Buyers Guide: The Best Electric Water Heater Brands

Electric water heaters are a popular choice as electricity is one of the most readily available power sources in the US. If you’re in need of a new water heater, you probably haven’t changed yours for a good few years, and you will find they have upgraded in technology and energy efficiency. Here is a quick guide to choosing the right brand of electric water heater without breaking the bank.

Choosing an Electric Water Heater Brand 

Choosing an electric water heater can be tough with so many on the market to go through. You’ll find you hear the same brand names over and over, and it can be challenging to decipher why one is better than the other. Often it is less about the brands themselves and more about which brand is right for your needs. Here are a few considerations to take into account.

Capacity

The first thing to consider is your usage habits. In your household, what needs hot water and how often is it used. If you have a dishwasher, washing machine, and several bathrooms that all seem to be pumping out hot water in the first few hours of the day, you’re going to need something with quite a considerable capacity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a water heater with a huge tank though.

When buying a tank water heater, you want to think about the FHR or First-Hour Rating. With a tankless water heater, you’re looking for the GPM or Gallons Per Minute. These ratings will give you an understanding of how much hot water can be produced over a given time. If you do not have a need for great amounts of water, you only need a small rating, otherwise, it will be hugely inefficient. However, if you have a big family and a lot of demand, higher ratings are more ideal.

Type

When looking through the brand of water heaters, you need to think about what they have on offer in their range. There are three main types of water heaters: tankless, storage tank, and heat pump. A storage tank heater heats a large amount of water and stores it in a tank whereas a tankless heater simply heats the water as it comes out instantaneously and on-demand.

A heat pump water tank captures heat from the air and heats the water with this. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and preferred application scenarios, however, you first need to consider whether the brand you desire carries the type you want.

For example, if you are not that worried about energy efficiency and would rather simply retrofit your old tank system, EcoSmart would not be the right brand for you as they focus on energy efficiency and only make tankless water heaters.

Warranty

The warranty that a brand offers will often determine the level of quality you are receiving. A brand that offers a lifetime warranty is far less likely to break in the first year than one with a very limited warranty. While most water heaters come with warranties from 3-12 years, you will find, however, that the longer warranties tend to cost you a bit more.

Equally, don’t just take the warranty at face value. Although the warranty may be long, often it is ‘limited’ which means it excludes certain issues. Make sure to check this out first as it may be an indication of future flaws in the system. Also, have a look at customer reviews to see how well the brands honor their warranties in the face of dispute.

Energy Efficiency

Some brands put a real emphasis on energy efficiency and eco-friendliness. These tend to be brands that offer better efficiency ratings. A shortcut to seeing whether a brand is offering energy efficient products is to look for the Energy Star seal as it certifies that they are energy efficient.

A water heater brand can achieve this by meeting the criteria for Energy factor (an old way of measuring efficiency), Universal Energy Factor (the new way of measuring efficiency), standby loss (the amount of heat lost from the water heater while in use, such as that through pipes) or Thermal Efficiency. Often you will also see brands display the percentage of efficiency that a heater has, such that a water heater that is 95% efficient only fails to convert 5% of its energy to heat.

Durability

When considering durability, you can look for customer reviews to see how well each brand fares in their longevity. Often you’ll find reviews that discuss the lifetime of the internal parts and how easy it is to replace them as well.

You can also look for features that improve longevity. For example, glass lined water heaters are protected from erosion caused by rust due. Equally, some waters heaters contain anti-scaling devices that prevent the buildup of limescale residue inside the water heater, even in hard water areas.

Maintaining Electric Water Heaters 

Maintaining an electric water heater is important to improve its longevity. The first way to do this is to keep it at a slightly lower temperature. When kept at a high temperature, it forces the water heater into overdrive, which is hard on the components inside.

You need to check your temperature and pressure on a yearly basis at the very least. This is pretty simple to do; simply discharge the valve a couple of times. If water is coming out the valve or the valve won’t go back to its original position, then you have an issue, and you may need a plumber.

