Hot Water Heaters 
Reviews and Buying Guide
(updated 2020)

Expert hot water heater reviews of gas, electric, and solar-powered tankless and tank-type models, including hybrids, and boilers, and used for heating potable water, at home, while camping, RV-ing or in marine applications. Check out the list of the top-selling brands.

This article reviews different types of water heaters designed for residential applications and guides the homeowners through many factors that have to be considered when buying a new or replacing the old water heater.

Choosing the right type is important due to the fact that water heaters account for around 20% of the energy used in homes, and the high cost of energy to operate one unit. Almost every type found in this review is further explained in details, including comparison, pros and cons, specs, and essential features such as the efficiency and Energy Star compliance.

Once you have selected the right type, check out our reviews of the best brands and models

Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White are some of the popular manufacturers of tank-type models, Rinnai, Noritz, and Takagi of gas condensing and tankless water heaters, while Eemax, EcoSmart, Titan and Stiebel Eltron are top-selling brands of instantaneous electric models

Buying guide

Popular models

Check out the top 5 selling models for domestic water heating found on Amazon.com:

Things to consider when buying a home water heater

While looking for the water heater reviews, check out the following factors before buying:

Fuel source. Make sure to review and select the type of fuel source you can/want to use and compare the fuel prices. We think that natural gas is the best option due to the cost, but if it is not available, consider propane, which can be delivered to your house.

Solar energy is free energy, but this method of heating is not efficient everywhere, and like other types, it heavily depends on the weather/climate. From the electric-powered models, heat pumps or hybrids are recommended, due to the ultra-efficient operation.

Price and operating costs. Do you want to buy economy, high efficiency, or condensing heater? For example, condensing tankless water heaters are among the most advanced types that utilize the latest technology. A good example is Rinnai RUC98 that comes with the most innovative features so they can provide superior efficiency of 0.96, which results in considerable savings and emission reduction.

We have reviewed many types and models, so our recommendation is to focus on the Energy Star products and take advantage of the savings, government grants, and lower gas emission.

The size of a water heater. Point-of-use models are small; tankless are medium size, storage, or tank-type heaters are big. After reading many water heater reviews and dealing with many users, we conclude that tankless or on-demand water heaters are an excellent solution for many homeowners who want to make a switch from traditional storage tank-type to an on-demand unit and get a continuous supply of hot water.

Quality. Better Quality of the elements usually ensures longer life of heaters, better technology, higher performance and efficiency, fancier look, and sometimes longer warranty, but they are more expensive.

Favorite brand. Do you have a favorite brand, or are you selecting one that is the best seller and has many positive reviews? So which one do you prefer: Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White, Rinnai, Takagi, Noritz, or any other.

Repair costs and parts availability. Popular brands usually have better service network and available parts than less-known or foreign manufacturers.

Available features. What are the benefits of the heater's features, and are these components user-friendly, easy to replace, and troubleshoot?

Buying vs. renting a water heater. Which one do you prefer; to buy or rent? Check out the pros and cons to make the right decision.

In this review, we will try to cover all the above factors and present you an easy to understand guide so that you can find the best water heater for your needs.

Also, if you don't have time to read, you can check out our selection of the best models, as found in this article (you just have to pick the fuel-type).

Water heater type review based on the fuel source

Gas type

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Gas heaters can use both natural gas and propane gas or LP. Gas appliances are an excellent choice where this energy is available and because these are among the most energy-efficient systems - particularly those with the condensing technology.

You can choose between the tank and tankless models – and they are both covered in our review. Another important thing is to select the right venting system; power vent, direct vent, power direct vent, or atmospheric.

Electric-type

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Electric water heaters are recommended if electricity is the only option, or you just need a unit for one fixture. Electric models have higher energy factors than gas-burning units, but due to the higher fuel rates, using the electric unit is more expensive in the long run.

They are ideal as the point-of-use heaters for small jobs, while greater hot water delivery in demanding applications, heat pumps, or hybrids are recommended because they have high energy factors which offset higher fuel costs.

Solar-type

Solar water heaters have a simple design that can be made at home where solar energy used for water heating is free. In the long run, using this renewable and cost-free energy, solar heaters can be an excellent lifelong investment.

Oil-fired type

Oil-fired units are becoming less-popular systems for residential home usage, especially with the increased availability of gas and other "green" technology systems. Oil-fired models are also more expensive to install than gas, and they last less.

Wood-burning type

Wood fired heaters and wood furnaces are heating appliances that are using wood as the energy source. Except for water heating and preparation, wood heaters can be used for space heating, even cooking.

Water heater reviews based on the size and technology

Tankless

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Tankless, usually called on-demand water heaters, do not utilize water storage tanks as the conventional type. This type heats water when needed (on demand) and provides hot water in an endless supply while reducing energy consumption and the heating bill at the same time. They last longer than conventional storage tank heaters and are more environment-friendly due to the reduced gas emission.

