Hot Water Heater Reviews and
Buying Guide
(updated 2017)

Expert hot water heater reviews of the gas, electric and solar powered tankless and tank models, including hybrids, heat pumps and boilers, and used for heating potable water, at home, RV or in marine applications. A 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 important 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 popular manufacturers of tank type units; Rinnai, Noritz, Bosch, and Navien of gas condensing water heaters; Eemax, Titan and Stiebel Eltron are popular brands of instantaneous electric models, and so on.

Buying guide

Popular brands and types on Amazon.com

What other homeowners are buying:

Things to consider when buying a water heater

The water heater reviews  article features the following important factors, one should consider before buying:

  • Fuel source - 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 price, if it is available, or propane if it can be delivered. Solar energy is free energy but this technology brings lots of obstacles. From the electric-powered models, heat pumps are recommended, due to its ultra-efficient operation.
  • Price and operating costs - determine either to buy economy, high efficiency or heaters with the latest technology such as this Rinnai RUC98 that comes with the condensing technology and features to provide superior efficiency of 0.96 resulting in great savings and emission reduction. We have reviewed many types and models, so our recommendation is to focus on the Energy Star products, to take advantage of the savings, government grants and lower gas emission.
  • Size of the water heater - point-of-use is small, tankless are medium size, storage or tank-type heaters are big. After reading many water heater reviews and dealing with many users, our conclusion is that tankless or on-demand water heaters are the great solution for many homeowners who made a switch from traditional tank-type to on-demand unit.
  • Quality - with the higher quality you have a 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 you are selecting one that is the best seller and has many positive reviews: Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White, Rinnai, Polaris, Bosch, GE, Kenmore or...
  • 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 - check out pros and cons to make the right decision.

We will try to cover all the above factors in our review and present you an easy to understand guide, so you can find the best heater for your needs, such as the selection of the best models as found in this article.

Water heater type review based on the fuel source

Gas type

Rinnai gas water heaterRinnai gas

Gas heaters can use both natural gas and propane gas or LP. Gas appliances are a good choice where this energy is available and since these are among the most energy-efficient systems - particularly those with the condensing technology. You can choose between tank and tankless models - water heater reviews cover them both. To know how much hot water it can be produced, look at the heaters' specification and the gas input given in BTU per hour.

Electric-type

Stiebel Eltron electric water heaterStiebel Eltron electric

Electric water heaters are recommended if electricity is the only option. Even with the higher energy factor than gas burning units, and due to the higher rates, using the electric unit is more expensive in the long run. They are a good solution as the point-of-use heaters for small jobs and heat pumps where the high energy factor offsets higher fuel costs.

Solar-type

Stiebel Eltron solar water heaterStiebel Eltron solar

Solar water heaters have a simple design that can be made at home where the solar energy, used for water heating is free. In the long run, using this renewable and cost-free energy, solar heaters can be a great 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 the heating appliances that are using wood as the energy source, for cooking, home heating, and water preparation.

Water heater reviews based on the size and technology

Tankless

Rinnai tankless water heaterRinnai tankless

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

Storage water tanks

Kenmore water heater tank-typeKenmore tank-type

Water tank heaters for home use are the most popular of all heating systems. Hot water is always ready for usage, and even if you are away, the heater is keeping the hot water available.


Electric heat pumps

Rheem heat pumpRheem heat pump

Electric heat pump water heater is the system that utilizes a technology for an efficient and inexpensive heating, using electricity to extract the heat from the air and move the heat from one place to another.


Other types

High Efficiency

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

Condensing

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 provide 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 other.

RV heater reviews

Suburban RV water heaterSuburban for RV

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

Eccotemp portable water heaterEccotemp portable

Portable hot water heater provides 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.

Direct vent review

Direct vent water heaters are ideal if planning a gas unit but don't have a 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 an assistance to mechanically exhaust the combustion gases to the outside.

Tankless Coil

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

Atwood marine water heaterAtwood

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

Ariston point of use water heaterAriston

Point of use water heater is a small heater, designed as the mini storage tank or tankless unit, used for water heating at the point of service, 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.

If you are looking for water heater reviews by brands, including specs, features, types, and ratings 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, Bosch, Rinnai and other 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 store Amazon.com.

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