Is your old water heater beginning to fail? Did you know that your water heater could be accounting for 20 percent of your home energy bill (1)? This number could increase depending on the age of your unit.
You might be getting a lot of different advice as to which water heater to choose. But we’ll help you pick the best water heater for you. We’ve put together the ultimate buying guide with the best brands recommended by experts.
Types of Water Heaters
When buying a new water heater, you shouldn’t limit your choices to tank or tankless and gas or electric. There are many other types of water heaters, such as hybrid and condensing units. These are some of the ultimate energy savers.
Tankless Water Heater
These water heaters can run on gas or electricity. Tankless or “on-demand” water heaters heat water as it’s needed — they don’t have a storage tank. When you turn on your hot water tap, the unit will ignite, heating the water as it flows through the unit.
Changing from a regular storage tank to a tankless can be difficult and expensive since it requires a different system. But, if you’re building a new home, it’s easy and a good option to install a tankless unit.
- On-demand: It will only heat the water you need. Therefore there will be much less wasted water.
- Compact size: A tankless unit is much smaller than the average 50-gallon tank. It can also be mounted to a wall.
- Less waiting time: You’ll receive hot water much quicker compared to regular tank water heaters.
- Not good for simultaneous use: Tankless units can struggle to keep up with simultaneous use.
Storage Tank Water Heaters
Storage tank water heaters are the most common type. These are either powered by electricity, gas or propane.
Tanks come in different sizes such as 40, 50 or 80 gallons. For the average family of four, a 50-gallon tank is sufficient.
- Affordable initial price: The initial price of a tank water heater is generally less than other types.
- Easy installation: Tank water heaters are fairly straightforward to install if you have a gas line or electrical outlet.
- Proven system: Tank water heaters have been around since the dawn of time. It’s a tried and tested system that you know will work.
- Standby heat loss: The tank tends to lose quite a bit of heat through the tank. This can be limited with extra insulation.
- Potential leaks: With so much water stored in the tank, a malfunction could cause some serious water damage.
- Insufficient supply: As the tank empties, there’s a real possibility of running out of hot water.
Hybrid Water Heaters
Hybrid water heaters, also referred to as hybrid heat pump water heaters are some of the most energy efficient units available.
Working in the opposite way to a fridge, a hybrid heater draws heat from its surroundings. It then converts it to a gas that circles the water in its tank to heat it (2).
What makes it a hybrid is the extra electrical element featured. This switches on whenever hot water is in high demand or when supply is low.
- Economic electricity usage: Hybrids use a small amount of electricity compared to tank heaters.
- Multiple settings: Hybrid models generally come with four to five settings to accommodate your needs.
- Easy on the environment: It uses minimum electricity and doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases.
- Long recovery time: Hybrid models can take a very long time to heat a full tank of water.
- Requires a specific climate and space: Hybrid units require a temperature of 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It also needs a space of 1,000 cubic feet (3).
Solar Water Heaters
A solar water heater heats your water using the energy it collects from the sun. There are two main types of solar-powered water heaters: active and passive. Active systems come with a circulation pump and controls, while passive systems don’t.
- Eco-friendly: Solar units don’t use electricity or gas. It’s energy saving and doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases.
- No energy costs: You’ll be collecting your own energy from the sun, so there will be no costs to pay.
- Hot water all year: The most common collector type, evacuated tube collector, can work even in overcast conditions.
- Won’t work in all climates: Solar power requires sun. In colder and darker climates it may not work well.
Condensing Water Heaters
A condensing water heater extracts the heat from the leftover exhaust gas, cooling it down. It uses this to heat the water within the tank further. The now cold, leftover exhaust gas is then emitted from the system.
These types of water heaters do create a lot of condensation which is acidic. The condensation also collects inside the unit. Therefore, they have to be made out of a durable material that can withstand corrosion.
Condensing water heaters are available as a tank or tankless unit (4).
- Easier on the environment: Because the exhaust gases are cooler, it’s not as bad for the environment.
- Don’t need expensive piping: Regular gas water heaters require a specialized PVC pipe for the exhaust due to high temperatures.
