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2016
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Which is Best Gas water heater

Water heater manufacturers
How to install gas water heater
Short answer:
If you have plumber install water heater: Choose the one he recommends and maintains.
Avoid tankless recommendation. Avoid heat pump and other computer-chip water heaters. As general rule, complex water heaters cannot be repaired by homeowner and offer no savings long term for average family.

If you install and maintain water heater yourself: then 6-12 year Whirlpool from Lowes, 6-9-12 year Kenmore from Sears are good choice. Both are same design, made by AO Smith companies. Get store coupons if available. Lowes offers 10% discount if you are moving to new home (2016)
DIY resource: How to install gas water heater

Reasoning behind short answer:
If plumber installs, then he knows the product and has relationship with manufacturer. Note: new water heaters are larger today. They are wider and often taller because of new energy standards. Make sure plumber knows the size and installation differences since the old heater in the corner might not fit the same. Differences can cause delay and additional cost. For example if the old water heater is 60 gallon, you might want to downsize the gallonage to fit the space and the budget. If the plumber has to move gas line or vent, then a permit might be required.

If you buy and install water heater yourself, then read more below:

Remember new water heaters are larger today...
Plan ahead. Check manufacturer website for dimensions. MEASURE before you buy. Measure door openings, stairways, location of vent, TP valve, and available space.
Incoming gas line might need to be moved. Vent pipe shortened or offset elbow installed.
DIY resource for handling gas lines etc: How to install gas water heater

The challenge of installing new larger water heater is real. In one example of larger water heater, see photo, the plumber tipped new water heater to one side so the vent pipe lined up with old vent line. But the nice new Bradford White tank was pushed into the gas valve causing slight dent. The water heater worked, but customer was unhappy, and the crooked heater looked cheap. The plumber saved cost of installing elbow on the 4" double-wall vent line, or moving gas line a few inches. A permit might have been required if plumber altered either the vent or gas line, and this might delay customer getting hot water. Good argument for installing yourself, and measuring before you buy. See photo
DIY resource: How to install gas water heater

I recommend tank type heater

1)  6 year, 9 year or 12 year?
- Generally, the main difference between 6-9-12 year warranty is anode rod diameter, or sometimes 2 anode rods. You can convert 6 year tank into 12 year or 15 year by inspecting anode each 1-3 years, and maintaining tank as shown in product manual.
DIY resource: How to replace anode rod
How to maintain water heater

There may be other differences that are not considered in this webpage, such as heavier materials associated with longer warranty tanks. For example, commercial water heaters are made much heavier, and this implies that longer-warranty residential heaters are better than shorter warranty. Exactly what is the difference? It would be nice if manufacturer's informed the public, but dynamic of commodity prices, design changes, competition, and the legal environment might make it difficult for manufacturer to say what is being used.

After digging around available resources, Kenmore reveals the difference between 3-year and 6-year tanks is anode, drain valve, inlet tube, nipples, burner orifice and manifold door assembly. Each of the items is repairable. Critical safety components were not shown as a difference, such as gas control valve thermostat, TP valve, flammable vapor resistance, and thickness of tank wall. This casual analysis is an example of possible differences, but not a reliable sample.
I do not recommend 3 year tank except as a lower-price opportunity.
DIY resource: Gas valve resources

Simple math comparison between 6 and 12 year heaters: if 6 year heater is $550, and 12 year heater is $800, the cost difference is $250. And in exchange you get get 6 years of extended part warranty, or $41 per year of extended warranty. Since a typical gas control valve costs $100 - $140 to purchase, the extended warranty might be best choice.
DIY resource: Gas valve resources

Cost of installation is a factor. Let's say installation cost for do-it-yourself is $100 no matter which heater you choose, then the installation adds 18% onto the price of the cheaper heater, but only adds 12% onto the cost of the more expensive heater. Typical items you might buy include new flexible water connectors, flue pipe elbow, flue tape, screws.
If new heater is larger than existing space, then the added cost could include moving gas line, walls etc, unless you opt to buy water heater with less gallonage.

Can you buy heaters larger than 55 gallon?

Yes. You can still buy 60-100 gallon water heaters. Shop around. Except new government standards require the same efficiency for 60-100 gallon as 30-55 gallon heaters. Problem is larger tank heaters are less efficient. This means the typical old-style 60+ gallon tank-type heater cannot meet new standard. Generally today, 60-100 gallon water heaters require more technology. The result makes the purchase price and maintenance too costly to consider for average home.
There are exceptions. The new standards do not apply to commercial water heaters.
You can spend premium price and order commercial heater which might require professional installation to qualify for warranty. Check BTU rating does not exceed household gas meter and pipe diameter... starving other appliances. Commercial heaters are available at local plumbing supply. Or visit AO Smith's website. Or Bradford White. Or Rheem. etc. All brands commercial-grade water heaters are good.

