What every best Water Heaters has:
- Energy efficiency.
- Ample hot water capacity.
- Sufficient first hour rating (FHR).
Gas water heaters are a popular choice thanks to their energy efficiency. In addition, in many parts of the country, gas is a relatively low cost fuel. Because of that, the experts at ConsumerReports.org say gas models cost about half as much to run compared to conventional electric storage tank water heaters, although they do cost a bit more upfront. If you can install a gas line at a decent cost or already have natural gas service in your home, gas water heaters are easy to install and provide significant savings over time. Some gas-fired units can also run using propane; while fuel-cost savings might be less depending on the current cost of propane, it still will cost less in most cases than using electricity.
Gas hot water heaters work faster than electric models, which means you'll have more hot water available during peak usage. That also means that many households can get by with a smaller storage tank -- especially important in light of current NACEA efficiency regulations, which we discuss in detail in the introduction to this report.
When it comes to performance and value, we found good feedback for some Rheem Performance Plus water heaters. At FurnaceCompare.com, the Rheem Performance Plus series lands in third place on the site's list of top water heaters, based on the owner feedback that independent site has accumulated. In addition, some models have garnered strong feedback based on large numbers of reviews at retailer web sites.
One example is the Rheem XG40T09HE40U0 Performance Plus 40 Gal. Tall Water Heater (Est. $515). While it's not Energy Star qualified, its .62 EF complies with current NACEA regulations. Satisfaction is strong at HomeDepot.com, the primary retailer for the Rheem XG40T09HE40U0. It earns a 4.6-star rating following more than 1,750 reviews, though some of those reviews were originally posted at Rheem's web site, with 96 percent of owners giving it a recommendation.
The XG40T09HE40U0 isn't particularly feature rich, but it has low NOx emissions and is rated for altitudes of up to 10,200 feet. There's a pushbutton ignition for easy starting, and system performance is monitored by a self-diagnostic gas control valve. Rheem provides an excellent warranty for a lower-priced water heater: 9 years for parts and two years for labor.
The 40-gallon capacity is fine for families of two to four people. If you need a larger gas water heater, for households of 3 to 5 people, the Rheem XG50T09HE40U0 Performance Plus 50 Gal. Tall Water Heater (Est. $590) is similar, save for size, and similarly well liked.
While the water heaters above are excellent replacement gas water heaters for most households, Rheem offers a step up line that's a little more feature rich, and a little pricier. One example is the Rheem XG40T12DU36U0 Performance Platinum 40 Gal. Tall Water Heater (Est. $760). It has a few advantages compared to the Performance Plus series water heaters profiled above. It has a higher EF -- .68 -- and is Energy Star qualified. It also meets the stricter Ultra Low NOx (ULN) emissions standards that have been enacted in some California counties (while the Performance Plus water heaters above are low emission in their own right, they just fall short of those standards, and therefore can't be sold there).Like the Performance Plus models, it's rated for altitudes of up to and has a diagnostic gas valve to monitor system performance. The warranty is a touch better -- 3 years of in-home labor, and 12 years on the tank and parts
It's also Wi-Fi-compatible if you add the optional Rheem REWRA631GWH Home Comfort WiFi Module (Est. $50). That lets you receive alerts and control operation via a mobile phone and integrates with Wink home automation systems. However, maybe that's $50 you'd want to keep in your pocket as user feedback for the module is less than stellar.
When it comes to the water heater itself, however, feedback is pretty solid -- a 4.2 star rating at HomeDepot.com based on more than 250 reviews. Again, there's a 50-gallon version that's very similar save for size, the Rheem XG50T12DU36U0 Performance Platinum 50 Gal. Tall Water Heater (Est. $800).
A condensing gas water heater works much like a standard water heater, but with a design change that can greatly improve efficiency. As explained at the Energy Star website, some condensing gas water heaters "use a secondary heat exchanger that extracts more heat from the combustion gas, cooling it to the point where there is condensation." This heat exchanger becomes a supplemental heat source, heating the water in conjunction with the burner, resulting in higher overall efficiency and lower fuel costs (by about 30 percent).
While the water heaters described above meet current NACEA regulations for water heaters that are 55 gallons or lower, if you are looking for a larger storage tank gas water heater, regulations pretty much limit your choices to a condensing design. Though these gas heaters cost more than conventional storage tank models, the energy savings makes them worth considering even if you are considering a smaller (sub 55-gallon) capacity.
Condensing gas heater technology is relatively new, however, and there are few available models among storage tank gas hot water heaters, and even fewer available reviews. One exception is the Vertex line from AO Smith. These condensing gas water heaters are available in 50- and 75-gallon capacities, and we saw some good feedback for the 50-gallon AO Smith GDHE-50-NG (Est. $2,280). The most feedback is posted at SupplyHouse.com, where the GDHE-50-NG draws more than 110 reviews and a 4.7-star rating.
Performance is impressive -- and so is efficiency. The AO Smith Vertex GDHE-50-NG is Energy Star qualified and boasts a thermal efficiency of 96 percent. The company claims that it produces enough hot water to run 3.4 showers at a time, or unlimited back-to-back showers thanks to its very fast recovery time, and reviews seem to back this up. The gas burner meets California Ultra-Low NOx emissions standards and the unit is backed by a 6 year warranty.