Nothing beats a warm shower at the start or end of a long day, and with the best water heaters you'll be able to rely on this. As we head into cooler months it's key to find a reliable water heater that allows you to get on with your day worry free. No matter whether you choose the best electric water heater or gas water heater, it's important to opt for the most energy-efficient choice possible for the sake of the environment and your running costs.
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With this in mind, one of the first dilemmas you'll face when buying one of the best water heaters will likely be: gas or electric? Both have their benefits and drawbacks. A gas water heater will keep running in the event of a power outage, so if this is something you'll likely face then it will be a good idea to prepare for natural disasters where days without electricity are commonplace. They do, however, cost more upfront. Electric heaters might be cheaper to begin with but you're likely to part with more money in the long haul powering them.
Rheem water heaters also have a number of smart features that are handy to keep a watchful eye on your temperature from your phone. Design-wise, you'll also want to keep an eye on the capacity of the water heater as well. The bigger the heater means you'll be able to have more hot water quickly, but if you are struggling for space then it might be worth looking at the best tankless water heaters. It's also a good idea to look out for an Energy Star certification and a great warranty, which offers peace of mind should any issues arise.
Best water heaters
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We've rounded up the best water heaters available to help you find the right fit for you and your family. Whether you want a heater with all the bells and whistles, or you're simply looking for a base model for an excellent price, we've got a great option for you below.
Best water heaters
If you're looking for a reliable water heater brand that offers longevity at an affordable price, then Rheem is a great choice. They have many different water heaters with gas, electric, tankless, solar, and hybrid options available, so you can easily choose an option that suits your home.
For this guide, we looked at the Rheem Gladiator Water Heater, which features a substantial 50-gallon capacity. It's a smart electric heater that can easily heat water for up to five people in a household. The heater can also be controlled and monitored via the included EcoNet WiFi kit and smartphone app, so you can connect it to other systems within your home as well as have more power over how often it's left running, right from your fingertips. It's Energy Star rated too, so it's already a better choice for the environment and for your wallet.
If there's a leak or any other problems, the device will notify you via the EcoNet system and will then automatically turn off if any dangerous complications occur, like a build-up of flammable vapors. It offers a truly hands-off approach, leaving you free from worry and also maintenance as you'll never need to change or clean this water heater's filter, as it's designed to operate without one.
User reviews of the Rheem Gladiator water heater are generally positive. Many reviews mention how useful the app is to allow you to check the water levels in the water heater. Others mention how great the customer service was. Some reviews mentioned issues with the leak detector, but most commented that these were relatively easy to fix.
- Read our Rheem Gladiator 50-Gallon review
With a whopping 80-gallon tank, the Westinghouse Electric Light Duty Water Heater is an excellent choice for families who need ample amounts of hot water. Whether you're all showering at the same time each day, or you're frequent bathers, it's good to have reliable access to hot water and not wait for ages for it to heat up.
This water heater has a stainless steel design which means that it's actually a much lighter option than others of the same size, and will not build up limescale as quickly as other heaters. This means it should last longer than other options. It was also one of the only water heaters we tested that didn't need anode rods. This is a huge benefit as anode rods are often what erode inside water heaters and can cause costly repairs.
While this water heater isn't controllable via an App, it can easily be altered with the adjustable thermostat on the side, so you can make sure it's at the perfect temperature for you and your family.
With these features and the sheer size in mind, this water heater does come at a cost. It's priced at over $1,000, so you'll need to know it's the right option for your household before you make the purchase. It does, however, come with a lifetime warranty so you can rest assured that you won't spend lots of money replacing parts.
We've ranked the Rheem Performance Platinum Smart Electric water heater as the best electric water heater in our guide. It's both quiet and efficient, so it's a great choice for a home where it's kept close by. It uses a hybrid pump which makes it more efficient than regular electric water heaters and saves you up to $475 in energy costs each year - an important factor to consider when paying the initial cost of the heater.
Another benefit of this choice is that it's a smart water heater. It's fitted with Leak Detection and benefits from WiFi connectivity, so it will send alerts to your phone if anything requires your attention. This is great for taking the stress out of regular maintenance. A High Demand mode also makes it easy to activate when you know you'll need a lot of hot water at once, for example, if you have guests staying.