- Lower bills: Condensing water heaters use less gas to heat — you’ll save on your natural gas bills.
- Condensation water is acidic: The condensed water is slightly acidic, enough to cause corrosive damage.
The Best Water Heater Brands
There is a large number of water heater manufacturers in the industry — some of whom are very well-known. You don’t necessarily have to choose the biggest brand to get the best unit. It all depends on your needs.
A.O. Smith started as a baby carriage manufacturer in 1874. But the company has been leading the water heater industry for quite a while. It recently expanded, making it the largest water heater manufacturer in North America.
Rheem water heaters is a close second to A.O. Smith. The company has also been around for a long time, starting by making steel drums in 1925. It grew quickly, creating innovative water heaters, including our favorite hybrid model.
State Water Heaters is another brand which continually delivers high-quality products to homeowners the world over. Despite humble beginnings in a Nashville garage in 1946, it quickly became a favorite of many.
Other Top Water Heater Brands
There are lots of great brands on the market, although lesser known. One of our favorites is Navien which are behind some of the best condensing tankless water heaters. Bosch and EcoSmart are also great low-key brands that deserve more credit.
The Best Water Heater Reviews of 2020
We’ve researched many water heaters, looking at their specifications and customer reviews. In addition, based on our personal experiences, we’ve found the best of each category for you. But now, it’s time for the ultimate showdown — we’ve gathered the top nine from across our many previous reviews.
1. Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater
The Tronic 3000 T is a mini-tank under sink water heater. This little guy is small and compact — able to fit in the cabinet under your bathroom sink.
It measures 13.75 inches by 13.75 inches and weighs 17.4 pounds. It comes with a bracket for easy mounting.
Even though this is a small, out-of-the-way type of water heater, it’s made to last. The tank is glass-lined, minimizing the damages hot water can cause.
The tank is also clad with CFC-free foam insulation, preventing standby heat loss and increasing its efficiency. No wonder the unit has a thermal efficiency of 98 percent.
It runs on electricity and requires a 120-volt outlet. With a fast recovery rate of 6.8 gallons per hour, it can supply two sinks simultaneously. Additionally, Bosch has included a pressure relief valve to keep the temperature steady.
- Small and compact, easy to fit and install with the included bracket.
- Durable tank lined with glass and non-CFC foam clad for insulation.
- Highly energy and thermally efficient.
- A fast recovery rate of 6.8 gallons per hour, plus a pressure relief valve.
- Some users mentioned that the thermostat is a bit slow to get the heater going.
2. EcoSmart ECO 11 Electric Tankless Water Heater
For the best electric water heater, we have the EcoSmart Eco 11. This is a neat little tankless unit ideal for smaller homes. Depending on the climate you live in, you can use it as a point-of-use or for multiple applications.
EcoSmart claims that you can save up to 50 percent on your water heating costs by using their units. The ECO 11 has a flow rate of two gallons per minute. It also features a self-modulating technology enabling it to calculate the exact amount of energy it needs.
Additionally, the unit is sleek and high-tech-looking with its digital display and easy-to-use dial thermostat. The thermostat enables you to adjust the temperature in 1-degree increments.
What’s more, the Eco 11 is compact. It’s the second smallest unit from EcoSmart, measuring only 11.5 inches by 8 inches by 3.75 inches. And it weighs nothing more than 6.5 pounds.
- The unit is energy and water efficient.
- It’s fitted with a self-modulating technology.
- Sleek design — digital display and dial thermostat.
- Compact and lightweight — easy to install.
- Unit performance is heavily impacted by the inlet water temperature. Requires at least 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal use.
3. EcoSmart 8 KW Electric Tankless Water Heater
Here we have the Eco 8, the smallest unit in the Eco line. Similar to its big brother above, the Eco 8 is ideal for limited utilization. This could be your bathroom sink and shower, or perhaps your kitchen sink.
When the temperature is ideal, it delivers a flow rate of 0.3 gallons per minute. This rate means it can handle two applications simultaneously, for example, a sink and shower.
