Replacing your hot water heater is an overwhelming decision and one that can be difficult to plan for. But as we showed in this hot water heater buyer’s guide, spending a bit of time to get it right can save you hundreds of dollars per year. Below is a comprehensive review of the best electric water heaters on the market based on hundreds of hours of research and in-home testing. Our goal is to help you find the best electric hot water heater for your home.
For each brand we found the best 40 gallon electric water heater, 50 gallon electric water heater, and small electric water heater. We focused on the top-selling and most popular brands and models and reviewed the rheem electric water heater, bradford white electric water heater, and the AO Smith electric water heater.
Best 40 gallon electric water heater
We looked at every 40 gallon electric water heater on the market and our favorite is the Rheem Performance model. As you can see in the table below, it is $50 cheaper than the comparable AO Smith model and $280 than the Bradford White model.
In addition to the price, the Rheem 40 gallon electric water heater is easy to repair and maintain.
According to Brandon Baril, a plumber in San Diego, most of the Rheem heaters he repairs only take a $9 part because of Rheem’s simple smart controller design. Easier repairs means that you’ll have to replace your hot water heater less frequently and save money.
Baril says that when he repairs hot water heaters Rheem units often cost his customers half the cost of competitors like Bradford White.
We also like the fact that the Rheem has an easy to access anode rod. That means that you can easily replace it or install a second one which can double the life expectancy of your water heater. (Here’s a good article on anode rods if you’re unfamiliar with them).
|AO Smith 40 Gallon Electric Water||$409||.92||$424||53 gallons|
|Bradford White 40 Gallon Electric Water Heater||$639||.95||$405||56 gallons|
|Rheem 40 Gallon Electric Water Heater||$359||.93||$419||54 gallons|
The table above shows prices for base models of Rheem, AO Smith, and Bradford White. But a few other factors will affect the price:
The height — tall vs. medium vs. small electric water heaters
Most water heater manufacturers sell three different height models. Tall models are usually about 60 inches tall. Medium models are usually 48 inches. And small (sometimes called “lowboys”) are usually 32 inches.
Price differences will vary by manufacturer. But in the case of the Rheem Performance model we reviewed earlier, the tall cost $359, the medium costs $349, and the small (technically a 38 gallon tank) costs $399.
As you can see, there’s not a huge difference in price here. So you’ll want to pick the option that fits in your home best.
Warranty length — 6 year vs. 9 year vs. 12 year
The factor that will influence price the most is the warranty length. Most manufacturers have three options: 6, 9, and 12 year warranties.
Using the Rheem water heater product warranty, let’s look at how the prices vary. (Note: things get a little confusing, since not all models have 6, 9, and 12 year options, but we’ll do our best here to give you a sense of how prices vary).
As you can see the 9 year warranty is $115 more than the 6 year warranty. And the 12 year warranty is $50 more than the 9 year warranty. But once you get into the 12 year warranty territory you also get additional features like an auto shut-off valve and leak detection.
Ultimately whether or not you buy a warranty is a personal choice that depends on whether you want to save money or have less risk. This Old House has a great article on the value of hot water heater warranties and options here.
Best 50 gallon electric water heater
We looked at every 50 gallon tank on the market and our favorite is the Rheem Performance model. This model is $40 cheaper than the comparable AO Smith electric and about $200 cheaper than the Bradford White electric hot water heater.
The Rheem is also a well-built water heater. As the oldest hot water heater company in America Rheem has had a long time to work out their product issues. Their tanks are thicker and less likely to leak. Their products use less wires making it simpler to install and repair. And generally their products last longer.
One of Rheem’s biggest selling points is the accessibility of their anode rod. This is important because it means when the rod goes out, you can repair it easily without replacing the entire hot water heater, saving you hundreds of dollars. You can also install two anode rods to effectively double the lifespan of your hot water heater.
Rheem Performance customer review
“One of the features I really like about this model is the easy access to the anode rod and that the rod is made of magnesium. In my BW water heater the anode rod was in the hot outlet port and wasn’t accessible without cutting the copper pipe and removing it, so I never changed it. That is not good for protecting the tank from corrosion. When I removed it after taking out the heater it was completely used up.”
50 gallon electric water heater prices
|Rheem Performance 50 Gallon Electric Heater||$419||.93||$420||61 gallons|
|AO Smith 50 Gallon Electric Water Heater||$459||.92||$424||62 gallons|
|Bradford White 50 Gallon Electric Water Heater||$616||.95||$405||64 gallons|
The table above shows prices for base models of Rheem, AO Smith, and Bradford White’s 50 gallon electric hot water heaters. But, as we mentioned in the section above on 40 gallon water heaters, a few other factors will affect the price:
The height — tall vs. medium vs. short electric water heaters
Most manufacturers have a few different height options which gives customers more options that will fit their home. Below is a comparison of Rheem’s tall, medium and short options and their prices:
- Tall (~60 in.) — $419
- Medium (~48 in.) — $379
- Short (~32 in.) — $498
Ultimately the most important thing is that you find a water heater that fits in your home and offers the amount of water your household needs. So if you need to cram your water heater in a small space, spend the extra money to get a short model. Otherwise, try and opt for the medium since it is the cheapest and has a similar tank size to the tall.
If a short electric hot water heater seems to small for the space you have in mind we’d also encourage you to consider a tankless water heater, which is ideal for fitting in small spaces. To compare prices and costs, you can check out these tankless water heater reviews.
Warranty length — 6 year vs. 9 year vs. 12 year
The warranty length has a big impact on prices. Most manufacturers offer three different options to customers: 6 year, 9 year, and 12 year warranties.
Once again we’ll use the Rheem water heater warranty information as our baseline and look at how prices vary depending on the warranty length.
In this case a 9 year warranty will cost an additional $135. And the 12 year option will be another $105 (or $240 more than the base model).
But again when you buy the longer warranty you get a few extra features. The Performance plus (9 year) comes with an LED display (certainly nothing to write home about!). And the Gladiator comes with auto shut-off and leak detection which could save you some money and home damage.
As I mentioned above, I think warranties are personal decisions that depends on your preferences. Some people like lower prices, while others like peace of mind.
How to save the most money and energy
While this article was dedicated to the best electric hot water heater, the truth is that none of these models are as good as a heat pump water heater (also known as a hybrid water heater). That’s because a conventional electric water heater relies on outdated technology that results in hundreds of dollars of wasted energy every year. Heat pump water heaters on the other hand are more efficient and environmentally friendly.
To learn how to save hundreds of dollars per year (and $5,000 over the lifetime of the appliance), check out this article on the best hybrid water heaters.
Read our other guides and reviews
If you liked this article you may enjoy our other guides and articles on home energy efficiency and improvement: