are more energy conscious, there are many energy-efficient and cost-effective water heater options available. It is important to check for energy star ratings on tank models as well as hybrid and tankless water heaters. These ratings will include a breakdown of figures such as Energy Factor and annual operating cost.
Water heater FAQ
- What is the average cost to replace a hot water heater?
- Replacing your water heater costs anywhere between $500 and $5,000. This price depends on the type of water heater, the size of the unit and the cost of installation. For instance:
- The average cost to install an electric-powered, 40-gallon tank-style unit in a two-to-four person home is $750.
- A tankless unit costs roughly $2,000.
- Gas heaters cost $50 to $100 more than electric units.
Other costs include permits, retrofitting and enhancements.
- What is the downside of a tankless water heater?
- Tankless water heaters have a few downsides:
- Sometimes, tankless units can’t supply enough hot water for simultaneous uses, such as taking long, hot showers while the washing machine is running.
- Unless equipped with modulating temperature controls, tankless units may not heat water to a constant temperature in parts of a home with varying water pressure.
- Tankless electric units require a relatively high power draw, meaning service upgrades may be necessary.
- Tankless electric units also require outdoor venting, either directly or with a conventional exhaust flue.
- Is a high-efficiency water heater worth it?
- Yes, it is a good idea to investigate high-efficiency water heaters.
- High-efficiency water heaters have longer life spans than conventional heaters.
- While upfront costs are high, they last for a long time. Depending on the type, most last at least 10 years and some last up to 20.
- The units do more with fuel in less time, meaning they use less energy.
- Tankless models use less water, which reduces water bills.
- Units qualify for tax rebates, allowing you to reclaim part of your initial purchase price.
- Tankless water heaters typically require less maintenance.
- Are new electric water heaters more efficient?
- Newer electric water heaters are far more efficient because of federal regulations that require them to adhere to strict energy efficiency standards. Generally speaking, the larger the tank, the more efficiency is required. Units holding 55 gallons or more achieve efficiency through an electric heat pump. While pricer than nonheat-pump models, electric-powered heat pump units are the most efficient water heaters on the market today.
- How long do hybrid water heaters last?
- A hybrid water heater’s life span is typically between 13 to 15 years, but it can be even longer. Experts recommend proper maintenance to extend the life of a system.
- Regularly clean the air filter.
- Check the temperature pressure relief valve annually to ensure it's operating properly.
- Discharge water from the tank monthly to prevent hard water deposits from accumulating.
- Have the unit inspected by a professional at least once a year.
- How many years does a hot water heater last?
- A traditional tank-type water heater lasts an average of eight to 12 years, while a tankless unit can last up to 20 years or longer. Hard water wreaks havoc on any system and can reduce its service life by two or more years. Likewise, water heaters located anywhere temperatures drop significantly tend to wear out quicker because they have to work harder to heat the water.
- Are water heaters safe?
- Yes, but a water heater can cause significant damage and be a severe hazard if not properly maintained.
- If you have a gas-powered unit and the burner doesn’t shut off, excess gas can build up in your home, and a single spark can damage or destroy the house.
- Faulty gas heaters can also potentially release carbon monoxide into the home.
- Leaks, if left unattended, can burst and flood your floor, damaging furniture, appliances, electronics, drywall and other building materials.
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Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.