The Best Gas Water Heater in 2012/2013

Review of the Best Rated Gas-Powered Tank-Type Models

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Which manufacturer builds the best gas water heater - AO Smith, Bradford White, Rheem or American? Explore the details and unique features of the best rated gas models.

Selecting the best model

The best gas water heaters utilize the condensing technology boosting the energy efficiency above 90%, which is much more than the conventional type. Gas condensing water heaters will have higher initial cost but will reduce the energy consumption up to 30% providing a substantial savings. Furthermore, condensing units heat water faster so the recovery time and first hour recovery for the same tank size are better, when compares to the conventional type.

This is what you should aim for when looking for the best gas water heater - the condensing technology. Condensing or near-condensing heaters are the ultra efficiency models, Energy Star qualified and incentivised by the government through the tax breaks of up to 30%. Just look for the Energy Star blue label.

High efficiency is achieved through the specific water heater design; insulation is thicker, heat traps are added, pilot light used for the ignition is replaced with the electronic ignition system and burners are more efficient.

The best gas water heater has all the above features plus premium quality of the material used and workmanship. The best rated gas models are either Power Vent (PV) or Direct Vent (DV) which maximizes the combustion, increases the efficiency and safety.

Warranty is longer, 10 - 12 years. Some gas water heaters have the stainless steel tank which does not require anodes, while others have bigger anode rods (or more than one), or powered anodes and quality porcelain tank lining... for durability. The stainless steel tank are corrosion free, do not leak, so the warranty can be found as the limited lifetime.

Sediments and lime buildup are reduced to a minimum by adding the self-cleaning systems and dip tubes with the turbulent water flow.

Either you are buying the best rated, top selling or the cheapest, all new models are equipped with the FVIR system that automatically shuts off the water heater if flammable vapors are detected.

When no hot water is being used, even the best gas water heater looses the heat energy through the walls, so very important factor to consider is to find the unit with the low stand-by heat loss - models with the thick insulation and high R-value.

emergency plumber

Criteria used to find the best gas water heater

When selecting the best gas water heater among tank type models you should consider the following:

  • High First Hour Recovery. FHR combines tank capacity with how much of water it can heat in an hour. See what the number of gallons used at your home is and make sure the unit can provide that. Water heaters presented below are having extremely high values of FHR when comparing to the conventional models and this is what makes them the best. Check the First Hour Delivery from the yellow Energy Guide Sticker found on the heater.

  • Don't buy storage tank water heaters solely based on the capacity (in gallons). Check what is the heating power (BTU) and how much gallons it can be delivered, or during the peak hours (FHR). This is what defines how fast your WH can heat water.

  • Look for the Energy Star models - models with the energy factor (EF) 0.67 or higher. The best gas water heater is condensing or near-condensing models whose Energy Factor is above 0.9.

  • The quality of the tank liner. The tank liner is usually glass/porcelain lining and it protects the metal tank from corrosion. If it is cracked, aggressive water action will affect the metal tank (it will corrode it). The best models have the stainless steel tank.

  • The best gas water heater has two anodes (or none, such as Marathon model), one large, or powered anode, which will provide additional protection. Usually, models with the longer warranties come with better corrosion protection.

  • The best rated water heater comes with the high R-value. Lower insulation value, such as R-6 means a cheaper water heater but less efficient (it losses much more energy through the wall than R-24, for example).

  • The best water heaters are equipped with the advanced features such as FVIR, self cleaning system, heat traps for heat retention, durable brass drain valves, powerful burners, hot surface ignition instead of pilot light, direct or power vent...

The best tank-type gas storage tank units

AO Smith Vertex 100

ao smith vertex

AO Smith Vertex GDHE-50 is probably the best gas water heater with the most advanced features on the market today.

Vertex is a condensing tank type heater, recommended in many user reviews, plumbing forums and by the online expert reviewers such as

AO Smith Vertex is a high efficiency unit that has the energy factor of 0.96 EF, almost the same EF as the top tankless models, but it has better installation costs than tankless and still providing lots of hot water.

Vertex GDHE-50 is the power direct vent unit that is offered with the capacity of 50 gallons for high demand homes. With the First Hour Rating of amazing 164 gallons per hour and water flow delivery of over 4 gallons per minute, Vertex provides more hot water than models with the larger tanks.

Superb features such as the powerful burner and durable heat exchanger that provide 100,000 BTUs, the advanced digital control panel and ability for remote monitoring, makes AO Smith Vertex the best buy. Components such as the glass lining and two anode rods are commercial grade, heat exchanger with the helical design provides greater heat transfer while the burner is eco-friendly as it produces less NOx gases.

American Polaris High Efficiency Water Heater

polaris as the best gas water heater

Polaris PG10 50-199-3NV from American WH company is the high efficiency gas water heater that offers over 95% thermal efficiency and incredible First Hour Recovery of 257 gallons per hour.

What I like about this unit, and why I put it in this best gas water heater list is not only its high efficiency, but the quality elements. These are the high grade 444 stainless steel tank and metal fiber burner that produces very clean and low NOx flame. The flue is also made of the stainless steel and has a specific spiral design that with the submerged combustion chamber significantly reduces the energy loss and ensures dependable and very effective heating. Stainless steel construction and its resistance to corrosion, eliminates the need for anode rod also.

Polaris PG10 50-199-3NV comes with the 50-gallon tank size and due to its powerful 199,000 BTU burner is recommended not only for domestic water heating, but home heating (radiant hydronic heating and forced air hydronic heat).

Such high quality materials allow Polaris to provide 10-year warranty. Other superb elements include Self-Diagnostic Control System that indicates the operating status and makes the troubleshooting easy, hot surface ignitor and ultra quiet radial blower.


As you can see, the best models are unique, built strong with high quality materials and features. Higher price (close to $2000) justifies what you are getting in return. This is why I have them introduced as the best gas water heaters.

(All pictures are courtesy of AO Smith and American)