In our service area across North Dallas, the majority of tank-style gas water heaters start leaking through the tank between 10 and 12 years of age if they aren’t replaced proactively. Electric tank-style water heaters last a little longer with the average tank failure occurring between 12-15 years.
This is true across the board. It doesn’t seem to matter much what brand of hot water heater it is, the typical life expectancy remains the same for modern water heaters. (Caveat: properly maintaining your water heater and purchasing a higher-warranty version with additional anode protection will give it the best chance of lasting longer.)
If your water heater is approaching the end of its life expectancy and you are thinking about tank replacement, then you probably have a few questions to make sure you’re making a smart purchase. One question we often get is: “What water heater brand should I buy?”
We repair and replace thousands of water heaters each year. So in this article, we’ll be giving an overview of the common brands you’ll run across in the Frisco/McKinney/Plano area.
The brand of tank-style water heater that Legacy Plumbing provides and installs is Rheem. While there aren’t many significant differences between the brands of your standard 40 or 50 gallon gas or electric water heaters, we’ve found Rheem to consistently offer a better quality product with better support compared to other brands we’ve worked with.
The vast majority of tank-style gas and electric water heater brands in DFW homes are owned by only three companies: Rheem, A.O. Smith, and Bradford White. Together, these three companies own many other brands such as Ruud, General Electric, Kenmore, State Water Heaters, American Water Heaters, Whirlpool, and Lochinvar.
Rheem Manufacturing Company is a very large American headquartered water heater company. The Rheem brand has been around since 1925 and the Ruud brand was started back in 1897. Ruud started out producing gas-fired water heaters. Rheem started out manufacturing various products but became one of the leading water heater manufacturers in the 1940s.
They have since merged, and today Rheem/Ruud is known for both their water heaters as well as their HVAC equipment. They also own numerous other brands such as Richmond, Eemax, Ecosmart, and were known in the past to manufacture a line of water heaters for General Electric.
For their standard 50-gallon gas water heater, Rheem has a variety of options when it comes to warranty – the most common options ranging from 6 to 12-year parts warranty. For tankless water heaters for residential use, the typical Rheem warranty is 15 years for the heat exchanger and 5 years for all other parts on the units.
The standard residential tank-style gas water heater from Rheem advertises several features: “enhanced flow” brass drain valve (instead of plastic), no intake air filter that needs to be cleaned, TRD device that shuts off both air intake and fuel in the event of a flammable vapor buildup.
A.O. Smith was founded in 1874 and began as a manufacturer of various products. They began making water heaters in the 1930s.
Today, they are one of the largest water heater manufacturers and have acquired many other brands as well. They own the brands Takagi, State Water Heaters, American Water Heaters, Reliance Water Heaters and Lochinvar. The Whirlpool and Kenmore brands, which no longer market or manufacturer water heaters, were made by American/A.O. Smith as well.
For the typically 50-gallon residential water heater, the common A.O. Smith warranty options are 6, 8, or 10 years.
Some of the advertised product features of their standard gas residential unit are: Low-NOx emissions gas burner design, trademarked diffuser dip tube design to help reduce the buildup of sediment, and an anode rod with a stainless steel core for longer life.
Bradford White was founded back in 1881 and is known today as one of the largest American manufacturers of water heaters.
Different from their competition, they are known for not producing water heaters under other subsidiary brands and for selling water heaters directly to professionals through supply houses rather than to homeowners through big box stores. They are also one of the only water heater companies to manufacture all products in the United States.
Some of the features they commonly advertise on their standard gas residential water heaters are: their “ICON” gas control valve (with self-diagnostic design), proprietary dip tube design to reduce sediment, and a resettable thermal safety switch.
Rinnai America Corporation is the American branch of the Japanese company which is known primarily in the North Dallas area as one of the largest tankless water heater brands.
Rinnai Corporation has been around since 1920, and they have always been involved in developing and manufacturing gas and oil-fueled appliances. They have a well established supply and support network due to how long they’ve been used in this area.
For tankless water heaters used in residential homes, Rinnai’s standard warranty is 15 years for the heat exchanger and 5 years for other parts of the tankless unit. They promote their “CircLogic” recirculation technology and WiFi connectivity of some of their more popular Sensei models.
