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Replacing a water heater is an overwhelming decision and difficult to plan for. From electric water heaters to tankless water heaters, hybrid hot water heaters and more, there are plenty of options. But it's a decision that could save or cost you thousands of dollars. In fact, switching to a hybrid water heater can save you about $4,800 over the next 10 years.
Best 40 Gallon Gas Water Heater Consumer Reports
We spent hundreds of hours researching the best heat pump water heater on the market when we wrote our buyer's guide. Read below to see our heat pump water heater reviews and the models we liked best.
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We've reviewed every heat pump hybrid hot water heater on the market and our favorite is the Rheem Performance Platinum.
Rheem v AO Smith. The Rheem Performance Platinum is the cheapest heat pump water heater on the market at $1,672 for a 40 gallon tank and $1,699 for a 50 gallon tank. It's $127 cheaper than the AO Smith Signature Premier and $383 cheaper than the Bradford White AeroTherm.
But for that extra $127 and $383, neither the AO Smith nor the Bradford White come with any extra features. In fact, Bradford White's AeroTherm model is less energy efficient and noisier than the Rheem.
If you look at the energy efficiency of these models, you'll see that the Rheem heat pump water heater wins on that front as well. Their Performance Platinum model has a power factor of 3.75 compared to AO Smith's 3.45 and Bradford White's 3.39. This would save $10-$15 per year. Nothing to write home about. But since the Rheem is also the cheapest model, it's the best bang for your buck.
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The Rheem Performance Platinum is also known for being the quietest heat pump water heater on the market. It operates at 49dB (low hum) compared to the AO Smith's 51dB and the Bradford White's 55dB.
When we first published this review in 2020, the Smith AO heat pump water heaters tied Rheem for the cheapest model. But since then, AO Smith has become more expensive than Rheem.
AO Smith's 50-gallon model starts at $1,799, which is $127 more than Rheem. But the AO Smith Heat Pump Water Heater is $256 cheaper than the Bradford White Heat Pump Water Heater listed below.
In terms of energy efficiency, the AO Smith hybrid water heater ranks second with an energy factor of 3.45 (compared to Ream's 3.75 and Bradford White's 3.39).
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Now, it's worth noting that the difference between a power factor of 3.75 and 3.45 isn't huge. If your plumber likes AO Smith, it's probably not worth bothering them to install Rheem. But this will result in slightly higher energy costs (probably $10-$20 each year).
Background noise is another important consideration for heat pump water heaters. And here is AO Smith also in second place with 51dB.
Again, the difference between 51 and 49 dB is not that big. So it's probably not worth choosing a Rheem over an AO Smith just because it's 2dB quieter. But compared to the Bradford White, the AO Smith is 4dB quieter. That difference isn't big either. But since Bradford White is more expensive, it's worth going with the quieter version.
Last up is the Bradford White AeroTherm. If you've read any of the previous sections, you'll already know why we think the Bradford White heat pump is the worst option on the market.
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At $2,055 for a 50 gallon heat pump water heater, Bradford White is $383 more expensive than Rheem and $256 more expensive than AO Smith.
For a few hundred dollars more, you'd expect the Bradford White to have a longer warranty. But it is not so. It's actually 4 years
If you want the 10-year warranty, you'll have to pay another $299, bringing the total cost to $2,384 ($329 more than the AO Smith and Rheem heat pump water heaters).
Bradford White hot water heaters are notoriously difficult to buy as a homeowner. This is because, unlike Rheem and AO Smith, who sell their hot water heaters at Home Depot and Lowe's, Bradford White only sells their water heaters through supply houses and plumbers.
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In addition to the heat pump water heaters we reviewed above, we also looked at the following models.
The ProTerra is Rheem's best heat pump water heater. But when we reviewed it, we found it wasn't much better than the cheaper Performance Platinum model.
For $200 more, you get the same power factor, annual operating cost and warranty length. The only thing they add with this model is the leak detection and auto shut off feature.
Stiebel Eltron is a German manufacturer of hot water heaters known for their high quality. But when we reviewed their heat pump model, we found little reason to justify the $2,499 price tag.
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With a power factor of 3.05, it is less efficient than the Rheem, AO Smith and Bradford White models.
The only reason we might come is… it looks really cool. I mean, look at that beauty!
And last but not least, we tried to review GE GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater, Ruud Heat Pump and State Heat Pump. But all were discontinued or bought by AO Smith, Rheem and Bradford White.
Every week we write a newsletter with stories like this one. We cover everything from home energy to electrification and climate change. Not sure what you'll like? Check out our latest stories here. Learn about the different types of hot water heaters, which are the most energy efficient, and how to get federal tax credit money back.
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This is just one of the scenarios that might make you think about a new water heater. More reasons are needed. Assuming high energy costs, or maybe your water heater has outlived its 10-15 year life expectancy and you're in luck.
A residential water heater whose panel has been removed to repair or adjust the thermostat. Also check out my lightbox.
If you're ready to upgrade, there's good news. There are many options when it comes to fuel options and sizes for water heaters, as well as improved technologies that save on energy costs.
No matter what you decide, remember that heating water takes a lot of energy. In fact, the average household spends between $400 and $600 a year on heating water. Put another way, nearly 20 percent of your total energy use goes down the drain in the form of hot water.
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So maintaining a high level of energy efficiency when buying is a good idea and is likely to save you money in the long run. Additionally, more energy efficient water heaters may be eligible for a federal tax credit.
Storage tank water heaters are the most common type and are available in capacities from 20 to 80 gallons. Cold water enters a storage tank and is heated with gas or electricity. The water stays hot at the set temperature until it is needed.
Side: Storage tank heaters are usually the cheapest types and perform faithfully with minimal maintenance.
Against Stored water loses heat slowly and must be continuously heated to a set temperature, wasting energy.
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AO Smith's Vertex Gas Storage Tank Water Heater sends exhaust gases through a tank heat exchanger to extract more heat and increase thermal efficiency by an impressive 98%.
Tankless water heaters, also called on-demand or instantaneous water heaters, have no storage capacity. Instead, when someone turns on the hot water faucet or dishwasher, cold water flows into the tankless device, heats up to a set temperature, and then flows to where it's needed. Tankless units come in different sizes depending on the size of the home.
Advantages: Tankless water heaters are more energy efficient than storage types and you will never run out of hot water.
On the downside they are more expensive than conventional stock types and installation can be complicated, increasing initial costs. Depending on the size of your home and household, you may need more than one.
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This Rinnai Ultra tankless water heater features a space-saving design and a special return line that can recirculate hot water for additional savings.
Hybrid heat pump water heaters take heat from the surrounding air and use it to heat water inside a storage tank. Hybrids have additional electric heating to cope with periods of high demand.
Side: Because heat pump water heaters use already heated air, they are very energy efficient, up to three times more efficient than conventional storage heaters. Energy Star qualified heat pump water heaters can save the average household up to $300 per year in energy costs.
Against These types of water heaters have special requirements. They need a lot of unobstructed space around them to function effectively and can only be installed in climates where the annual temperature stays between 40 and 90.
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