Insulation is key to ensuring that you get the most efficiency from your water tank, but also keep it in good condition. Insulating both the tank, if you have one, and the pipes are important. Insulating the tank prevents standby loss while insulating the pipes prevents heat loss as well as the pipes freezing up in the colder months. It is even important to insulate the cold pipe as it can be subject to condensation in the summer.

Take a look at the anode rod. This rod is probably one of the most important indicators of durability. This rod is used to prevent the tank from rusting and filling up with deposits. You need to take out the rod and see what state it is in. If it is less than half an inch thick or it is covered in calcium deposits, it needs to be replaced.

Lastly, drain your tank every year. Draining it releases any sediment and deposits that come from your well or your main water supply. Drain the tank into a bucket and then flush it with the cold water supply. Keep doing this until the water drains clear.

A Look at the Major Players

Each of the brands available on the market has their own pros and cons. Their underlying principles lead them to be specialists in different areas. Here’s a quick guide to what you can expect from each brand.

A.O. Smith

Producing both residential and commercial water heaters and boilers, A.O.Smith is one of the leading brands globally. Founded in 1874 in Wisconsin, A.O.Smith now has factories and offices worldwide.

In terms of electric water heaters, A.O.Smith offers both tank and tankless water heaters as well as solar-powered electric water heaters.

A.O. Smith water heaters feature some of the most innovative technology in order to ensure precision in performance and exceptional durability. Their patented Blue Diamond glass lined tanks provide twice the protection from corrosion than regular glass implemented by other brands. The CoreGard anode rod provides exceptional corrosion protection, with some models utilizing two rods and therefore having longer warranties. Their water heaters also implement a self-cleaning system called Dynaclean, which prevents the buildup of sediment and keeps the water heater functioning longer. Their models also include brass valves which are far more durable than traditional valves.

Not only is A.O. Smith renowned for durability, they are also well known for their energy efficiency. The technology in their electric heaters can reduce energy bills by up to 70%. The technology used to do this is cutting edge in the water heating world and shows their level of innovation.

Reliance

Reliance is actually a subsidiary of A.O.Smith and is one of the many names that they trade under. In this breath, Reliance is subject to the same innovation that A.O.Smith has to offer. Reliance also offers both electric tank water heaters and tankless water heaters but mainly serves the residential market.

Reliance also has a good reputation for durability. Their tanks include a self-cleaning function which helps to prevent the build-up of sediment inside the tank, lengthening its lifespan. Their tanks also come with their patented Blue Steel glass lining which works to prevent corrosion and is twice as effective as regular glass lined tanks. Some customers have reported having their Reliance water heaters for over 20 years due to their high durability.

Working to improve safety, Reliance water heaters come with a thermal cut-off. This stops the cut of power to the water heater in the event that the temperature becomes too high. It prevents damage to the internal components as well as reducing the risk of fire.

That said, the installation of Reliance electric water heaters is a little bit tricky, with some customers reportedly having a difficult time when putting them in. With this in mind, you may find yourself needing professional help to install these models.

American Standard Water Heaters

American Standard offers electric water heaters for commercial and residential use, but tend to focus more on larger tanks for commercial application. The company is based in California and is one of the most widely recognized brands across the country.

With an eye on energy efficiency, all American Standard tank-style electric water heaters come fully insulated with non-CFC foam insulation and meet all federal and state energy efficiency regulations.

In terms of durability, their electric tank-style water heaters have tanks made from heavy gauge steel which is lined with DURA-GLAS, their patented glass lining that helps to prevent against corrosion of the tank. The tanks also come with internal cleaning to prevent sediment from sticking to the tank and causing damage. This helps to give the tank a longer lifetime. The warranty of their products runs as a 6 or 12-year limited warranty, demonstrating the longevity of their products.

American Standard tanks also come with self-modulating systems which stop the temperature from fluctuating while in use. It also helps these water heaters to be up to 96% fuel efficient as it stops them from using more electricity than they actually need.

Bosch

Bosch was founded in Germany where its headquarters are still based. They are known for their expertise in a number of technology disciplines, from automotive to electronics. Bosch is now one of the most reputable engineering companies in over 60 countries across the world.

