Can you recommend a good water heater?


My 24-yr-old water heater needs replacing. I always wanted to replace it with another one just like it -- GE, 40 gal, gas, 9-yr warranty. But it seems that GE no longer makes water heaters. Around here (metro Atlanta) it seems that A.O. Smith, Rheem and Bradford White are the main choices. I've gotten estimates from several plumbers, ranging from $1000 from a self-employed plumber to $1500 from one of the plumbing companies. I plan to see what Consumer Reports says about water heaters, but wondered if there's a plumber here who could advise me about a heater that will last a while. My budget won't allow top of the line. Also, one of the plumbing companies I called said they only install commercial heaters in homes because they're built better -- saying most home heaters are made with too many plastic parts. And one more thing. There's a scratch and dent place nearby that sells many water heaters. Says they're guaranteed and that the insides aren't damaged -- and their prices are about half the going rate for other water heaters, but how easy would it be to find someone who'd install one of these? Suggestions?

  9 answers
  • We had family in the biz and AO Smith was alway the brand, so that's what we installed and it's been over 20 years without a hitch.

  • Pamela Pamela on Feb 01, 2020

    Stay away the scratch and dent place !!!!!!!! Hot water heaters are delicate !!! They are lined in glass !!! They need to be handled very carefully !!! My husband worked as a maintenance tech at an apartment complex for 30+ years , he said even brand new ones , can be damaged if they weren't handled carefully . We just installed an A O Smith, in our retirement home . Good luck !!!

    • Kim Kim on Feb 01, 2020

      They used to be glass-lined, but haven't been for years.

  • Well, because of price and highway robbery as you described, I purchased and installed my own. You are on the right track, use consumer reports and purchase the best you can within your budget. When obtaining bids, get prices for two options - you purchase the WH and they pick up and install, or they provide the WH and install. Better plumbing contractors can typically get a discount at their plumbing suppliers and might help with cost. For comparison purposes, I paid about $700 for a 50 gallon gas water heater with a 12 year warranty and plumbing contractors wanted $750 and up to install. That was in 2015. And I am in CA. Here is how to hire any contractor you will ever need, for reference.

    Flip through the yellow pages or Google, as it sounds like you have already done, to perform your research.

    I have never used a scratch and dent for a water heater, but might be an option, if, and only if, you get the EXACT same warranty as an undamaged water heater, IN WRITING. Otherwise I would steer clear.

  • Nan W. Nan W. on Feb 01, 2020

    Louise: I replaced my gas water heater with an on-demand one. I love it! ...we never run out of hot water!

  • Lifestyles Homes Lifestyles Homes on Feb 01, 2020

    Try asking your neighbors for local non-robbery installers or at least a qualified Handyman. I use Nextdoor app for that (see pic below).

    We can coach you on how to install it yourself, if you’ve the shut/off valve(s) and know which breaker it’s on- if you want to DIY with a helper.

  • Dee Dee on Feb 01, 2020

    Some State Legislatures have enacted into the Plumbing License Law additional wording to specifically include water heaters in their list of plumbing fixtures, required by law, to have a plumbing permit issued prior to installation. the permit is required so that an inspection can be done to make sure the water heater is installed properly, and that it does not create a hazard. A water heater is installed without a T&P valve (temperature and pressure relief valve) it may explode. People have died because of this, so it's important that a water heater have one and that it is properly installed. Fire risk and electrical risk. Which is why you should not do this yourself.

  • Products are likely going to vary by location so your best bet is to do your research closer to home. Just because someone says the insides are fine at the scratch and dent, I wouldn't trust that. Many home improvement stores will install the heaters they sell, like Lowes and Home Depot, so you could check with them as well. Fees to install aren't as high as you've been quoted.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Feb 02, 2020

    If I had to replace and install I would go as Nan did, get the on demand option.

  • I would go online and look at Lowes, Home Depot, etc. and read lots of the reviews and compare and contrast.