While standard tank-style water heaters will eventually rust, the Rheem Marathon heater avoids tank degradation with its plastic and fiberglass construction. This water heater is durable and efficient, and while this electric heater doesn't qualify for a federal tax credit, many municipalities do offer rebates to defray its initial cost. The leakproof tank means it can last much longer than the average 10-year lifetime of most electric water heaters. Reviews say it's a good investment if you plan to stay in your home for at least 10 years. According to professional contractors, Rheem/Ruud is one of the top-ranked water heater manufacturers. The main drawback is the price when no local incentives are available. The newer, much more efficient GE GeoSpring Hybrid GE H50DNSRSA (*Est. $1,440) may cost the same or less, since it's Energy Star-certified and eligible for a federal tax credit and other rebates and incentives.
We found the best reviews of the Rheem Marathon water heater at Fine Homebuilding and in Jim Dulley's detailed review of electric water heaters. Two surveys of builders and contractors, at BuilderOnline.org and at J.D. Power and Associates, compare Rheem with other water-heater brands. An experienced appliance reviewer covers the Marathon at Bestcovery.com, and we also found a handful of owner-written reviews at Amazon.com. Many other reviews are available online from various local electricity companies, but they're based primarily on information from the Marathon website.
1. Fine Homebuilding
This review from the 2008 Kitchen and Baths issue of Fine Homebuilding recommends the Marathon series of water heaters, noting that the tank construction and insulation helps keep stored water hot; typical heat loss is only five degrees Fahrenheit in a 24-hour period. Even when the lifetime warranty is transferred to another owner, the Marathon still carries a 15-year warranty, unusually long for a storage-tank water heater.
Review: Plastic Water Heater with a Lifetime Warranty, Justin Fink, Oct. 15, 2008
Jim Dulley is a mechanical engineer/home improvement specialist who writes a nationally syndicated column about energy use. He recommends investing in a Rheem/Ruud Marathon water heater if you plan on staying in your home for at least 10 years. However, his report is becoming outdated and doesn't compare the Marathon with hybrid water heaters.
Review: Electric Waters Offer Never-Leak Warranty, More Hot Water, James Dulley
This 2007 survey of 3,428 builders and contractors ranks Rheem second only to Rinnai for quality among 13 major brands of water heaters.
Review: 2008 Builder Brand Study, Editors of BuilderOnline.org, March 31, 2008
4. J.D. Power and Associates
Rheem/Ruud ranks second only to Bradford White in this brand-comparison survey of almost 900 contractors and subcontractors. Seven satisfaction factors were measured, but it's interesting that warranty service and repairs are more than twice as important to professional subcontractors as the product itself. The product accounts for only 10 percent of the total satisfaction rating.
Review: HVAC and Water Heater/Boiler Subcontractor Satisfaction Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, September 2006
The Marathon water heater earns third ranking in this analysis by an appliance reviewer. Price seems to be the only drawback, since she praises the efficiency of the Marathon, as well as its leakproof tank and excellent warranty.
Review: Rheem MSR50245 Marathon Electric Poly Tank Water Heater, Mariette Mifflin
The handful of owners reviewing the Marathon water heater here give it mostly positive reviews, but one reports difficulty getting replacement parts within a reasonable time.
Review: Rheem MR50245 Marathon Electric Water Heater 50 Gal., Contributors to Amazon.com
This review published by an electrical utility company is typical of the many similar Marathon water-heater reviews published at utility companies across the United States. The review is basically just information from the Marathon website, but it's somewhat impressive that so many local utility companies recommend this brand.
Review: Marathon Water Heater, Editors of ConsumersPower.org
8. Database of State Incentives for Renewals and Efficiency
This state by state database can tell you the incentives available in your area for buying a more energy-efficient water heater.
Review: Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, U.S. Department of Energy , July 2007