Quantcast

Who are the best water heater manufacturers?

Help Support Plumbing Forums:

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
In your experience, of all the hot water heater manufacturers who produces the best product and is the easiest to work with and why?

Would love to hear the good, bad and the ugly.

Thanks,

Shilo
 

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
To give a little more background on this question we've been researching which company is the best to work with in terms of product quality, innovation, value, warranty, service and support.

In researching the big three Rheem, A.O. Smith and Bradford White on the BBB we found the following:
  • A.O. Smith has a BBB Rating of A+ with 65 complaints
  • Rheem also has a BBB Rating of A+ but has 262 complaints
  • Bradford White has a BBB Rating of A+ was well and 18 complaints
Do you all feel that one manufacturer is better at tankless and another at hybrids and another storage tank water heaters?

Are there smaller water heater manufacturers that you'd recommend working with?

We'd definitely love any insight based on your experience in the trade.

Thanks very much for taking a few moments to share your thoughts.

Shilo
 

brians356

Active Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2014
Messages
25
Reaction score
1
Location
,
Just a homeowner here. After polling acquaintances owning multiple rental properties for decades, I chose Bradford & White. I've had it only 9 months so no data to share, but no problems as one might expect.
 

breplum

Professional
Professional
Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
657
Reaction score
240
Location
Lafayette, CA
Overall as a contractor with 46 years professional experience (I had one contract wherein we replaced 500 tank water heaters in a housing complex), it comes down to how well our local distributors/wholesalers deal with us and who and how their representatives behave.
Each pro plumber will have had a broad difference of experience and that will skew their opinion.
I only buy from local wholesalers/plumbing supply houses and I consider all the major brands similar because they all now use the crappy electronic controls from either White Rogers or Honeywell, but it is the thermocouples which are not durable and provide so many service calls for pilot assembly replecements.
Tankless for me is a no brainer: Navien NPE series.
I am factory trained on Noritz and Takagi and Rinnai. In semi-retierment, I will no longer touch those brands because I decided to only focus on the brand I liked best.
Top notch tech C/S only to pros. Not very good pay for factory authorized repairs ($75/hr) but as long as I work only close-by, not too much time wasted.
 

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
Just a homeowner here. After polling acquaintances owning multiple rental properties for decades, I chose Bradford & White. I've had it only 9 months so no data to share, but no problems as one might expect.
Thanks a bunch Brian. Appreciate you sharing your insight.
 

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
Overall as a contractor with 46 years professional experience (I had one contract wherein we replaced 500 tank water heaters in a housing complex), it comes down to how well our local distributors/wholesalers deal with us and who and how their representatives behave.
Each pro plumber will have had a broad difference of experience and that will skew their opinion.
I only buy from local wholesalers/plumbing supply houses and I consider all the major brands similar because they all now use the crappy electronic controls from either White Rogers or Honeywell, but it is the thermocouples which are not durable and provide so many service calls for pilot assembly replecements.
Tankless for me is a no brainer: Navien NPE series.
I am factory trained on Noritz and Takagi and Rinnai. In semi-retierment, I will no longer touch those brands because I decided to only focus on the brand I liked best.
Top notch tech C/S only to pros. Not very good pay for factory authorized repairs ($75/hr) but as long as I work only close-by, not too much time wasted.
breplum, that is incredible feedback. Thank you so much. I've heard a lot of folks talk up Rinnai and Takagi, but to hear your perspective on Navien is excellent. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
 

brians356

Active Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2014
Messages
25
Reaction score
1
Location
,
This is one of those simple questions (Which of these three would you choose?) that, curiously, few experienced plumbers want to answer on this forum. Breplum at least explained why - sort of. Otherwise the silence is deafening.
 

havasu

Administrator
Staff member
Admin
Joined
Jan 5, 2010
Messages
9,666
Reaction score
1,450
Location
Southern California,
Many are silent because it is like saying, "what car is better, a Ford or a Chevy?"
I too agree that Navien is the best, but you will lose all your savings when the plumber/computer tech come out for repairs.
I now have a tanked w/h, a B&W
 

Pat the Plumber CIL

Professional
Professional
Joined
Apr 23, 2020
Messages
62
Reaction score
37
Location
Springfield , Il
Bradford White for tank style . American made . State and AO smith have reductions at inlet and outlet and may or may not be made in USA . Also like the screen at the bottom of the combustion chamber . Much larger than the other manufactures . Navien for tankless .
 

Riickk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2019
Messages
186
Reaction score
54
Location
Delaware
I bought a 3-plex in 1979, it had only one, older, gas water heater, 30 gal. Renovated, and kept that heater, not turned on, to temper incoming water temperature to 3 other heaters.
When I sold the property in 2010, that 30gal tank was still there, no leaks.
Local Philadelphia brand: Bradford White
 

Mitchell-DIY-Guy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Messages
238
Reaction score
67
Location
North Carolina
  • A.O. Smith has a BBB Rating of A+ with 65 complaints
  • Rheem also has a BBB Rating of A+ but has 262 complaints
  • Bradford White has a BBB Rating of A+ was well and 18 complaints
Best? Boy is that ever a loaded question. I've had a number of homes, and replaced water heaters in all of them as a homeowner (myself), as water heaters rarely give you a warning, "Hey, I'm about to crap out on you in 30 days, so best to get a replacement now" I've been at the mercy of getting what was available when I needed it..."in stock" as it were.