Other options; Buy smaller gallonage heater, raise temperature of tank, install mixing valve to temper the hot water. Or if you need more than 60 gallon, install two heaters. This lets you turn off one of the heaters when not needed.
Resources: Two water heaters
Advantages of mixing valve

2)  Warranty:
Warranties are same across all brands. And same for 6 year, 9 year, 12 year tanks.
- First year parts-tank-labor are covered for original homeowner and non-commercial installation when installed by instructions shown in product manual.
- After first year, parts-tank are covered, but no labor.
- Anode rods are not covered by any warranty.
- Simple one-dimensional Math shows that shorter warranty has greater percentage of full coverage. But other factors are excluded, for example, what if you need a new gas valve in year 7.

Note: Anode rod is not covered under any warranty because it is made to sacrifice itself to prevent tank from rusting. Often, the warranty coverage requires you to perform maintenance shown in product manual, which means inspecting anode to prevent tank from rusting ... plus cleaning combustion parts periodically, cleaning air intake and avoiding dust, chemicals and flammables.
DIY resource: How to replace anode rod

3)  Don't buy expensive water heater, like tankless, or hybrid heat pump:
High-tech water heaters do not save money overall, do not last longer than ordinary tank heaters, do not have longer warranty, and are expensive to maintain and repair.
Tankless and Heat Pump, and Condensing heaters over 60 gallon size, are expensive to buy and maintain.
For example, tankless cannot be exposed to more than 11 grains hard water, and burner must be delimed each year to maintain efficiency. Tankless have no service manuals, and are not DIY repair.
Heat Pump heaters are electric and not gas, but are mentioned here anyway. Heat Pumps are not DIY repair. There are no service manuals and part replacement can be expensive.
If you need more than 60 gallon, install two heaters.
Resource: Two water heaters

4)  Why buy ordinary Whirlpool or Kenmore gas water heater ?
- Sold at local store. Easy returns if needed.
- Can be maintained and repaired by homeowner. -Air intake is located on bottom and can be cleaned easily.
- Tip: Set 3-legged water heater on bricks so air intake can be inspected and cleaned easily.
- Whirlpool and Kenmore are made by AO Smith parent company. Other brands made by AOS are Reliance, State, American, Craftmaster etc.
- Service manuals are posted online, parts are designed for quick, ez replacement. -Key point: Installation manual shows how to perform maintenance.

5)  Avoid Rheem?
Why? My website is for do-it-yourself folks.
- Rheem makes Reliant, Richmond, Ruud, and GE -in 2012, combustion parts are held in place with tamper-proof screws. Punch out center, and use regular hex to remove.
- Service manuals are not available online.... this is a major point for folks who,want to do-it-themselves. Rheem phone call might yield assistance.

- The installation manual does NOT show how to perform basic maintenance, and says customer must call for service.  I disagree with this attitude toward do-it-yourself since people can fix water heaters, and an educated public makes a better workforce.
- Rheem does not offer ‘better’ product that somehow needs specialized treatment. I think the long-term plan is designed to funnel customers into buying service from brand-loyal service providers and installers ... which will be large company manned by a few people who are trained to sell add-on service.
- Remember gas appliances are dangerous, and do-it-yourself carries risk. However skilled technicians, handymen, DIYers, and the homeowner sometimes want to see a service manual and be able to check basic stuff, and Rheem web resources do not provide service manual or show maintenance steps. While other companies do.

6) Bradford White makes good heater:
- All manufacturers make good heaters
- Are BW made better? Warranty is identical to other brands.
- Service manuals are available.
- Must remove combustion parts to clean air intake.
- Parts are ez to replace, except for anode rod.

- One negative: Bradford White uses uses combo anode rod that is connected to hot water nipple. Which means you have to remove hot-side nipple to inspect anode rod.
This is a problem since today's heaters are taller because of more insulation. Except in 2016, the nipple on top of heater is still same length and doesn't stick up far enough to attach a wrench.  
People report the combo anode rod is difficult to replace/inspect. How to remove short nipple

Other companies use standard hex-head anode for most, but not all models. To determine which model has regular vs combo, look at top of heater, and if there are two nipples, a vent pipe, plus a 2" diameter hole in the sheet steel with a plastic plug see image, then it's a hex head and not a combo. Remove plastic plug and use 1-1/16" deep socket.