This water heater is an ideal choice for family homes as its tank is designed to provide enough water for up to five people, across three bathrooms. Design features such as the elements being made of stainless steel mean corrosion is less likely, so it should last for longer. It can cope with up to four back-to-back showers or a single shower of up to 34 minutes.
The Rheem Performance Platinum water heater comes complete with a ten-year warranty too, which is a good amount of time for a purchase of this size. Many of the reviews positively commented on how useful the app is for controlling and thought it was worth the extra cost. Some users did install the water heater themselves, but others mentioned that it was worth getting a professional to do this.
The A.O Smith Signature Gas water heater is the cheapest in our roundup for large water heaters, making it a great choice for those that need a big capacity but have a smaller budget. It lacks some of the smart features that other models have, but it's still easy to operate and heats enough water for a family, thanks to the 50-gallon tank.
The electronic gas valve and push-button ignition make starting up the heater simple, with an LED status indicator that helps you keep track of things in case something goes wrong. There's also an in-built safety system that will reduce the risk of flammable vapor being ignited. It does have anode rods in the tank but this is combined with a ceramic tank shield to delay corrosion and extend the lifespan of your water heater.
The warranty on this water heater is only six years, which is one of the shortest we've seen in this guide. However, given the cheaper price, this makes sense. Many customer reviews focus on how easy the water heater is to install and that it provides more than enough hot water for a family of four. Some users have commented on how noisy it is once running though, so this might be something to keep in mind if you're looking for a quiet model.
If you're looking for a water heater that will provide enough hot water for a whole family showering after each other, then the Bosch Tronic 3000 T ES4 won't be the right choice for you. However, it's a great option for providing hot water directly to a specific area. It can be mounted on a wall or the floor and is well-placed underneath a sink. It has a four-gallon tank which isn't significant, but it has a short recovery time which means you won't have to wait long for hot water. It can be plugged into a 120V outlet and has a six-year warranty.
Although it's small, the design is well-considered. The tank is glass-lined which makes it great for insulation and has a 98 percent thermal efficiency. For a water heater that can be used with one point-of-use, the Bosch model is a practical choice. It has a fast recovery rate which also means you won't have big gaps between drawing hot water and has three optional uses: to support another water heater, to be used independently at a sink, or as a buffer for tankless water heaters.
User reviews comment on how the water heater is suitable for a single shower, small washing machine and an RV camper shower, but it's worth considering how often you would run these. Other reviews also commented on how good the quality of the tank is, but some did mention issues with leaks soon after purchasing.
Buying advice for the best water heaters
Buying a water heater: efficiency ratings
Efficiency standards for gas and electric water heaters are different, but both use the Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) ratings system, where higher scoring units produce more hot water while using less energy.
To earn an Energy Star certification, for example, electric water heaters with tanks up to 55 gallons must have a UEF greater than 2. In contrast, gas water heaters with tanks up to 55 gallons only need a UEF above 0.64 or 0.68, depending on how they use water during the day. Qualifications for tanks over 55 gallons are even higher. Choosing a water heater near or above the Energy Star standards will save money on your utilities, though the most efficient units usually command the highest prices.
Water heater warranties
You might be tempted when shopping around for your water heater to make a decision based on features and price alone. But the importance of a good warranty shouldn’t be overlooked, as in a crisis, you’ll want to feel reassured you can get your home back up and running again. So, if you don’t want to be left without hot water for a long stretch of time, then pay close attention to a model with a strong guarantee.
Typically, water heaters last from eight to 12 years, with their corresponding warranties usually covering six to 12 years. This does have a catch though, as labor warranties only tend to cover one year.
How much do water heaters cost?
On average, you can expect to spend between $700 and $2,000 to get a new water heater installed in your home. Without installation, electric water heaters usually cost between $300 and $700. Similarly, gas water heaters cost between $400 and $1,000. However, a heater’s cost depends largely on the water heater brand, tank size and its efficiency rating.