The unit is also fitted with a sleek digital display and dial thermostat. You can choose a comfortable temperature between 80 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Additionally, this water heater is not exempt from EcoSmart self-modulating technology. The boiler is small and compact, measuring 11.5 inches by 8 inches by 3.75 inches, and weighing 4.75 pounds.
- Features an easy-to-read digital display and dial thermostat.
- Saves water and energy.
- Compact and lightweight — a breeze to install.
- Not ideal in colder regions with an inlet water temperature of anything less than 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Rheem Hybrid Smart Tank Water Heater
Rheem has gifted us with one of the smartest, most efficient, not to mention quietest hybrids on today’s market.
The company claims that its hybrid heat pump design is a staggering four times more efficient than a regular electric unit. It has an estimated energy factor of 3.70. Rheem even suggests that you can save thousands on your annual energy costs.
Savings aside, this hybrid consists of an 80-gallon holding tank, ideal for homes with three to five bathrooms.
What’s more, is the smart-technology involved. The unit comes with built-in Wi-Fi. By downloading the EcoNet app, you can control your hybrid from anywhere.
The system will send alerts right to your phone. This includes maintenance information, major component failure notifications, service, and high pressure and temperature alerts. It even has a water leak detection system that will notify you in case of a leak.
The tank is fitted with stainless steel elements to prevent rust and corrosion. And lastly, the unit is whisper quiet.
- Highly energy efficient with an energy factor of 3.70.
- Sufficient for large households with three to five bathrooms.
- Wi-Fi and smart home ready — sends you updates and alerts through the EcoNet app.
- Whisper quiet operating noise.
- Some complained that the unit was difficult to install — especially if it’s a replacement. It apparently requires lots of changes to existing pipes.
5. Rinnai V75IN 7.5 GPM Indoor Tankless Gas Water Heater
Rinnai is a leading brand when it comes to tankless gas water heaters. This pick — the V75iN — is from their “V” series. It’s powered by natural gas and features a non-condensing technology, giving it an efficiency of 0.82.
Rinnai’s V series is considered the “economy” line, great for the budget-minded family. However, they’re still powerful, generating a maximum of 199,000 BTU an hour.
The boiler is capable of delivering an endless flow of hot water for up to three fixtures. You can adjust the temperature between 98 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit with the digital controller. It will also display error codes should anything go awry.
The unit is Wi-Fi compatible, but it requires you to purchase a separate Wi-Fi module. Additionally, this model is very easy to install. It has a decent size of 23 inches by 14 inches, and a weight of 49.6 pounds.
- Highly energy efficient.
- Works excellent for three fixtures.
- A good, compact size considering its power.
- Wi-Fi capable.
- If you want the Wi-Fi option, you’ll have to purchase a separate module.
- Some users noted that it takes more than a minute to deliver hot water.
6. Takagi T-H3-DV-N Condensing Tankless Water Heater
This heater from Takagi is the perfect example of a condensing boiler. It’s Energy Star qualified and complies with the Ultra Low NOx emission regulations.
The heater is fitted with two heat exchangers. Its primary exchanger is a commercial-grade copper alloy. Takagi claims this to be 25 times more effective at transferring heat.
The second heat exchanger is made from stainless steel. So, it will resist rust and corrosion.
This water heater can produce up to 199,000 BTU an hour and has a uniform energy factor of 0.93. Its performance is unfortunately affected by the climate. But even in cooler regions, it can still deliver enough water for three running showers.
Additionally, it comes with integrated controls and computerized safety features. These include overheat, freeze and surge protection.
- Features two durable heat exchangers.
- Can produce hot water for four running showers.
- Comes with integrated controls.
- Fitted with computerized safety features.
- A few reviewers pointed out that it makes a significant noise while working.
7. Camplux 5L Portable Propane Tankless Water Heater
This unit is perfect for the summer, encouraging outdoor living. All you need is propane and a water source providing a pressure of 2.5 PSI.
A unique feature of this unit is that it’s like a portable shower. Along with the heater, you’ll get a shower hose and head.
You can choose a temperature between 46.4 degrees and 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The heater is compact and comes with an attached folding handle — making it super convenient to set up. It measures 14.8 inches by 11.42 inches and weighs 14.11 pounds.
