Apparently there was a lot of consolidation in the hot water heater tank manufacturers.
You can still see many, many brands but the majority of them are manufactured by handful of companies.
For kicks, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular brands.
Rheem Manufacturing Company was established in the mid-1920s when brothers Richard and Donald Rheem acquired a galvanizing plant in San Francisco, California. In the 1930’s, Rheem began manufacturing water heaters, and by 1936 had coast to coast distribution. During the 1940s and 1950s, the company increased its product line to include space heating units for homes, oil furnaces and air conditioners.
In 1959, Rheem acquired Ruud Manufacturing Company, a pioneer in the water heating industry with a well-regarded product line and a distribution network throughout North America. In subsequent years, Rheem entered the heating and air conditioning market and expanded in the late 1960’s and 1970’s with the rapid growth of the central air conditioning industry. In 1985, the company acquired Raypak, a leading producer of copper tube boilers used for swimming pool heating and commercial hot water supply and hydronic heating.
Sold exclusively by plumbing wholesalers and plumbing contractors, A. O. Smith’s selection of residential and commercial water heaters, boilers and storage tanks is unmatched for quality and diversity. Anywhere hot water is needed, A. O. Smith can provide an energy-efficient solution with maximum value during and for years after installation. And, A. O. Smith stands behind its products and its customers with world-class service, combining cutting-edge technology with committed people who take pride in being the very best.
A. O. Smith produced its first residential water heater in 1939, establishing a tradition of innovation that continues to this day. In 1953, A. O. Smith shipped its first commercial water heater equipped with a “glass-lined” tank, which remains the industry standard for protecting steel from the corrosive effects of water.
In 2004, A. O. Smith reaffirmed its mastery of glass lining technology by introducing patented Blue Diamond™ glass coating on its best Conservationist® residential water heaters. Blue Diamond™ provides the ultimate protection… over twice the corrosion resistance compared to industry-standard glass lining.
The Cyclone Xi™ water heater symbolizes A. O. Smith’s clear leadership in the commercial water heating market. Introduced in 1997, The Cyclone XHE® commercial gas water heaters were designed with high thermal efficiencies to deliver maximum hot water output at the lowest possible cost, which can translate into thousands of dollars saved per year for owners of restaurants and other commercial buildings.
A. O. Smith Water Products Company is headquartered in Ashland City, Tennessee, home of the world’s largest water heater factory. The A. O. Smith network includes five manufacturing facilities in North America, plus plants in Nanjing, China and Veldhoven, The Netherlands.
Bradford White is a privately held American manufacturer of residential and commercial water heaters headquartered in Ambler, Pennsylvania, with its manufacturing facility located in Middleville, Michigan. The company is among the largest American manufacturers of water heaters, competing with companies such as Rheem and A. O. Smith.
Bradford White has a longstanding business model where its water heaters are not sold directly to consumers; Bradford White water heaters are only sold via local plumbers. Bradford White claims this approach ensures proper and safe installation of its water heaters, and also prevents code violations.
So what does this all mean, especially since most hot water heater tanks look almost exactly alike on the outside?
Surprisingly, higher price is a fairly good indicator that it is a better water heater than the cheaper kinds.
These more expensive models most often provide longer warranties due to more durable components like thicker insulation, better quality metal rods, heavy-duty heating elements, etc.