I've had a large number of brands as well, the most recent being Rheem. In fact, I've at AO Smith and Bradford White as well. I got the Rheem from a wholesaler as it was the best price and it was with the power vent I needed. I installed that in 2015 and never gave me an issue. It was a bit of an upgrade over the prior model in that it had a spark ignition, not a standing pilot. Before that, a Westinghose atmospheric vent at another home, in 2009, and that was a "5-Year" water heater, and it too, never gave a problem. In fact, all the water heaters I've had that have failed have done so LONG after the warranty period, thus little to complain about. I have never had a condensing model.

I did own a tankless, but not for domestic hot water but to power a heated driveway. The unit I bought for that was a Takagi TK3 199,000 BTU unit, because at that time (2009) it was the ONLY tankless manufacturer that certified their unit for circulating. All the other manufacturers clearly voided any warranty for circulating systems; plenty of folks were selling and using tankless for radiant heat systems and as soon as they did that, there was no warranty. That Takagi was still in the house used for the snowmelt system when I sold the home in 2019. Never gave any issue. It was not a condensing unit either. BTW, when snowmelt system is running, it was not uncommon for the tankless to be going at 100% velocity, (full flow and full flame) for 12-24 hours at a time.

Where I live now in NC, the most popular tankless are Rinnai. The builders seem to use State brand tank heaters. The builders even put in electric when there is gas available. (makes not a whit of sense other than to demonstrate how thrifty they are). With the former that may have much to do with local distribution and availability. With the latter, it has to do with the plumber's deals with the manufacturers. There's a Lennar subdivision of 300+ homes going in near me, and a savings of $100 on a water heater is an additional $30,000 profit.

"The Best" means different things to different people. A builder's greatest concern (and thus the plumber that subs for the builder) is to be the lowest price, and have no call backs during the home's warranty period. They also demand service and availability, and often will push that off on the distributor. A homeowner wants to balance price with longevity. If you buy a 10-year water heater, you sure as heck want it to last at least that long. I've had good luck with that, others have not. One problem with one branded water heater will taint you for life on the brand. Ditto with customer support that isn't; that is, squirming out of serving you, busy lines, unresponsive, etc. Nothing is more frustrating to a homeowner than trying to "get through".

A couple of pros have weighed in, and if they are changing thermocouples or heating elements regularly on one brand or another, they will, rightfully so, quickly form an opinion of the overall brand quality. Manufacturers are always changing the parts and sources for parts trying to make improvements or save manufacturing costs. Sometimes those changes backfire on them, and there can be a recall, or a slew of warranty calls. Nothing will taint a brand faster in the eyes of a pro than callbacks for the same thing, caused by a manufacturing change. Onto the next brand...!!!
 

brians356

Active Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2014
Messages
25
Reaction score
1
Location
,
The one I replaced last summer, a gas Rheem tanker, was in this house when I purchased it a few years ago. Let's see, that was in ... 1988. So 31 + ? years. It was probably at least 5 years old at that time. But to think a Rheem or any brand you buy today is somehow the same as the same brand made 35 years ago is, well, silly. Still, I expect my B&W to last longer than its warranty ... and my warranty.
 

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
Just a homeowner here. After polling acquaintances owning multiple rental properties for decades, I chose Bradford & White. I've had it only 9 months so no data to share, but no problems as one might expect.
Thanks Brian. So, an interesting discovery I had this weekend when reading some of the warranties from the big three was that only Bradford White would honor the warranty during a transfer of ownership.
 

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
Many are silent because it is like saying, "what car is better, a Ford or a Chevy?"
I too agree that Navien is the best, but you will lose all your savings when the plumber/computer tech come out for repairs.
I now have a tanked w/h, a B&W
Thanks Havasu. That's exactly what I was curious about. Are they effectively all of the same or is one notoriously better or worse. I will say that reading the warranties of each they are all similar, with the exception of Bradford White who would extend the warranty under a transfer of ownership scenario. I have to say that I was pretty amazed at how unfriendly the warranties were themselves to the consumer.
 

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
This is one of those simple questions (Which of these three would you choose?) that, curiously, few experienced plumbers want to answer on this forum. Breplum at least explained why - sort of. Otherwise the silence is deafening.
Ha, totally. Nice to see a little more activity now.
 

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
Bradford White for tank style . American made . State and AO smith have reductions at inlet and outlet and may or may not be made in USA . Also like the screen at the bottom of the combustion chamber . Much larger than the other manufactures . Navien for tankless .
Thanks Pat. That's great feedback and seems like several folks are tending to agree with you on this.
 

zwell

Active Member
Sponsor
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
34
Reaction score
2
Location
Seattle
I bought a 3-plex in 1979, it had only one, older, gas water heater, 30 gal. Renovated, and kept that heater, not turned on, to temper incoming water temperature to 3 other heaters.
When I sold the property in 2010, that 30gal tank was still there, no leaks.
Local Philadelphia brand: Bradford White
Thanks Riickk, yeah, people seem to be favoring Bradford White. Appreciate the input.
 
Top