Bradford White or Rheem Water Heaters: Which Is Better?

Whether you are replacing an old water heater or purchasing a new one for your home, choosing the right water heater for your family is an important decision. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which one is right for you? Here is a comparison of two top-leading brands: Bradford White and Rheem. Which one is better?

Bradford White and Rheem are two of the top leading manufacturers of water heaters, both well known for producing high-quality, long-lasting water heaters. Bradford White water heaters can only be purchased through an authorized dealer, making them more expensive than Rheem. Plumbers prefer Bradford White over Rheem due to their customer experience.  Rheem water heaters are easier to procure and more affordable because they are available at most wholesale distributors. 

While purchasing a water heater is necessary, it is also an investment in your home and family. With any investment, it is always best to familiarize yourself with the company before purchasing. Here is a glimpse into Bradford White and Rheem’s background, expertise, experience, overall reputation, and what sets them apart.

Brief History of Bradford White

Bradford White has one of the longest histories in the water heater business, starting back in 1881. Bradford White is a team of American-based companies that design, build, and engineer water heaters. The employee-owned company takes pride in making all of its products here in the USA. 

Bradford White has always had the philosophy of producing quality over quantity. The corporation has grown into a full-line manufacturer of residential, commercial, and industrial products that are safe, durable, energy-efficient, and Built to be the Best®. 

Bradford White also has state-of-the-art training facilities to ensure their customers receive excellent products from qualified professionals.

Brief History of Rheem

Rheem got its start back in 1925 in Emeryville, California. Rheem is one of the largest manufacturers of water heating products in North America. Rheem is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia but is owned by Paloma in Japan, the world’s largest producer of gas appliances. In recent years, Rheem has shifted water heater production to a plant in Mexico. 

Rheem water heaters can be found in most big-box retail stores, making them more affordable than Bradford White. The company is committed to manufacturing products that will reduce greenhouse emissions and achieve zero waste by 2025. 

How Do Bradford White and Rheem Water Heaters Compare?

Bradford White and Rheem both offer a diverse variety of water heaters that can meet the needs of all kinds of households. While an extensive comparison would be quite lengthy, here is a brief comparison of what each company has to offer.

Bradford White:

Bradford White produces a variety of gas and electric water heaters that feature their commitment to safety and durability. Some of their exclusive features include:

ICON System A control system that provides consistently accurate water temperatures and makes it easier for the homeowner to control.  While being an electronic valve, it doesn’t require outside electricity. The control uses Bradford White’s proven millivolt technology – heat energy from the pilot flame is converted into electrical energy. Hence the name ICON – Intelligent Control.
Defender Safety System® with ScreenLok™ This patented screen is uniquely designed to prevent flammable vapors from exiting the tank.  An essential feature considering our water-heaters are usually in areas where flammable items are also stored (i.e., paint cans in the garage).
Hydrojet® Total Performance System This system alone sets Bradford White apart from other manufacturers. The Hydrojet® Total Performance System uses a dip tube that has a series of “jet ports.” These “jets” create turbulence in the tank, preventing sediment from accumulating, essentially self-cleaning the tank. 
Vitraglas®An exclusive enamel lining that protects the tank against the corrosive effects of hot water. The unique compound structure of this enamel allows the lining to expand and contract with the steel tank. It is included as standard equipment on nearly all Bradford White tank water heaters.

Rheem:

Rheem does not offer as many special features for reducing internal wear and tear as Bradford White does. Still, they lead the market in manufacturing water heaters that are environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, and offer smart technology options. Their most noteworthy water heater is the Marathon® Water Heater. 

Rheem describes this as the most durable electric water heater ever made, claiming it is “The last water heater you will ever need to buy.” Rheem also offers EcoNet wifi connectivity so that you can use your cell phone or tablet to monitor the health of your water heater. You will get notifications on usage and alerts if a leak or other issue is detected. 

Some of Rheem’s exclusive Marathon® Water Heater features include: 

Dry Fire ProtectionAdvanced circuitry ensures that heating elements only turn on when surrounded by water
Patented Insulation Process2.5” polyurethane insulation reduces heat loss for greater energy efficiency
Seamless Plastic LinerA seamless, blow-molded, plastic inner tank that protects against rust and corrosion
Tough Outer JacketMultiple layers of filament wound fiberglass give the tank its unmatched strength

Bradford White or Rheem: Which is More Affordable? 

Bradford White water heaters are more expensive than Rheem because they are only available through an authorized, licensed dealer.  Rheem water heaters are available at most wholesale stores, making them more affordable.

Water heaters range greatly in price. On average, a water heater alone can run between $400 to $3,000. When preparing your budget, it’s important to consider that other factors will raise the final amount. For instance:

  • Size-  Based on the number of people in your home, how many gallons do you need?
  • Type – Do you want electric, gas, hybrid, tankless? 
  • Installation – Are you switching from electric to gas? Or from a tank to tankless?
    • Will new gas, electric, or plumbing lines need to be run?
    • Does the area have sufficient ventilation for a gas water heater?

Choosing a Bradford White water heater will cost more money than doing it yourself. Still, a professional can help you determine what size water heater best suits the needs of your home, and should you need new electrical, plumbing, or gas lines, they have the experience and equipment to do the job safely. They will also be familiar with local codes.  

