A.O. Smith Water Heaters Review

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You can’t talk water heaters without mentioning A.O. Smith. This company is responsible for a large percentage of the innovations that have made modern water heaters so efficient. In addition, they have expanded to become leaders in electric, gas, tankless, and even solar water heaters.

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It would take a small book to review all of A.O. Smith’s top quality models, so instead, we’ll give you a good overview of the product lines and a comparison between some of the best from each type of water heater.

About A.O. Smith

As with some of the most famous success stories, the company that’s now synonymous with water heaters had very humble beginnings. Founded by Charles Jeremiah Smith in 1874 as a single-person hardware solutions shop, this small business quickly expanded to include three sons and was best known for manufacturing metal components for baby carriages.

The third son to join was Arthur Oliver Smith. He took the company to new heights when he developed a lightweight steel car frame that drew the attention (and business) of major car companies such as Ford and Cadillac. These innovations led to the unveiling of the Mechanical Marvel, the first automated frame production line in 1921 by Arthur’s son Lloyd Raymond.

In 1936, the engineers of A.O. Smith developed a method for adding glass linings to residential water heaters. Numerous further advances in water heater design followed, and the company began to expand to Canada, Europe, and China.

The company sold its automotive branch in 1997 and electric motor branch in 2011, replacing them with mergers of major water heater and treatment companies, making them a global leader in both industries – without ever throwing away the integrity and innovation that began nearly 150 years prior.

Gas and Propane

AO Smith gas water heaterGas heaters make up the largest group of heaters, and there are several quality lines to choose from. A.O. Smith divides their gas (and propane) heaters into three ProLine tiers. The third tier, ProLine XE, contains several product lines, while the other tiers contain only one line each.

Features

A.O. Smith strives to maximise efficiency and quality. As a result, all of their gas heaters have LEED ratings, and many are ENERGY STAR certified. All have either low NOx or ultra-low NOx emissions and four different venting options are available.

Polaris

When you need a seemingly endless supply of hot water, it doesn’t get much better than the Polaris line. The entire line is high efficiency with a high recovery rate, plus an ultra-quiet design that might make you forget it’s running.

ProLine and ProLine Master

These lines feature models designed for both home and mobile home use. They are all high recovery, with efficiency ratings of 80 percent or higher on some models. Many are also ENERGY STAR-certified. Several other lines fall under a third ProLine tier, the ProLine XE.

Signature

Sold exclusively at Lowes, the A.O. Smith Signature series consist of various Signature Select and Signature Premier water heaters for residential use. While not as energy efficient as some of the manufacturer’s other series, the Signature line is one of the best values in home water heaters sold by a big box store.

Vertex

The pinnacle of gas heaters, the entire Vertex line is ENERGY STAR rated and feature high thermal efficiency and recovery rates.

Best A.O. Smith Gas Water Heaters

IMAGE DETAILS
  • Capacity: 50-gallon
  • Recovery: 45 GPH
  • Energy Factor: 0.72
  • Warranty: 6-year
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  • Capacity: 50-gallon
  • Recovery: 43 GPH
  • Energy Factor: 0.62
  • Warranty: 6-year
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  • Capacity: 40-gallon
  • Recovery: 41 GPH
  • Energy Factor: 0.62
  • Warranty: 6-year
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Electric

AO Smith electric water heaterAs with the gas models, electric water heaters are available in three tiers, with the ProLine XE being subdivided into two lines.

Features

Using environmentally friendly materials, A.O. Smith’s electric water heaters are all LEED certified and offer superior efficiency to older models. Their ability to draw power from outlets allows for tiny point-of-use models that can fit into tight spaces.

ProLine and ProLine Master

The lowest tiers of electric water heater are essentially the same as their gas counterparts. All models have above-average or better efficiency. Sizes range greatly, with the smallest tanks only holding a few gallons.

ProLine XE

The main XE line features digital displays and ultra high efficiency. The mid-sized tanks make them great for apartment use and single-family homes.

Signature

As with the gas versions, the Signature series is sold exclusively at Lowes as of 2017. If you’re on a budget yet still want the high efficiency and durability that A.O. Smith is known for, be sure to consider this line.