Bosch water heaters are known for being easy to use and adaptable to your personal needs. The brand has a wide range of sizes for electric water heaters and offers both tank and tankless options.  They are compact in size to be more easily accommodatable at home while being easy-to-install and simple to use due to their digital controls. Moreover, their whole range of water heaters is extremely affordable and cost-effective, especially on account of their durability.

Bosch also prides itself on its energy efficiency, with a keen eye on looking to preserve the environment. With this in mind, Bosch electric water heaters use up less fuel, reducing energy bills and reducing the strain on the environment, while not compromising comfort in the home.

In terms of longevity, Bosch water heaters are expected to last for at least two decades within a regular family home.

Stiebel Eltron

Steibel Eltron has been designing tankless water heaters for over 90 years. They were the pioneers of tankless electric water heating and have spent their time improving it since then. They pride themselves on engineering and manufacturing excellence and offer both whole house and point of use tankless electric water heaters.

The very dedication to tankless designs is due to their focus on energy efficiency and providing cost savings to customers. When tankless water heaters are used instead of tanks, around 10-20% of the electricity is saved. With their heaters being highly efficient, Stiebel Eltron’s electric water heaters reduce the amount of fuel that is consumed, saving money on household bills.

The company is also known for its extensive customer service. When families are looking to purchase a new water heater, Stiebel Eltron representatives are more than happy to help with sizing and assisting in choosing the correct model for your household needs to ensure maximum comfort and energy efficiency.

Stiebel Eltron has one of the most diverse ranges of residential electric tankless water heaters on the market, which enables you to ensure you are putting the correct piece of equipment into your home.

EcoSmart

EcoSmart makes it their mission to manufacture and distribute ecologically friendly water heaters to provide efficient and economical options to consumers while also helping to reduce the carbon footprints of those consumers.

By focusing on tankless technology, EcoSmart already limits their range to models which reduce the demand for electricity and therefore energy bills. This prevents both standby-loss and cycling loss of heat, which increases energy efficiency. Coupled with this, EcoSmart has designed a special self-modulating technology in the electric water heaters. This technology works via a Flow Sensor which monitors the energy consumption and modulates it to meet the hot water demand. This can lead to up to 50% savings on your hot water bills.

In terms of maintenance, EcoSmart recognizes the high levels of waste that occur when a water heater has to be replaced, as the parts are unreachable for repair. Customers can order parts through their website and can replace them very easily. For example, the heating element simply screws out and can be replaced in minutes.

Their customer service is also very highly revered by customers who have bought this product. EcoSmart is prepared to help with any installation issues of faults a customer may be experiencing. Their service is extremely responsive, offering help to both average homeowners and plumbers.

Atmor Heaters

Having been around for 30 years, Atmor Heaters have managed to push themselves to the frontline of the tankless water heater world, selling over 2 million water heaters worldwide.

One of the interesting features that Atmor Heaters install in their tankless electric water heaters is water splash protection. An on-demand water heater needs to be installed near the use point. The problem with this is that it cannot get wet. However, with Atmor Heaters technology, it doesn’t matter if water splashes on their products. Also in terms of safety and durability, their products come with a thermal cut-off to prevent it from overheating and setting fire or causing damage to internal parts.

Atmor Heaters also aim to provide ease of use for the customer. Their products come with digital controls to operate the water heaters easily and to ensure a consistent temperature. Equally, the water heaters are compact and easy-to-install without much disruption, while they heat water in under 15 seconds from opening the faucet.

Atmor is a Jamaican brand, so it is important to note that these water heaters are designed to function best in warmer climates. While they can handle being in cold climates, the technology inside may not be able to withstand significantly cold temperature drops.

Conclusion

When you’re looking to purchase an electric water heater, there are a number of things to consider. The brand you choose will reflect your needs, so make sure they are crystal clear in your mind when you’re looking to seal the deal. Always remember that while you may have a good warranty, the maintenance time you put in will improve the longevity and durability of your water heater, no matter the brand or model.

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