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Who are the best water heater manufacturers?

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zwell

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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...!!!
Mitchell, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective. Totally agree that brand perceptions are formed based on positive or negative experiences. If a brand has a run of failures due to a failed component that definitely puts them in a tricky situation. Ultimately, the brand needs to have a long view and recognize that if they take care of everyone involved in those situations that they can do more to strengthen their position in the market.
 

wood4d

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Late on this but my helper and I both have rinnais. On tankless I do rinnai if on outside wall and navien if its not.
 

Jamesplumbing06

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So how many manufactures do we as a community believe there are? I know of 5 that each have 10 different brands come off assembly line.

1. Consumer sets the standard for quality. If the customer will buy it send it on down the line.
2. National guidelines and requirements from government agencies are minimum Safety standards. These standards drives the quality. What manufacture of anything Will create an item at better quality and more expense without government or consumer demand?
3. if left solely to those 5 manufactures choices. They would give you 5 gallon bucket quality at a golden bucket price. It’s buisness. Why create better quality when your customer is quite, and paying the price?
4. At box stores. The standard tanks with standard warranties are on top shelves. While the More expensive ones are on bottom. I call this trickery. You can’t find help to pull the cheap one. So you pay $100 extra because that heater is on floor ready to go And momma at home crying about hot water. Just to start reading on booklet later and finding out the only thing “better” with this heater is an extra anode rod and a dielectric union kit. Same tank. Same quality parts.
5. new construction guys can not give you a true answer. They don’t go back daily removing old water heater brands. They install the new one. Only ever install new. Some of the new guys won’t even ever turn it on. Trim out crew does. I have removed every brand in every age range. For 23 years in service. I have only found 5 different addresses on serial badges.


navien is not gonna make a better tank unless some one pays for it. And trust me. They make several different brands. But navien can only be purchased at a plumbing supply house. Any yahoo can purchase it. But only found at that plumbing supply house. They create demand by having customers watch the plumbing trucks in town carrya big box in bed of truck that says. NAVIEN . So people say. What’s a nevien. They search it. Find out only plumbers can buy this at this secret store down that back alley. The plumber driving the truck doesn’t pay for it. His boss sitting behind desk making buisness deals enjoying the kick back incentives from navien.

no one company builds a better tank. Some have better contractor kick backs. Some have better colors on outer shell. They are all the same. 1 might be out west that I haven’t heard of. But they will be minimum quality required to last 6 years in your Regional water quality. And the only reason it has to last 6 years. The consumer won’t buy a 3 year and can’t afford a 9 year.
 
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