Voltex

The electric equivalent of the Vertex line, these models are all ENERGY STAR compliant. What makes them especially appealing is the hybrid design. This allows the Voltex to double as a dehumidifier, pulling excess moisture from the air to reduce water requirements and  running costs.

Best A.O. Smith Electric Water Heaters

IMAGE DETAILS
  • Capacity: 50-gallon
  • Recovery: 25.3 GPH
  • Energy Factor: 0.95
  • Elements: 2 x 5,500W
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  • Capacity: 50-gallon
  • Recovery: 25.0 GPH
  • Energy Factor: 0.95
  • Elements: 2 x 5,500W
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  • Capacity: 50-gallon
  • Recovery: 20.7 GPH
  • Energy Factor: 0.93
  • Elements: 2 x 4,500W
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Tankless

AO Smith tankless water heaterSeveral tankless models are available for gas and propane usage. As with all A.O. Smith gas models, these are low NOx or ultra-low NOx for improved environmental safety.

Features

Tankless systems fit into much smaller spaces and can provide hot water on-demand. Most models offer remote control, and some of the newest models have digital displays.

Gas and Propane

Many of the models which are non-hybrid feature both ENERGY STAR and LEED certifications. Those models are all rated as ultra-low NOx, while the remaining models are rated as low NOx. In all cases, these tankless models are highly efficient.

Hybrid Gas/Propane

Designed to be fueled by either gas or propane, these models can be used with a wide range of domestic systems. They are generally non-condensing and have a high efficiency level.

Best A.O. Smith Tankless Water Heaters

IMAGE DETAILS
  • 9.0 GPM
  • Max BTU: 199000
  • Energy Factor: 0.93
  • Warranty: 15-year
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  • 8.0 GPM
  • Max BTU: 180000
  • Energy Factor: 0.95
  • Warranty: 15-year
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  • 8.0 GPM
  • Max BTU: 190000
  • Energy Factor: 0.8
  • Warranty: 15-year
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Solar

The list of water heaters could not be called complete without mentioning the Cirrex solar system. Not only are these heaters extremely efficient and great for the environment, but they come with OG-300 certification, meaning they’re eligible federal tax breaks and rebates in several states.

Owning this system may reduce heating costs by as much as 70 percent, meaning they’re a great choice for those on tighter budgets.

A.O. Smith Water Heater Parts

As with all water heaters, those by A.O. Smith will require maintenance and may need to have parts replaced over time. Some of the most commonly replaced parts are screw-in elements, gas thermostats, pilot assemblies, thermocouples, burners, valves, and anode rods.

 
A few parts may need replaced less often, such as flu dampers, heat exchangers, and temperature controls. Note that gas water heaters will generally have more parts to maintain than electric. If you need specific part numbers, your A.O. Smith user manual will have that information.

A.O. Smith Contact Info

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Comments

  1. **Stay away from AO Smith water heaters!*
    – Purchased Model #GCNH40 200 in November 2014. I had to replace the pilot assembly three years later – a $200 repair.
    – Today – December 17, 2018 – the burner assembly burst. AO Smith cannot get one of their contracted service providers out to fix my water heater for over a week.
    – Every plumber I’ve talked with has mentioned the problems and issues AO Smith is having with their water heaters, a recall, and that they’re overwhelmed.
    – I have talked with the AO Smith recall department 8x this evening. Long story short: they can’t do anything. They can’t get a part to me for over a day; their only service provider in my area doesn’t know when he can schedule a visit – he says for at leat 6-7 days. Other service providers will charge me an out-of-area charge to travel out of their local area.
    – One service provider has the needed part but will charge $395 because I am slightly out of his service area. First, AO Smith said they would cover this charge. When I pressed for confirmation, they said they would not. AO Smith should just agree to pay this extra charge
    and the problem would then be resolved tomorrow.
    – As I cannot get an answer, I have no choice but to hire a reliable local plumber to install an entirely new water heater. $1300-$1500 out of pocket.
    DO NOT BUY AO SMITH WATER HEATERS – they are having recall issues, technical issues, and the people in their service departments have no ability to make decisions that can help and resolve.

