Best/most reliable brand of hot water heater (natural gas)

Old 12-19-15, 12:20 PM
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Best/most reliable brand of hot water heater (natural gas)

Hi everyone,
The (50 gallon) hot water heater in the house is probably on borrowed time (installed in 1992), and it is making gurgling sounds when it is heating the water. I assume that the noise is sediment, but nonetheless we would like to replace it.
So what brand is the most reliable to go with? The water heater is a regular chimney vent, so no power vent involved.
Is there much of a quality/performance difference is the various available brands? Is a Whirlpool from Lowes as good as an AO Smith or Bradford from the plumbing supply house? What should I expect to pay for labor? What should I expect to pay for the actual water heater?

Old 12-19-15, 12:32 PM
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I know that the master plumber here (lawrosa) recommends AO Smith.

Labor will vary, I'd check references and ensure a permit is pulled. Lawrosa will probably check in and he's also in NJ.
Old 12-19-15, 03:45 PM
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I think there are only three companies left that build ALL the water heaters so brand isn't as important as it once was. Whirlpool-branded heaters get a lot of bad press and they deserved it years ago. The first models of the AO Smith FVIR water heaters also had lots of problems. Neither brand is particularly bad today.

Bradford White is overpriced in my opinion and doubly so since you can only get them from a plumbing supply. Rheem/Ruud (same company) has competitive models.

Look carefully at what the longer warranties offer versus increased price. The middle warranty period is often the best buy as it will have increased insulation (lower operating costs) but without the "insurance premium" of the highest cost on the warranty to save the manufacturer's rear end in case of warranty replacements.
Old 12-20-15, 06:28 AM
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The Whirlpool water heaters at Lowes are made by American Water Heater in Tennessee and not Whirlpool just like the GE branded water heaters Home Depot used to sell were made by Rheem. I still hear of some problems with the Whirlpool units and I personally would still stay away from them. I like Bradford-White mostly because I have a good source for them and have had good luck with their products. By the way, American Water Heater had numerous problems with all of their brands about the time FVIR technology was first required, but before those days they made a pretty good value unit. I still have one of their Mor Flo heaters in my basement now and it is 20 years old. American Water Heater was purchased by AO Smith a couple years ago.

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