You can replace nipples on new water heater and install longer pex-lined nipple. But 2016, you cannot buy a combo anode rod that has a longer nipple. Personally I think The short nipple is a design flaw, intended to keep connections on new heaters the same height as old heaters. I hope problem will be addressed by manufacturers. Buy longer pex-lined nipple

Anode rod is important because it prevents rusted tank. Therefore inspection is necessary for maintaining water heater and protecting investment. Note: Warranties do NOT cover anode rods. And some warranties say you must follow the maintenance to have warranty coverage ... which includes inspecting the anode rod. So there you are. The nipple is too short to easily remove. So anode inspection on Bradford is difficult, yet you should perform the inspection. Water heaters need a longer nipple to match thicker insulation 2016. Period.
Read about anode rods   
How to remove short nipple

7) Thickness of insulation
Update 2015... energy standards caused manufacturers to add thicker insulation to meet efficiency goals. This advancement follows decades of manufacturer 'fact sheets' telling people more insulation was not needed, and NOT to install water heater blanket. Some manuals said water heater blanket voided product warranty. Maybe integrity-of-the-market was improved by regulation?

- One positive to more insulation on top of heater is nipple on top of tank is still about the same height from the floor.
- One negative is length of nipple makes it hard to remove or replace.  Buy longer pex lined nipple
Anode inspection is necessary for maintaining water heater and protecting investment, and some water heaters have combo anode rod connected to hot-side nipple. Read about anode rods   How to remove short nipple

Another positive: No guessing which water heater has thicker insulation ... since all 30-55 gallon water heaters have more insulation. You can still add thermal blanket if you choose. Note: 20 gallon under-counter water heaters are not affected by energy standard.
Resources:  9-ways to save with water heater
Low hot water pressure
How to wire under counter water heater

8) Compare Energy factor / for tanks less than 55 gallon:
EF .62 for ordinary gas water heater pre 2015
- EF or Energy Factor .62 for older atmospheric vent (no power vent)
- EF .62 costs $294 per year to operate (under ideal conditions with new water heater)

Compare more efficient .67 EF that meets new government energy standard post 2015
- EF .67 for more complicated dampered or power vent models
- EF .67 costs $272 per year to operate

Difference is about $22 per year, for every water heater across the land, due to new government standard.

Which AO Smith water heaters offer the .67 efficiency?
Flue damper .67 efficiency: Review Whirlpool flue damper
Effex .67 efficiency: Review Effex
Note the Effex has power anode rod.,.. no anode inspection or replacement required. Perfect for homes with smelly water problems, or folks wanting less maintenance.
Both water heaters require 120 volt outlet. Both have 12 year warranty. 2016. Whirlpool offers the flue damper series. Kenmore has both Effex and flue damper.
Buy:
AO Smith Effex 12-year gas water heater with power anode rod at Amazon

Gas water heaters that plug into 120 volt outlet
If you do not have outlet located within 10 feet of water heater location, then a flue-damper type heater with higher efficiency is not correct choice.
Dedicated outlet offers less interference and is recommended.
Loose electric plugs can cause interference with water heater. Plug directly into outlet. Do not use extension cord.
I suggest using surge protection outlet, and not a plug-in type add on surge protector. Circuits can have more than 1 surge protector.
Buy:
15 amp surge suppressor receptacle
Outlet must have correct polarity and be fully grounded for the gas control valve sequence to work correctly. Use outlet tester.
 Buy: Outlet testers at Amazon
Reversed polarity see image will cause mysterious problems with electronic devices.
Outlet that is not grounded can cause error codes.
Resources:
Can you unplug water heater to act a timer? no
Install whole-house surge protector

-Note about electric surge:
-Any electrical device that plugs into outlet, or is connected to grounded copper pipes is susceptible to power surge.
Electronic gas controls can fail during a surge event.
Surge can be caused by nearby lightning strike, or simple power outage. Install whole-house surge protector

9) Electronic gas control valve is OK:
-Electronic vrs old-style mechanical gas control valve
-Electronic gas controls have been used on Heat-AC units for many years, and are reliable.
-Water heater error codes are handy.
See error codes and temperature adjustment by type of gas control

Low Nox
Low nox water heaters have a burner that reduces amount of pollution from nitrous oxide. Obviously this is a good idea.
Pollutants include CO2, CO, NO, SO, acidic water. These pollutants are puffing out of every vent stack across the globe.
Resources:
Is gas clean-burning?