    Reply
    • Wow, I’m sorry for the ordeal you’ve been through. That’s definitely not my experience with AO Smith in the past but it does bring up the point that no brand is without their problems. Hopefully they’ll end up getting you taken care of.

      Reply
      • I bought a AO Smith 40 gal 9yr Water heater last Friday. It howls when it cycles enough to wake the house. I had it professionally installed by the Lowe’s pro. What a nightmare AO Smith warranty/service is a joke. They told me it’s long way from the factory to Utah something has Just came loose. They have not taken care of me on this issue at all. I would not recommend this brand

        Reply
    • Any product purchased at Lowe’s is inferior to the original product

      Its that simple

      You get what you pay for

      Reply
      • How is it that it’s a AO Smith, made all the same regardless where you purchase? Buy a Honda at a Chevy dealer, it’s stilla Honda?

        Reply
  2. Our AO Smith is 27 years old & it’s finally reached its end of life. Occasional moisture can be seen around the bottom & there’s slight rust. It’s a 40 gallon natural gas from 1992. We’re interested in replacing with the same brand but we’ll look into recalls involving Jessica’s issues before buying another AO Smith.

    Reply
    • NOTHING made today is going to last 27 years, regardless of who makes it. It’s no longer about quality, it’s about money, and there’s no money to be made making something that will last 27 years. My sister’s freezer is 50 years old and still running; I bought a small chest freezer and it lasted 2 years and 2 months. I replaced my stove hood (original equipment, house built in 1958) last month, and I’ll probably be lucky if its replacement lasts 60 MONTHS. Sign me Cynical and really disappointed in the quality of items manufactured in the U.S.A. We used to make the best in the world. Ancient history, that.

      Reply
      • I completely agree that there’s no incentive for many types of manufacturers to make something that lasts for decades. Just make it good enough where you’ll get a repeat buyer. Note that I’m not singling out A.O. Smith since I believe they’re one of the better brands.

        Reply
      • You can thank all the American companies that are making their products in China.
        The Chinese will cut corners and cheat on specifications given the opportunity. They will use inferior materials and do shoddy workmanship if it’ll put a nickel in their pockets.
        Those still saying “Made in USA” often source their parts offshore, but assemble the finished product here. Still causes problems, unless they have a really good incoming QC dept..
        Another thing is that the products are designed so that a small, but essential, part/assembly will fail rather soon. That part is priced so high that the consumer will say “screw that” and just buy a new item for a few bucks more. All planned to gouge your financial eyeballs out.

        Reply
    • So after Just 2 years, my AO Smith tankless water heater went to crap. after a lot of yelling, they agreed to replace the unit but not the $600 to install it. Fast forward 1 month and guess what? The new unit is now shot and AO Smith is saying I will have to pay to have it fixed or replaced. I’ve never had an issue in any house with any water heater and now with this brand, all I’ve had is head aches. I will never again have a house built with this brand of water heater. Poor quality and even worse customer service.

      Reply
  3. Built a house and have been living in it for about 3 years now. We have an AO Smith water heater and noticed it was leaking. My wife has tried calling because it is under warranty but has yet to get someone on the phone to get the issue fixed. She finally filled out the information online and has a case number. Which does not do us any good because we still can’t get anyone on the phone. As of this morning, we have no water heater and I have been listening to music for 15 minutes waiting to speak to someone to get this resolved. I’m sure some of their products are great, but I would stay away because their customer service is horrible. Well, let me rephrase that, their customer service seems to be non-existent.

    Reply
  4. I purchased a life time warranty A.O. Smith hot water heater in 1994. It started leaking in February 2018. 24 years aur our water system had already took 3 heaters out of service. I called the company and was able to get full price replacement refund. I still cannot believe I got 24 years service out of it and NO trouble with refund.

    Reply
  5. This is by far the worst heater we have ever purchased! Stay away from AO Smith heaters at all costs. Our heater began giving us problems within six months of purchase. We did everything we could to fix the water heater andhad repairs of over $600. We get absolutely no support from the company they are the worst in customer service. Do not buy this heater at any cost!

    Reply
  6. Bought a house with a one year old AO Smith water heater in 2015. Last night the tank blew out. No problem, still under the 6 year warranty, right? Wrong. The warranty only covers the original purchaser. Not cool. You either stand by your product or you don’t. Will be looking elsewhere for a replacement.

