9 Best Water Heaters (2023)

    Home Systems Plumbing System Water Heaters

    9 Best Water Heaters (1)Dan StoutUpdated: Sep. 29, 2022

      From dishes to laundry to showers, so many household tasks depend on a water heater. We selected nine reliable options to help you choose yours.

      Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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      9 Best Water Heaters (2)Family Handyman, via homedepot.com, via lowes.com

      What Is a Water Heater?

      Whether municipal or privately sourced, all water comes into your home cold. Unless you love chilly showers, you’ll need some way to warm it up. Enter the water heater.

      Water heaters crank up the temperature on your home’s water supply, whether it flows through the heater or it’s stored in a reservoir tank. The heater might do this with a flame or a solid heating component. Heaters can be powered by natural gas, propane or electricity.

      Some of the key factors to consider when buying a water heater include:

      • Price: The full cost includes the purchase, installation and any additional work such as running vent lines or upgrading your electrical service.
      • Fuel source: This is a personal preference. The easiest and most affordable option is almost always to stay with the type of fuel your existing heater uses.
      • Capacity: Your needs may be different, but generally a 40-gallon tank provides enough hot water for a home with two occupants, and a 50-gallon tank for four or five people. For six or more, get as large a tank as possible.
      • Tankless vs. traditional: Tankless units heat the water as it passes through its coils, creating an endless stream of hot water. The downsides are higher cost and installation expenses.
      • Energy efficiency: Higher efficiency units carry a higher initial cost, but the energy savings will usually recoup the investment in a few years. Tankless systems are also more efficient, but their higher cost means a longer “break-even” period.
      • Tank construction: Tank heaters can suffer from sediment build-up, making them less energy efficient and shortening their life. You can drain them manually to reduce this risk, or look for models with self-cleaning elements and ceramic-lined tanks.

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      Best Tankless Water Heater (Electric)

      Tankless water heaters only generate heat when you want it. By not keeping a tank of hot water constantly at the ready, you’ll see significant savings in your energy bill.

      Units like the Rheem Performance Tankless Electric Water Heater can supply about seven gallons a minute, providing hot water needs for whole house. But generating that much heat requires a significant amount of space in the electrical breaker box — you’ll need to dedicate four 40-amp double-pole breakers to this heater.

      We love this model because it’s simple to use. The easy-to-read LCD display shows the temperature, and the single dial on the unit’s face allows adjustments in one-degree increments. Plus, it’s backed up by Rheem’s five-year warranty.

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      Best Tankless Water Heater (Gas)

      The A.O. Smith Signature Series Tankless Water Heater strikes a great balance between price and performance. Gas tankless units have a higher initial purchase price than electric versions, but the lower operating costs normally balance out over the life of the unit.

      This model from provides enough hot water to run three showers simultaneously. Plus it’s Energy Star rated, meaning it’s one of the most energy-efficient units available. Because it’s gas-fueled, you’ll need to run a vent line. If you’re planning on DIYing the installation, make sure you comply with all codes and required permitting.

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      9 Best Water Heaters (5)via homedepot.com

      (Video) 9 Best Tankless Water Heaters 2016

      Best Traditional Tank Water Heater (Electric)

      The Rheem Gladiator series has gotten a lot of attention for its WiFi-enabled leak detection and auto shut-off. There’s no disputing that these are cool features, but they’re only part of the reason we like the Gladiator 50-Gallon Electric Water Heater so much.

      The 12-year warranty exceeds most competitor’s coverage, and it’s paired with a three-year labor warranty. The auto-clean feature fights the sediment build-up that can shorten a water heater’s life, and you can monitor and control the Gladiator from the Rheem smartphone app.

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      Best Traditional Tank Water Heater (Gas)

      A.O. Smith’s Signature 100 Series 50-Gallon Water Heater is a dependable unit at a reasonable price. You can find less expensive gas units, but this heater’s six-year warranty, self-cleaning dip tube and ceramic-fused tank shield mean fewer potential headaches down the road.

      We also like that it’s got an environmentally-friendly burner that produces lower levels of nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide than a traditional gas water heater.

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      9 Best Water Heaters (7)via homedepot.com

      Best Budget-Friendly Water Heater (Electric)

      At $419, the Rheem Performance 40-Gallon Electric Water Heateris shockingly wallet-friendly. The 40-gallon tank makes it a good fit for smaller families or households with an offset usage cycle, since it takes less energy to keep it warm between uses.

      It only needs a 25-amp electrical breaker, so it shouldn’t require a massive electrical overhaul to install. If you’re replacing an existing electric water heater, it may be tough to find a better bargain than this.

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      Best Environmentally Friendly Water Heater (Electric)

      If environmental friendliness is your primary concern, consider the A.O. Smith Signature 900 Hybrid Water Heater. This Energy Star-certified model saves the average home with three to four users more than $300 per year in energy costs, according to the manufacturer.

      Its hybrid design features a heat pump, similar to the one you may already have to heat and cool your home, to transfer heat from the surrounding air into the water tank. Because the heat pump is slower than traditional heating, the Signature 900 also features two back-up heating elements. It comes with a 10-year limited warranty and may qualify for additional rebates or tax credits.

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      9 Best Water Heaters (9)via lehmans.com

      Best Off-Grid Water Heater

      Sure, some homeowners use a solar array for off-grid living. But if you really want simplicity, consider a Wood-Fired Water Heater.

      This Amish-made water heater is made of 3/16-in. welded steel, holds 15 gallons and is efficient enough to continue heating fresh water as it cycles through the tank. That means it can provide water for back-to-back showers.

      We love that it’s not reliant on gas or electricity. But we do need to point out this disclaimer from the manufacturer: “Not UL listed. Not pressure tested. If not properly used or installed, may explode with life-threatening force.” A good reminder why it’s important to be careful when installing any water heater.

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      Best Water Heater for a Big Family (Gas)

      If you have six or more people in your household, you’ll need lots of hot water for bathing and laundry. If your biggest concern is running out of water, you’re better off going tankless to ensure “endless” hot water, or buy a heater with the biggest tank you can find.

      Of these options, the tank may actually be the more economical. That’s because large families regularly drain a water heater tank, so the heater isn’t burning energy to keep an unused tank at temperature. For this reason, large families typically take longer to recoup the cost of a tankless unit.

      If you think a big tank is the right fit for you, consider the Rheem Performance 75-Gallon Gas Water Heater— essentially the largest tank you can buy without getting into commercial-sized water heaters.

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      Best Water Heater for a Small Household (Electric)

      Small households of one or two people can often benefit the most from a tankless water heater. The Rheem Performance Self-Modulating Water Heater provides enough hot water for two simultaneous showers. For many homeowners it will be used once or twice a day, then sit still, saving you money every time it doesn’t need to heat up a reservoir tank of water.

      It requires two 40-amp breakers. But considering it’s roughly $20 more than the budget-friendly tanked water heater option higher up in this list, the associated energy savings should pay for the heater and any needed electrical work in a few years.

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      Originally Published: December 03, 2021

      9 Best Water Heaters (12)

      Dan Stout

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      Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.

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