Alternative energy sources
Resources:
Connect AC electric water heater directly to solar panels
Should you buy solar water heater

10) Buy water heater on Internet is ok.
-Save receipt.
-You have a contract with seller, but check warranty coverage.
Water heater manufacturers
-Warranty is probably through manufacturer’s insurance carrier.
-It is easier to return defect water heater to local box store if water heater has a defect, or chronic problem.

-You might need local service technician to verify installation to get warranty coverage.

The Lure of tankless
Avoid tankless. I wish there was something positive from a DIY standpoint. But there is nothing..
Resources:
How to wire tankless electric
How to troubleshoot Rheem tankless water heaters
Home automation water heaters/ privacy concerns?
I am skeptical about privacy issues if manufacturer has pre-installed home automation device.
Remember when smart meters were installed across the country... there were privacy concerns ... except smart meters broadcast such small packets of information that nothing of value was available for the amount of investment needed to gather it. The lack of useful information was one reason why the 'rash of new smart-grid products' has not materialized.

Compare smart meter with modern wi-fi.... wi-fi sends huge packets of information over the internet.
You do not own internet content. You are a consumer. You are using somebody else's product when you consume internet... and they profit by taking your information and selling it to other parties. I'm not talking about the waterheatertimers of the world, since we collect nothing. I'm talking about googles, bings, firefoxes, email trackers, and ad servers etc... because those services own the internet, and you are using their 'product.'
When you agree to terms-of-service for a product that has wi-fi connection, then your information is being collected. Your right to privacy is yielded.

But wait... the terms of service include a 'privacy policy' LOL
In my opinion, most privacy policies guarantee that you cannot see what private information has been collected and distributed about you, because the information-they-collect-about-you is 'private.' Get it? the privacy policy protects them from revealing what private information they collect about you. This means they can accumulate 'preferences' that stop you from seeing full array of choices, or set a pre-determined price point based on past spending habits. Additionally it will let privacy invaders sell your contract to a service provider who will control which businesses appear in your search bar.

2016/ Windows 10 might be example of evolving situation with privacy. In the past, you bought an operating system with your computer, and used a slide bar to adjust privacy settings from low to high. That era is over. Windows 10 has huge potential for privacy invasion: Tracking location, e-mails, contacts, writing 'style' etc. Windows 10 is embedded inside medical equipment. Imagine what data is being collected from that bit of software. Consider Windows 10 interface next time doctor sticks a probe in your ear.

Since your private information is valuable, I assume wi-fi water heater will be standard practice soon... letting manufacturer accumulate 'error codes' from your equipment. Of course you agree to terms of service, so you can receive a soft text message every six months suggesting a check-up or risk losing warranty coverage. When water heater breaks down, you automatically receive 'repair offers from several competing service providers' which all come from the same company disguised as several companies. And that company purchased the rights to your service contract from the manufacturer. After all, if I can think of it... then those guys already have a blueprint underway. Don't get reemed, don't be an ask toolbar.

3-phase electric water heaters for home use:
People frequently have opportunity to own commercial grade 3-phase electric water heater.
Three-phase electric water heaters are not more efficient, unless they are fully balanced and connected to commercial three-phase power.
Most commercial electric water heaters are non balanced, and same efficiency as residential heaters.
3-phase (non-balanced or balanced) can be converted to single phase for home-use with simple wiring change-over.
When installing 3-phase commercial water heater in residential home, pay attention to thermostat range and element rating... Elements and thermostats are generic for both residential and non-balanced, and can be replaced
Resources:
How to convert 3-phase water heater to single phase
Commercial 3-phase thermostats

Which is best commercial gas water heater:
When you buy commercial-grade table saw... it is big and heavy and WILL cut wood without a doubt.
Same with commercial grade water heaters.
They will heat the water and last for years.
Sales price usually includes professional installation.
Gas and electric water heaters Support the economy:
Buy from my associate links:

50 gallon Gas water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon gas water heaters at Amazon
50 gallon Electric water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon electric water heaters at Amazon
Hybrid / heat pump/ water heaters at Amazon

Resources:
How to install gas water heater
Troubleshoot gas water heater
Troubleshoot electric water heater
Intermatic control centers Intermatic control centers:
+ manuals and parts


Including Z-wave
Compare box timers

Control water heater w/ Z-wave
box timersprogrammable timer Compare programmable timers

Control water heater with programmable wall timer
Countdown timers Compare countdown timers

Control water heater with countdown timer
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