    Reply
  7. Update to a comment left earlier week:

    AO Smith did eventually agree to cover my failed unit and gave me a redemption code. Props for that, at least. That said, the number for a local dealer they gave me was bad and Lowe’s could not order my particular model because it was part of the “Pro” line, so I was left calling around to plumbing supply houses looking for a replacement. The story ended well this time. The new unit is in and working, but I doubt I’ll consider AO Smith if and when I need another one.

    Reply
  8. Model#GCVT50300 – Installed March 16, 2015.
    Unit making a high squeal noise during low pressure hot water usage from five different faucets. Noise coming from inside unit. Heater is under warranty but labor is $400.00 to fix. This doesn’t make sense only 4 years after insulation

    Reply
  9. Steer clear of this brand and all other water heater brands they own.
    I purchased an electric water heater from Lowe’s eight years ago. It has a nine year warranty. There was a problem with the Smart panel. We checked the ohms on each of the elements. We are able to manually set the temperature if we by pass the smart panel. But the smart panel locks the temperature on 150 degrees. Enough to scald a person. They sent us a new smart panel. Same problem , BUT every time you call you get another person. Now, for some reason, they believe that the water heater was not installed up to the National Electric Code (after eight years). In order to get warranty, we have to PROVE is is installed up to code by taking photos or having someone inspect it. Because we said we would not do this, they said we no longer have a warranty on the water heater. So I can continue to use the panel and have scalding water which is dangerous especially for small children and the elderly, or I can by pass this feature because they won’t warranty their product.
    I will never own another A O Smith product if I have a choice for some other brand.
    Some of the other brands That they own are American, Whirlpool, State, John Wood, GSW,Hague Quality, Aquasana, Lochinvar, Reliant, US Craftmaster, Takigi and of course A O Smith.
    Their customer service will no longer talk with me about my product unless I can prove my unit was installed up to code ( which it is and has been for the last eight years). Don’t believe that that is true? Call the customer service at 1-877-817-6750 and ask about case 11682111.

    Just saw someone returning a unit to Lowe’s today because it didn’t work. I told him just get a full refund and shop another brand.

    Reply
  10. I had an AO Smith water heater installed less than 2 years ago. It quit working yesterday so I had a plumber from the company who installed it come out today and discovered there was a manufacturing defect that had caused a wire to be burned through. The warranty only covers the part, not labor, so I’m stick shelling out $258 to fix a part that was defective in the first place….on a water heater I spent $1300 to have installed less than 2 years ago. I’m highly disappointed in the poor quality of this water heater and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone

    Reply
    • Me too, almost bought a Rheem, bad reviews now almost bought A O Smith, forget that also. Looking at another company. My old one still working and I bought my house with it in there over 20 years ago and never had a problem.

      Reply
  11. I bought water heater on July 2019 My water heater shut off every day I don’t know what’s going I talked to my plumber he doesn’t understand he told me to talk to customer service please contact me or stop by check my water heater

    Reply
  12. Customer service was a joke! They where no help and told me that everything was my fault . Yet had a Plummer and a electrician install it. My unit went out on New Year’s Eve when I called I was told sorry about your luck there is no one here to help you. WHAT?!?! Out of the five people I talked to not one was helpful or Courteous. I will never use or buy anything from this company again. I know that my opinion doesn’t mean anything to a company this size but I really hope people read this and save yourself the money and time.

