Best Energy Star Water Heaters

Susan Patterson
Energy Star Water Heater

With a movement towards energy savings, there are a number of Energy Star rated hot water heaters on the market. According to EnergyStar.gov, high efficiency water heaters can save up to 50% energy over conventional models. Of course, the amount you save depends on the amount you use, the size and location of the system, and the size and placement of your water pipes. Energy Star water heaters may may be eligible for tax credits.

Hot Water Heater Types and Reviews

There are four different hot water tank technologies to choose from according to your needs, budget, and personal preference. Take the time to become familiar with each type so that you make the best decision for your home.

Storage Tank Heaters

Insulated storage tanks from 10 to 80 gallons hold water and keep it hot for use. Fuel options include oil, natural gas, propane, and electricity, depending on your home's set up.

  • A. O. Smith GDHE-50 Vertex 100: According to Consumer Search, this 50-gallon model is so efficient that it qualifies for a 30% federal tax credit when available. This natural gas powered tank provides plenty of hot water for a family. Pros noted by consumers are its efficiency and cost savings, while cons are the high upfront cost and short warranty period. You can find a video of how the Vertex actually works on the Popular Mechanics' website.
  • GE Energy Star SG50T12AVG: In the 2008 Builder Brand Study, this GE model ranked in the middle when compared to 12 other gas hot water tanks of the same size. The few negative reviews from consumers at Home Depot are mostly about a leaking valve problem. Positive reviews claim that this model uses very little gas and provides plenty of hot water when needed. The burner is easy to light and according to those who have purchased this model, installation is not difficult.
  • Whirlpool 6th Sense 50-Gallon 12-Year Tall Gas Water Heater: This is a high-altitude certified Energy Star natural gas hot water tank. On Furnacecompare.com, Whirlpool brand water heaters receive an overall 88% satisfaction rating for performance, price, and repairs. Customer comments on the model at Lowe's describe this tank as a little pricey when purchasing and somewhat difficult to install. Pros noted included the overall cost savings and efficiency of the tank.

Tankless Heaters

Many homeowners are installing tankless hot water systems that heat water only on demand by passing it over heating coils. This is a very cost efficient and space saving way to heat water. It solves the problem of heat loss, because water does not sit in the tank. For whole-house tankless systems, experts at HouseLogic agree that gas is the best choice because it heats water faster and with greater efficiency than electricity. There are no electric tankless systems that are efficient enough to qualify for a tax rebate. Although tankless systems can cost up to $2,000 to install, they are highly efficient and take up very little space. Consider consulting with a home contractor before purchasing a tankless system to be sure it is the best choice for your home.

  • Rinnai R75LSi Natural Gas Indoor Tankless Water Heater, 7.5 GPM: This unit provides enough water flow for two people to shower at the same time, a nice feature for busy households. Consumer Search's list of Best Tankless Water Heaters includes this as one of the best tankless hot water systems when compared to similar models. The upfront cost is around $900 on Amazon.com and it is available for free shipping. Negative reviews from those who purchased from Amazon.com are that it takes a while for water to heat up and thus wastes water.
  • Rheem ECO-200PVN 7.4GPM: Similar in style and function to the Riannai brand above, this Rheem model also earns a mention from Consumer Search for its efficiency. The review notes that contractors rank this system second to the Riannai R75LSi. An Eco-rate review at PriceGrabber gives this system 4 stars for its energy efficiency and low average annual fuel cost, as well as its reasonable purchase price. Purchase this tankless system at Home Depot for just under $1,200. Consumer comments are overwhelmingly positive for this model and the only negative noted was the installation price. Consumers love the water flow and the fact that they can do many things with hot water at the same time such as dishes, clothes, and showering without loosing heat.
  • Bradford White, Tankless Models: Top Ten USA gives this tankless model a thumbs up for best medium-size tankless model. Mother Earth News also lists this model as being the best in tankless varieties and notes that the energy factor is 17.1% better than other tankless models. The Bradford White Corporation offers a 12-year warranty on the heat exchanger, which is longer than other tankless systems. Visit the company site to find out more information on ordering a tank or finding a dealer near you.

Solar Heaters

Solar water heaters harness the free energy from the sun, and are markedly more expensive than other water heaters. However, total energy savings may be as much as 80% according to Energy.gov. Solar heaters are generally installed alongside a conventional water heater in case there is insufficient sunlight to keep the system going. If you live where you get a good deal of sun, you may want to consider a solar hot water heater. Although you will want to hang on to your conventional system, a solar system may save you a great deal in energy costs in the long run. Solar hot water heating is just catching on, so there are few consumer reviews to be found.

  • AO Smith SUNX-80 76 Gallon: According to Consumer Search's list of Best Solar Water Heaters, the AO Smith solar heater is a good option because it has all that you need to get started including the solar panels and the tank. The price of this model is just over $1,200 prior to installation at PexSupply.com.
  • Solar Components Corporation: This company offers a variety of solar water heater options, from individual components to a complete system package featuring collectors, storage tanks and a pump/control station. Prices for the complete system vary from $2,875 to $5,390 depending on the number of collectors and storage tank size.

Hybrid Heaters

These systems offer an electric storage heater along with a heat pump that draws heat from the surrounding air to help heat the water. Consumer Reports notes that most models use 60% less energy than conventional electric models. You can find more good information about the cost savings of hybrid hot water tanks by visiting Builder.

  • GE GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater: This 50-gallon hot water tank saves up to 62% of energy resulting in an average energy bill reduction of $325, according to the product description. A positive expert review and overview of system features is given on 411Plumb. Consumer Search lists this hybrid system on their list of the six best water heaters and says that this model is easy to install and extremely efficient. The cons are that it is noisy and blows cold air in the winter.
  • Stiebel Eltron Accelera 300: Top Ten USA notes this heat pump system as being the best based on performance and a lifetime energy savings of almost $5,000. The Stiebel Eltron heat pump takes up to 80% of its energy requirements from the surrounding air, thus minimizing energy requirements. It will also cool a warm area in the summer. This 80-gallon hot water tank holds water for a medium to large size family. The upfront price is on the high side, but it can pay for itself quickly by using less energy. The size of the unit is somewhat larger and taller than other models.

Tips for Choosing a Great Water Heater

  • Read model reviews very carefully from consumers and heat and air specialists.
  • Know how much room you have for a water heater.
  • Set a budget and try to stick to it.
  • Assess parts and repair warranties carefully and check to be sure that you have a repair service person in your area.
  • Know how much hot water you require in your home.

Save Money with Energy Star

A water heating system is essential to the modern home. Energy Star hot water systems have received a star due to their efficiency per standards set by the government. If you are in the market for a new hot water heating system, it is wise to consider an Energy Star system that will help to minimize your overall energy expenses.

Best Energy Star Water Heaters