If you choose a Rheem water heater and like the idea of doing the work yourself, it’s important to keep in mind that more is involved than simply swapping out the old with the new.

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Why Home Inspections Are Important

Water heaters contain great pressure that can build over time if not properly vented or maintained. This build-up of pressure can turn your water heater into a destructive and lethal rocket. You will also be working with natural gas, propane, or electricity and need some soldering skills. 

How Do Bradford White and Rheem Warranties Compare?

Bradford White and Rheem both offer standard warranties for their water heaters. 

Bradford White offers the standard 6-to-10-year warranty for their water heaters. Unlike Rheem, their warranties are not prorated. Bradford White warranties are contingent on their water heaters being installed and serviced by authorized professionals only.  

An advantage to using an authorized dealer, however, is that if your water heater needs to be serviced or replaced, a licensed professional will handle the repairs. If the unit is still under warranty, they will also handle submitting the claim. 

A survey conducted by JD Power and Associates found that when dealing with the company, warranties, repairs, quality, etc., Bradford White was one of the top companies contractors preferred to work with. 

Rheem water heaters come with varying levels of coverage. Rheem water heaters come with the standard 6-to-10- year warranty on most models, with the option to purchase an extended warranty.

Unfortunately, their warranties are prorated.  If you choose to go with their Marathon® Water Heater, you will only need one warranty. According to their website, the warranty is for the life of the water heater. 

Regardless of the brand you go with, monitoring the health of your water heater will go a long way in prolonging its life. As with any investment, it’s always a good idea to do regular maintenance check-ups. Here are four ways to know your water heater may need to be serviced or replaced: 

  1. Age of Water Heater – Is your water heater 10 years old, or perhaps even older? Not sure?
  2. Appearance of the Water Heater – Are there signs of rust or leaking anywhere on the outside of the tank?
  3. Look, Smell, and Taste of Your Water – Does water from the faucet look rusty? Does it smell or have a metallic taste?
  4. Popping or Gurgling Noises as the Water Heats –  Ideally, your water heater works quietly in the corner, never making a sound. But if you start hearing noises of any kind, that is a warning sign your water heater is not feeling well and needs immediate attention.

Whether you decide to go with Bradford White or Rheem, be sure to register your water heater, so the warranty is effective right away. Both Bradford White and Rheem make it easy to register your water heater and see if your current water heater is still under warranty. Go to the respective website and enter the serial number from the manufacturer label.

Known Recalls for Bradford White and Rheem Water Heaters

Bradford White:

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website, Bradford White issued a voluntary recall of 1,220 75-gallon Power Vented Gas Water Heaters sold between April 2002 to May 2002.  The issue was with the gas flue baffle.  The flue baffle, or exhaust, is a helical piece of metal designed to slow down and aid the exhaust gases in exiting the unit. 

There was a concern that Bradford White fitted some models with incorrectly made flue gas baffles. This error could result in excessive carbon monoxide emissions, which could cause serious injury or death. Thankfully there were no injuries, deaths, or other accidents before the recall was made.

Rheem:

Rheem has two noted recalls. 

A voluntary recall was issued for indoor tankless water heaters manufactured from May 2004 to December 2006. It was found that, during transit, certain components inside the tank would shift, causing the air filter door switch to operate improperly.

If the switch fails and the air filter door is out of place, the water heater may continue to operate, and dust and lint could build up, posing a carbon monoxide poisoning hazard. Rheem offered to repair these water heaters free of charge. There are no incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning recorded.

In 2016, a recall was issued on Rheem’s Performance Platinum Electric Water Heaters, sold exclusively at Home Depot. The thermostat control panel would overheat, posing a potential burn and fire hazard.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 296 reports of control panels overheating, including one report of a fire which resulted in $5,800 in property damage. No injuries have been reported.

You can Troubleshooting Tankless Water Heater Error Codes: Rheem

Pros and Cons of Bradford White vs Rheem

As you can see, each company deserves the right to be at the top of the pack. Purchasing a water heater is an investment in your family and home. Each investment comes with advantages and disadvantages. Below is a summary of the pros and cons for each company:

Bradford White – Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Made only in America
  • Wide variety of water heaters Excellent customer service
  • Water heaters have long life spans
  • Comes with excellent safety features
  • Most models are Energy Star certified
  • 6-to-10 year warranty that is not prorated
  • Has excellent customer service

Cons:

  • Can only be purchased through an authorized dealer
  • Warranty does not cover labor to install or repair the water heater

Rheem – Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Offers a variety of water heaters 
  • Water heaters have long life spans
  • Models are energy efficient
  • Offers smart technology features, such as EcoNet
  • Can be found at wholesale suppliers

Cons:

  • Prorated warranty
  • Not all models are manufactured in America

Which Water Heater is Best For You?

Bradford White and Rheem are both excellent choices. 

If you are looking for a water heater that offers smart technology, is committed to manufacturing environmentally friendly products, and prefers the ease of purchasing your water heater from your local wholesale supplier, Rheem is a good choice for you. 

Suppose you want a water heater made in the USA, comes with various patented safety features, is built to withstand the wear and tear of everyday use, and has several Energy Star certified water heaters. In that case, Bradford White is a good choice for you.  

Sources:

Bradford White Water Heaters

Marathon Water Heater by Rheem

Rheem Water Heater Recalls

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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