    Reply
  13. 2/13/20
    I bought a 40 gal water heater in Dec. I had it installed professionally. It worked a couple days and tripped the circuit breaker. My husband put the circuit breaker back and the water heated up again but when u flush the commode or turn on the water it sounds like a bomb going off. Sometimes you can hear it rumbling when your not using it. This has been going on since before Christmas. It has now tripped circuit breaker 5 times and I have no hot water. I tried to return it to Lowe’s within the first week but they won’t take them back. Lowe’s says you have to contact AO Smith. Well good luck!! I finally got someone and they said it didn’t have a warranty. REALLY I just bought it! After arguing with Customer Service and 3 people later for 45 minutes they told me I had to call one of their repair people and gave me a wo #. They gave me 2 companies. 2/11/20 called first company. He didn’t work on electric but his boss did and he would have him call me back on 2/12/20. No one called. Today2/13/20 I called them. They are not working on repairs anymore their too busy and if they did I would have to PURCHASE the parts from AO Smith because they are not allowed to use AO Smith parts they have in stock ??? So I called the second company I live too far away for their service call. So I have had NO hot water for 4 days. Today I am having someone unhook it and setting it in front of Lowe’s store. I tried to return it within a week of buying it and they wouldn’t take it I can’t get anyone to work on it. A O Smith won’t replace it. Lowe’s is getting it back whether they want it or not!!!!! What a Waste of $450!!!!!

    Reply
  14. I can’t agree more with the customer service complaints! Had an expensive heat pump water heater fail for upper element failure. Had a technician talking to A O Smith Customer Service on the phone and they knew almost nothing about their own product. The CS Rep was reading through an owners’ manual and knew less than the technician I hired. Still under warranty but it has been over a week now and they still haven’t sent the two elements to repair the heater. Needless to say, no hot water. I would NEVER buy from this company again. Customer service is everything when it comes to this type of purchase, and they can’t or won’t respond accurately or quickly. Take my advice and take your business elsewhere. I’m going to post this wherever I can.

    Reply
  15. I thank everyone for the reviews. The large number of complaints is enough to convince me. I will shop for another brand.

    Reply
    • Keep in mind that all brands are going to have some problems and only seeing negative reviews on a site such as this is to be expected. 99% of satisfied AO Smith owners will never mention their positive experience online. While there’s a good chance that many dissatisfied owners will leave a negative review to vent (rightfully so).

      I compare it to a surgery. Even though a surgery has an extremely high success rate, if someone is researching online whether they should go through with the surgery, they will mostly see all the stories of unsuccessful surgery which will make them think the surgery has a very low success rate.

      Reply
  16. We had an AO Smith 55 gallon pro line installed with a tank booster several months ago. It was not right from the get go. The plumber, from a big company, put gobs of pipe dope on the inlet and outlet pipes – I watched some go into the pipes and was concerned, BUT he was the professional plumber I thought. Since then the plumbers have been back four times, the tank booster, clogged with pipe dope, has been removed at my request and – after the last visit – at the kitchen sink we can get 120 degrees; the temperature at which the tank is set.

    However, something is still wrong. In our shower we open the valve to the hottest setting. In our other house we have a 50 gallon tank, also set at 120 degrees – and we cannot use anywhere near the hottest setting. I am concerned, too, with how long hot water will run if we have guests. Have been researching to get some insights. Anyone?

    Reply
  17. Your A. O. Smith “9-year-warranty” water heater may in reality have nothing more than 1-year warranty.

    The first paragraph of the warranty document for my recently purchased A. O. Smith 9-year-warranty water heater says–

    “This warranty is reduced to one year … if the water heater is used to supply more than one dwelling unit.”

    I have own a two-flat with two dwelling units, occupied by a total of five people. My 50-gallon water heater is advertised as serving up to five people. Though five people is within the specs of the water heater, the above loophole nevertheless voids almost 90% of the advertised length of the warranty.

    This loophole probably applies as well to 12-year, 6-year, and 3-year water heaters.

    A. O. Smith is free to define its warranties in any way it wants. But they should be ethical, and should warn prospective purchasers about surprising loopholes like this one.

    Reply
  18. I have had my A.O. Smith water heater since 1999 and have never had a problem with it. Thinking of replacing only because it is over 20 years old. I do have to say, I did not purchase from a big box store (which carry inferior quality items). I bought my water heater through a plumbing company, who also installed it. I am thinking that many of these negative comments are from people who bought their water heater from a big box store.

    Reply
  19. I am highly disappointed in this A.O. Smith water heater. Purchased it Jan. 2018,
    In 2019 the Pilot would not stay lit, they sent a Pilot light Assembly, it worked for a month,
    then they sent a Gas Control Valve, it worked for a few weeks, then made a loud noise and a spark. Now I need to purchase another water heater, I will never buy another AO Smith water heater.

    Reply

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