Navien (KD Navien) is another Asian water heater manufacturer that hasn’t been around quite as long as the competitors. It was founded in 1972 and entered the North American market in 2008.
It quickly acquired a reputation as a solid product and is very popular as a tankless retrofitting option. It promotes it’s dual stainless steel heat exchanges and recirculation technology.
Navien’s warranty for tankless water heaters used with the typical installation settings is 15 years for the heat exchanger and 5 years for the other parts inside the water heater.
We won’t go into detail about the subsidiary brands which are owned by these companies: State Water Heaters, American Water Heaters, Lochinvar, etc… The details of these will be very similar to their parent brands.
As mentioned before, we provide and install Rheem water heaters for tank-style units. Learn more about the advantages of our Rheem heaters on our service page. For tankless water heaters, we provide and install Rheem, Rinnai, and Navien. The way we approach choosing a water heater we recommend installing in customers’ homes is based on warranty/support, value, and reliability over time.
If you are doing your own research on the different brands, it is important to compare apples to apples. There are many different styles of water heaters out there, and the options can be overwhelming. The first thing you need to know is what powers your water heater. Is it natural gas, propane, or electricity? If you have other gas appliances in your house and you live in a DFW subdivision, you likely have a natural gas powered water heater.
The next question is what size do you need? In the North Dallas area where we work (cities like Frisco, Lewisville, Prosper, Mckinney, Richardson, etc…) the vast majority of the water heaters are sized at 50 gallons. If more capacity is needed, there are often two 50-gallon water heaters installed side-by-side or in different parts of the house. Sometimes there is a larger 75-gallon water heater installed. Occasionally smaller, 40-gallon water heaters are used as well (especially in tight areas like mechanical closets with HVAC units nearby).
After determining size and energy requirements, the next thing you need to determine is what type of venting is needed. The vast majority of units in our service area use a method of venting called “atmospheric”. This just means that they draw combustion air from the air surrounding the water heater and they expel the exhaust gas simply by letting it rise through metal vent piping to the exterior of the house.
In other parts of the country, there are different styles of venting that are more common as well. “Power-vent” means that there is a fan that forcibly expels the exhaust gas. “Direct-vent” means that both the combustion air and the exhaust gas are drawn from the outside of the home through an adjacent exterior wall.
Once all of these things are determined, it narrows down your options quite a bit. The remaining brands will provide different warranties, different efficiency ratings, different emissions requirements, and different components like gas control valves, drain valves, etc…
Of course, you aren’t just stuck with the water heater type that you currently have. There are other options out there. Each time you change out one design for another, though, there are different things to be done from a plumbing perspective to make it work.
A popular option is to replace a gas tank-style water heater with a tankless water heater. A lot of people are attracted to the endless hot water that a tankless water heater can produce. There is quite a bit of extra work required for this conversion though. The gas piping will often need to be upgraded, the venting will need to be reworked, and a new platform/stand will need to be constructed (among other things).
Another new option that is now available is replacing a residential electric water heater for a hybrid or heat-pump electric water heater. These are still tank-style water heaters, but they use a combination of traditional heating elements and heat pump technology. This results in a unit that is much more energy-efficient and uses less electricity than its predecessor. However, there is more plumbing labor involved as other upgrades are needed during installation. Often, a condensate drain line needs to be added and the water piping has to be rearranged.
Another interesting design that has been on the market for a while is the Rheem Marathon electric water heater. Instead of a traditional steel tank, the Rheem Marathon uses a plastic tank with titanium heating elements to prevent the typical corrosion issues of carbon steel.
These alternative designs are less common in North Dallas homes. The majority of suburban neighborhoods in Frisco, Plano, Mckinney, Richardson, Lewisville, Allen, etc… rely on natural gas powered water heaters. Because of the extra labor required to change a tank style for a tankless, most homeowners keep the same style and design for a new water heater. Some of the cities further out like Celina, Prosper, Melissa, Anna, etc… use a lot more electric water heaters, so some of these options may make more sense depending on the situation.
Hopefully, this was helpful in your quest to find the best replacement water heater. If you are buying your water heater, this information will help get you started in the right direction. If you are interested in learning more about the water heaters and installation services that we provide, feel free to check out our service pages for more details.
If you need a new water heater right now because yours is leaking or doesn’t work, just give us a call and we can go over pricing and schedule. (972) 801-9798
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