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Who’s the Best Water Heater Manufacturer?

There are two ways to approach the discussion of who makes the best water heater. The first method is to look at the market shares of the various manufacturers, but Consumer Reports suggests that the most practical method is to look for the company that offers a product that meets your particular needs more closely. This could mean the consideration of several points, including the tank size, heater type, support level, and more. Buying from the largest manufacturer may typically give you a broader warranty, but purchasing a unit that matches your family size and efficiency goals can provide you with more savings over time.

Largest Water Heater Manufacturers

By market share, the water heater industry is dominated by a handful of brands.

#1 – AO Smith is the largest manufacturer, and recent acquisitions of other companies have expanded their reach even farther.

#2 – Rheem Corporation is a relatively close second and widely respected throughout the United States and abroad.

#3 – Bradford White Corporation rounds out the top 3 and has an extensive market share and the distinction of being available only from authorized dealers, installers and wholesalers.

The list of major manufacturers does not end with the top 3, and includes a number of well-known companies, including:

  • American Standard – Produces residential and commercial water heaters.
  • Bosch – Electric, gas and solar waters heaters, as well as mini-tank systems
  • General Electric – Manufactures electric water heaters
  • Reliance Water Heater Company – Sells a variety of types, distributed by Ace Hardware.
  • Rinnai – Top selling brand of tankless water heaters in the US.
  • Rudd Company – Water heaters of all types, distributed through authorized dealers and installers.
  • Sears Kenmore – Makes gas and electric water heaters and heating pumps
  • State Water Heater – Electric, gas and solar water heaters
  • Steibel Eltron – Specializes in small, tankless and water pump systems, respectively

Notable foreign manufacturers include the Giant Company, a Canadian manufacturer recognized as the first to implement a 3 element heating system, and the Swedish Nibe company, which makes water heaters and heating pumps.

Top Rated Water Heater Manufacturers

Consumer Reports offers a slightly altered list of top rated manufacturers based on sales, performance and variety. Their top 5 are:

  1. AO Smith
  2. General Electric
  3. Kenmore
  4. Rheem
  5. Whirlpool (a subsidiary of AO Smith).

On the other hand, Consumer reports also recommends putting a little more research and planning into your purchase, and offers some valuable tips for selecting a unit, as we will discuss in the following section.

Tips for Buying Efficiently

Selecting a new water heater requires bit of thought and planning. Among the many factors that need to be considered are:

Tank type
The most commonly used types of water heaters are:  Traditional storage tank units, tankless units, heat pumps, solar water heaters and condensing units.

Calculate the peak usage
Buying a tank that is too small will leave family members frustrated at the lack of hot water, and getting a tank that is too large simply uses unnecessary energy to heat water that is never needed.

Product warranty
A longer warranty is usually better, and the best warranties are typically available from the companies with the largest market share.

Brass vs. plastic drains
Plastic tends to be less expensive, but brass is longer lasting and more easily replaced.

Glass-lined tanks
Designed for a reduction in corrosion and buildup inside the tank.

Digital displays
This can help you monitor the energy usage of your water heater and help you fine-tune the settings for maximum performance.

Gas, Electric, or Solar

In some cases, the fuel source of your water heater will depend on the existing design of the home, but changing from electric to gas is not especially expensive aside from the need for a licensed contractor to perform the conversion in many locations. Solar water heaters are great, but they often work better as a secondary system, heating the water or keeping it hot without eliminating the availability of water heated by gas or electric. Even a small solar water heater can cut your annual energy costs dramatically (depending on your climate) and in some cases, larger systems make gas or electric unnecessary.

Performance vs. Popularity

Taking the factors above into account, you may discover that the best brand for your home is not the leading brand by market share. The length of warranty outweighs, for example, the additional cost of anti-corrosion devices, and the size of the tank is more important than factors such as plastic drain fittings. We all have different water usage requirements, and you will have to do the calculations and comparisons to find the best water heater for your needs.