Considering the fact that it’s portable, it has a quite decent flow rate of 1.32 gallons per minute. It also features energy-saving technology, a flame failure device, freeze protection, and oxygen depletion safety.
- It requires only a pressure of 2.5 psi to activate.
- It provides a portable shower solution with its included shower head.
- Compact and relatively lightweight — fitted with folding handle.
- Includes some good features for safety and savings.
- The shower hose is made from cheap plastic and doesn’t last long.
8. Westinghouse High-Efficiency Gas Water Heater
This Westinghouse 50-gallon gas water heater is great for the average family of four to five people. It’s highly efficient, fitted with condensing technology operating at a 97 percent thermal efficiency.
It has a lightweight design, made from durable 316L stainless steel. It’s robust and will likely last a long time.
The unit is quite stylish as well. It’s coated with a faux stainless steel finish and boasts an LCD screen. The display is easy to operate and understand. This makes it an easy task to adjust the temperature or set it to different energy saving settings.
The boiler is also versatile, providing you with several installation options. You can fit it with PVC pipes for inlet and exhaust. Also included are a temperature and pressure relief valve.
It delivers hot water fast and is capable of handling several applications with its first hour delivery of 133 gallons. On the inside, it has a strong, top-notch patent heat exchanger — resistant to corrosion and rust.
- Durable and stylish, made from stainless steel.
- Fitted with an easy-to-use LCD screen.
- Features rust and corrode resistant heat exchanger.
- A few mentioned that there’s no warranty on labor, and part warranty is too short.
9. Solar Richmond 6-Year 4500-Watt Universal Connect
The Richmond Solar unit is excellent for the eco-minded, budget-oriented homeowner. It consists of an 80-gallon storage tank, designed for a single or double collector closed-loop glycol system.
It features a special technology that forces the cold inlet water to the bottom of the tank. This prevents it from mixing with the already heated water, thereby increasing its efficiency.
This unit will comfortably provide enough hot water for up to five people. It also has a built-in electric heater for back up support, should it be needed. This consists of multi-port connections for extra power during cloudy days. So even when the sun is a no-show, you’ll still have hot water.
The tank features a glass-lining, so it’s resistant to rust and corrosion. But just in case, Richmond still includes a six-year tank warranty.
And lastly, all the ports and fittings are located in convenient spots for an easy installation. You can find ports on top and on both sides.
- Highly efficient.
- Backed up by a standard electric water heater on cloudy days.
- Durable, glass-lined tank.
- Easy to install.
- Although it’s prewired for a resistor, the resistor isn’t included.
Tips for Buying the Best Water Heater
When buying a new water heater, you need a unit that will work to your demands, whether small or large. Here are a few things worth considering:
With a unit that is too small, you will end up running out of water. If it’s too big, you could be wasting unnecessary money and energy.
If you choose a tankless, however, it’s important to consider the flow rate. That is, how much water the unit will provide you with at once. For a large home, for example, one tankless unit won’t be sufficient.
Malfunctions can happen with even the best water heater. If one does, you want to be sure it won’t cost you. Finding a water heater with a good warranty will give you peace of mind. And, the best warranties are usually from companies with the largest market share.
3. Digital Displays
Having a unit with a digital display can be simpler to adjust and set. You’ll be able to determine your preferred temperatures and easily turn it on and off. It will also help you to monitor the energy used.
4. Where to Buy
Many homeowners think the best way to buy a new water heater is through your local plumber. However, that’s not always the case. We have found that going through online retailers such as Amazon and Home Depot is best.
You can also go through the product’s official website. Going this route, you can find great deals and good warranties.
Best of the Best
The best water heater can be invaluable to a home. There’ll be no more cold showers and the utility bill will likely lose a few numbers.
We’ve evaluated a lot of products. Today, we narrowed them down to the best water heater of each category.
It’s essential to find a unit that fits your needs. Doing this will prevent energy and water losses to excessive heating or storing.
Which was your favorite from our water heater reviews? We’d like to hear your answer below or feel free to ask us a question.