Recommendations for a new water heater / brand?
July 21, 2016 4:06 AM   Subscribe

We need a new water heater. Do you have any reason to believe your water heater is better or worse than other water heaters?

Our current water heater is leaking in a way that indicates internal damage, and it's 15 years old anyway. So, time for a new one.

Are Rheem water heaters any good? There's a similar size/shape one listed for that brand.

If you have specific recommendations of models, our old heater is 31.24 inches high and 46.5 gallons. A larger-capacity tank would be great, but we can't easily fit one taller than 36".

Consumer Reports doesn't have ratings for this.
posted by springo to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Gas or electric? If gas is an option i recommend the rinnai tankless 94i. Great monthy savings and hot water forever.
posted by chasles at 4:44 AM on July 21, 2016

Well, to me, water heaters are one of those things that either work, or don't. And they last a relatively long time, so it's hard to judge whether one is better than another aside from longevity and energy consumption.

That said, I installed a 50 gallon Rheem in my house to replace a 15 year old heater that failed. (I was surprised it lasted that long.) Other than delivering plenty of hot water, I like that it has a status light on the front that tells me if there are any problems. (So, far, all it's shown me a flashing blue "everything's ok" light.)

Mine is definitely taller than 36 inches, but I would recommend that you check them out (as well as other brands) on Home Depot's site, whether you intend to buy there or not. There are a lot of customer reviews which might give you some insight.
posted by The Deej at 5:44 AM on July 21, 2016

I won't recommend a particular brand but we got "the best" and when it broke, twice, none of the technicians knew what to do and just basically ordered completely new parts (both times). The next appliance we get will be whatever the most popular model is.
posted by betsybetsy at 7:02 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll recommend against the tankless/endless water heaters. We had one put in at our old house, and I hated it. You know how it takes ~10 seconds to get hot water after starting the tap? Now it's 20. Suppose you use some hot water, you waste your 20 seconds, get hot water and turn off the tap. Now you need hot water again; so you turn on the tap; the water in the pipes is hot so it's hot water for 10 seconds. Then you get 10 seconds of cold water. Then you get your "endless" hot water again, so long as you don't turn off the tap.

Washing hands in the winter in the kitchen is annoying. Doing dishes is annoying. I hated the tankless heater *so* much I'll do my Mrs. White impression talking about flames on the side of my face!

Do you have a water saving front load washer? Great, you can never effectively wash anything on non-cold again because of the periodic way it uses water.

I'll temper this by noting that mrs. nobeagle loved our tankless water heater. She wasn't as annoyed by the extra waiting for warm water at the tap, but loved that in a 5 person house she could shower or have a bath regardless of the timing of other people's showers or laundry and have near-scalding hot water to the end.

I will always send all 100 delegates to fight against another tankless heater; barring a separate, bath/shower-only installation.
posted by nobeagle at 7:22 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rheem data point: Our first water heater (came new in new built house) was a Rheem, rated for 6 years. Lasted 12 before it needed to be replaced. Replaced it with another Rheem. Also 6 year. But the Snowflake detail here is that our water heater is a gas Direct Vent and could only be replaced with another Direct Vent model. We got lucky and got what was the only one the company had in stock in Western Washington at the time. Otherwise it would have been at least 2 weeks to order one.

No way I would go tankless. With my basic no-electronics gas water heater I still have hot water when the power goes out!
posted by monopas at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2016

We got a Bradford White brand heater. Not a whole lot of trouble with it. They are only sold by plumbing contractors.

One thing that Bradford White does is extensive quality control (NOT quality assurance) checking on their products and pricing/guarantees to match. Based on my experience, if you buy a Bradford White heater with a 15-year warranty, it will last exactly 15 years and not a day more, and will be about twice as expensive as a 7-year warranted heater. This warranty does not include the regulator/thermostat, which are Honeywell OEM parts.

They're made in the US if that's important to you; parts are generally not available by local retail channels if you're into the whole DIY thing, but are available at some plumbing wholesale and web stores. Do the maintenance and you should be good.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:53 PM on July 21, 2016

I bought a Rheem hybrid (electric/heat pump) water heater. Not sure if they are still making them, but there are several on the market. It's in my garage, works fantastic, and apparently saves us a few hundred bucks a year compared to a regular electric water heater. The only downside is that it's a bit noisy, so it can't go inside a living space (although I've heard there are other heat pump models that are a great deal quieter). It's worth looking into.

Oh, I just now saw the 36" requirement. This type of water heater probably won't work for you in that case.
posted by bennett being thrown at 2:35 PM on July 21, 2016

Re monopas's reply above:

Also, depending on where you live, the code requirements can be very strict. In my area, it really isn't practical to DIY water heater replacement/installation, because if you ever want to sell your house, the code requirements are pretty stringent and the installation must be inspected. And getting a replacement that will fit is critical. We did have to get a 60 gallon water heater because that is the minimum here for a 4-bedroom house. We didn't have a lot of choices because we wanted a gas water heater that would still provide hot water during a power outage. That's why we ultimately replaced the Rheem with another Rheem,

Having grown up with a father who could do almost any DIY (he was a professional electrician), it was a shock to me that this was not something we could just do ourselves. And I was also in utter sticker-shock over the cost. Fortunately, the installer was a consummate professional and he stuck to the estimate even though there was more work involved than could be predicted. We did do everything we could to make it easy to access the space - in the garage, thankfully. Apparently, there are people who expect the installers to somehow maneuver a 300 pound appliance over piles of junk in their garages.
posted by Altomentis at 12:40 PM on July 22, 2016

A guy I work with who has been a facilities manager for a huge number of buildings for decades, and is a plumber, recommended Whirlpool and A O Smith for standard water heaters.
posted by sepviva at 1:31 PM on July 22, 2016

Not all tankless heaters suck. The problem with some is that they require a minimum flow before they will turn on. (They are set up that way because they don't have staged heating elements, so turning on with too low a water flow will overheat the water and/or unit) Otherwise, they are no different than a tank-type in terms of how long it takes to get hot water, assuming the piping is otherwise the same.

If there is someplace where there is a long run from the main unit of either type that is causing objectionably long wait times for hot water, the best solution is to spend the $100-$150 on a small electric tankless unit at the point of use. A 120V unit is fine for something like a kitchen sink or dishwasher.

Going tankless is good for your energy bills and your environmental impact. Keeping 50 gallons of water hot for hours between uses is not energy efficient, even with good insulation. The other good option is a heat pump tank heater. They use significantly less energy than normal tank heaters, which offsets the energy wasted by having a big tank of hot water constantly losing heat to the environment.They are especially fantastic if you have a use for the cold air they exhaust into the room.
posted by wierdo at 4:21 PM on July 23, 2016

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