Tankless is small but powerful and is recommended for larger families with the high demand for hot water and where it is hard, or there is no room to install the tank-type. Most of the tankless models come with the electric board and microchip, digital display, diagnostic system, modulating gas valve, and many safety elements.

The most popular tankless brands are Rinnai and Takagi.

Storage water tanks

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Water tank heaters for home use are the most popular of all heating systems. They store hot water inside the metal tanks, and it is always ready for use. Even if you are away, the heater is running when required, keeping the water at the set temperature.

For the whole-house water heating, these are available in sizes from 30 to 100 gallons. For the budget-oriented families, they are the perfect solution due to its lower purchase and installation costs. Condensing models are ideal for homeowners looking for high efficiency and better performance.

The most popular tank-type brands are Rheem, AO Smith, and Bradford White.

Electric heat pumps

Electric heat pump water heaters or hybrids are heating devices that utilize two technologies for efficient and inexpensive heating. They look like the electric water heaters, usually equipped with two heating elements, while on the top of the unit is the heat pump and advanced electronics, which help in removing the heat from the air and transferring that heat to water.

What makes them unique is that the heat pump is not generating heat, but moving it from one place to another, resulting in ultra-high energy efficiency. These are the only electric units that are Energy Star approved.

The most popular hybrids brands are coming from Rheem, AO Smith, and Stiebel Eltron.

Other types

High Efficiency

High-efficiency units are very popular today due to their ability to maximize energy savings, provide a better performance, and reduce emissions. These products are often Energy Star approved carrying the blue tag logo, an international symbol for energy efficiency.

Condensing

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Water heater reviews also cover state-of-the-art appliances such as the ultra-efficient condensing models.

Condensing appliances are energy-efficient systems that are designed to operate with an efficiency of over 90 % and, at the same time, very low energy loss. Due to its advanced condensing technology, required professional installation and regular service, these are found more expensive than non-condensing units. They are especially popular in Europe (Vaillant, Buderus, Junkers), while in North America are getting in popularity (Rinnai, Noritz, Navien, Bosch), or Weil-Mclain and others.

RV heater reviews

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RV water heaters are designed for mobile and recreational vehicles, mainly using propane gas and 120 V AC. The most common sizes are 6-gallon and 10-gallon tanks.

These units are easy to operate, maintain, are reliable, and can last longer. The most popular brands are Atwood and Suburban.

Portable

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Portable hot water heaters provide the perfect solution for heating the water for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, surfing, boating, cabin owners, and RVing.


Indirect

If you already have a furnace or boiler with a burner, just combining it with a high-efficient storage tank, you can have a very efficient system for heating. These systems are usually called indirect hot water heaters.

Atmospherically vented water heaters

Atmospherically vented water heaters are the simplest and cheapest type of all gas heaters. They are equipped with the draft hood and metal vent, usually connected to the chimney, which is used to transfer the exhaust gases from the heater to the outside atmosphere. Since the hot exhaust gas is lighter than the surrounding air, it tends to rise up through the vent and out of the house.

Direct vent review

Direct vent water heaters are ideal if planning a gas unit but don't have proper ventilation to the outside, through the chimney. It has a built-in venting system that brings the air in and forces the fumes out, but without using the electric blower.

Power vent units review

Power vent unit is similar to the direct vent models, but it uses an electrically operated powered vent (blower) as the assistance to exhaust the combustion gases to the outside mechanically.

Tankless Coil

A tankless coil doesn't use any storage tank for the heating as the water is heated directly inside the boiler. It is used for home space heating and with an option to heat the water. These units are the most efficient during the colder months when used for space heating, but less efficient during warmer months as the boiler is used less frequently.

Marine

Reviews of the top marine hot water heaters manufacturers, like Atwood, Isotemp, Webasto, Torrid, and others. Products are meant for boaters and sailors to enjoy showering and small jobs where hot water is needed.

Point of use

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Point-of-use water heaters are small electrical devices, designed as mini storage tanks or tankless, used for water heating at the point of service, and often installed under the kitchen sink.

Also known as under-sink water heaters, these heating units are very popular in residential applications as they provide instant hot water, without taking up a lot of space.

The most popular tankless electric models are coming from EcoSmart, Eemax, Rheem, Stiebel Eltron, and Titan.

Conclusion

As you can see, this review of different types of water heaters is quite extensive because we have tried to cover most of the devices used in residential water heating for your benefit. You could also get informed about available fuel types and features to look for, including the best and most wanted brands.

Now, if you are looking for water heater reviews by brands, types, including specs and features, or comparison, you can find them by clicking on the respective links on the navigation bar or searching for heaters by manufacturers.

The most popular brands like Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White, Takagi, Rinnai, and others are also located on the navigation bar. If looking to buy one or see what other users like or dislike, we recommend checking the online stores Amazon.com and Home Depot.

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