Although it's tempting to open the installation manual and install your new water heater on your own, most homeowners don't have the necessary skills and experience. By choosing a professional installer, you get someone who knows exactly what to do and how to do it correctly and safely. Furthermore, some brands only sell their water heaters through installers. Installers also often have water heater suggestions for your home.
Most plumbers are trained and licensed and have valuable experience, so it's worth the extra cost to have them install your water heater. To find the best plumber in your area, take some time to look at their online customer reviews on Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie's List and similar websites.
Installation costs typically include labor, supplies and water heater removal. You can expect to pay between $300 and $500 to have an installer swap out your old water heater for a newer model, though this may increase or decrease based on where you live. However, if you’re changing the type of water heater in your home, you can expect to pay up to $1,500, sometimes more, to upgrade your home’s electrical or natural gas connections appropriately. Make sure to get quotes from three or four local plumbers in order to find the best price.
Permits & inspections
Most cities and counties require you apply for a permit before you install a water heater in your home. Depending on where you live, the licensed plumber you hire can obtain the necessary permits as part of the installation. However, it’s a good idea to double-check with them or your local building department to learn exact permit requirements for your location. This will also help you find out if you need to get the permit yourself or if the contractor does it. When the installation is complete, someone from the organization that issued the permit will inspect the water heater to verify it complies with the building code.
Gas vs electric water heaters: which is right for you?
Installing a new water heater in your home isn’t cheap, which is why you’re probably taking some time considering how to power your appliance. The first thing to know is that electric heaters are the best option for the environment, and opting for one of these will mean you’re making a more sustainable choice for the planet. Electric water heaters are also more efficient, though the cost of electricity bumps the cost of running past gas alternatives. As we’ve already mentioned, you can also still run your gas heater in a power-out and have one less thing to worry about in a crisis.
Lifetime energy costs
You can estimate your new electric or gas water heater's annual and lifetime energy costs with this calculator from the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). It also compares your estimates with those of base models, FEMP recommendations and the most efficient models in the industry. This calculator can help you decide if a more efficient model is worth the extra cost over its lifetime.
How many years does a hot water heater last?
When you're spending so much at once for a hot water heater, the question of longevity is a concern. Fortunately, tank style water heaters generally last eight to 12 years on average – depending on if you have hard water in your area and perform regular maintenance to keep the heater running at peak efficiency. We found through our research and discussions with plumbing professionals that you can expect a new water heater to last for about 10 years. Setting aside a little money every year to help offset the cost for when you do have to replace it can help reduce the stress of forking over a chunk of change you weren't expecting to spend.
We also found that many plumbing experts advise installing a hot water filter to help reduce the amount of sediment and minerals that get into your water heater. This extra system could help double the lifespan of your water heater, but we recommend consulting with your local plumber first to find out if it would be worth it in your area.
When should you replace your water heater?
You don’t need to be a plumber to figure out that your water heater isn’t working properly, but it helps to know the symptoms associated with a broken water heater before you lose hot water entirely.
- Look out for any changes in hot water quality, such as brown water or metallic tastes, which may indicate your storage tank is rusting on the inside.
- If you experience a sudden decrease in the amount of hot water your heater delivers, or the water never gets completely hot, this could be the result of a bad or old heating element.
- A decrease in the volume of water coming through the faucets could indicate a pipe is blocked with sediment, hard water deposits or another object.
- If your water heater starts to sound different when heating water, especially if you hear popping and cracking, that could be a problem.
- Any time you see water leaking directly from the water heater, something needs to be tightened.
- As mentioned earlier in our guide, the average lifespan of a water heater is about 10 years, so anything older than 10 to 15 years is a good candidate for replacement, even if it’s still working fine.
Water heater safety
As with any integral household appliance, your water heater needs regular maintenance and care in order to do its job. Insurance companies recommend that homeowners inspect the parts of their water heater at least once a year. Those parts include the ventilation system, pilot light, and the temperature or release valve.
There should be instructions within the manual you received from the manufacturer on the purchase of your heater. If you’re in doubt at all, then this manual should help you know exactly how to do a checkup on your appliance. If you can’t get the help you need from the manual and need to check the condition of your heater, then you can always call a local plumber to get professional advice.