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Rheem vs. AO Smith: Deciding Which Is Best in 2024

Rheem vs. AO Smith: Deciding Which Is Best in 2024

Ah, Rheem vs. AO Smith; the battle rages on. Why are these two brands frequently pitted against each other, and how do you know which of their products is best for your home? 

Both Rheem and AO Smith are known for their quality water heaters, but subtle differences between the two companies’ products may be enough to sway your decision.

Since every home is different, it’s essential to consider your family’s water usage needs before making a purchase.

Ultimately, the life of a water heater depends on many factors, including installation ease, regular maintenance, warranty length, and return policies.

Rheem vs. AO Smith Comparison

Rheem vs. AO Smith logos sitting next to each other against a tan patterned background

The decision-making process for buying a new water heater is complicated, but it always begins with a single moment of need recognition.

We all hope that a kind plumber will tell us something’s wrong with our unit before catastrophe strikes. Unfortunately, the only warning many of us get is a lukewarm shower or a leak in the basement.

Most people know that water heaters need to be replaced every ten years. Generally, new water heaters cost between $300 and $2,000, so it’s essential to weigh all options before committing.

After you realize that your water heater is on its last leg, the next step is to do some sleuthing. Information gathering is one of the most challenging parts of the buying process because it’s time-consuming. Everyone has work and family obligations, and hunting for a new water heater takes valuable personal time.

  • The internet can also be tricky to navigate, and who knows what the algorithms are really up to?
  • Can you trust the top results?

Clicking those links comes with its own set of perils, namely contradictory information.

But which brand do you like the most? And what model of water heater is right for your home? Here’s a bird’s-eye view of both companies’ offerings to help you widdle down your options:

Rheem Gas Water Heaters

Rheem water heater graphic showing the company logo on a tan background

  • There are 42 models available, most of which hold 40–50 gallons of water. 
  • Most of Rheem’s water heaters have a warranty of up to 6 years.
  • Many of their gas water heaters aren’t available in Canada.
  • Safety features include a flammable vapor detection system.

AO Smith Gas Water Heaters

AO Smith water heater graphic showing the company logo on a tan background

  • There are 58 water heaters in their Signature Series, and they hold between 30 and 50 gallons of water.
  • Their ProLine has a whopping 208 water heaters with a first-hour rating of up to 124 gallons.
  • Some items in the Signature Series have a warranty of up to 12 years.
  • Most of AO Smith’s gas water heaters are eligible for a $400 rebate.
  • They all have low emissions.
  • AO Smith has tankless gas water heaters in both their Pro and Signature lines.

Electric water heaters have many benefits. Many people like them because there is no risk of a dangerous gas leak, and they conserve more energy than ones that run on gas.

Electric heaters have a lower upfront cost than their gas counterparts, but they’re more expensive to run from month to month. And they won’t operate if your home loses power.

Rheem Electric Water Heaters

Rheem water heater graphic showing the company logo on a tan background

  • Rheem offers 14 different electric tank water heaters and ten that are tankless. 
  • Most models have leak detection and wifi, which allow homeowners to control their water heaters from a mobile app.
  • The EcoNet wifi app also sends alerts when hot water is running low.
  • Their tankless water heaters are highly efficient and easy to install. Plus, they feature a digital temperature display.

AO Smith Electric Water Heaters

AO Smith water heater graphic showing the company logo on a tan background

  • AO Smith’s Signature Line has 49 electric tank water heaters and seven that are tankless. 
  • Some of their Signature Line electric tank water heaters have a warranty of up to 12 years, but the tankless warranties are generally five years on the heat exchanger and one year on parts.
  • Tankless models have anti-scale technology that protects the unit, and they meet or exceed federal minimum energy standards.
AO Smith ATI-540H-N Tankless Water Heater
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Things to Consider

Comparing your buying options is almost as tricky as researching what to buy, but there are a few things you should keep in mind before getting started. Remember that procrastinating causes anxiety and makes it harder to make a final decision, so act quickly.

Consider Consulting with a Professional

Double-check that you have all the correct information. Consider speaking with an installation professional or brand representative to ensure that the brand and size of water heaters you’re considering will work well for your home and family.

A second opinion may reveal an even more practical or economical solution.

Weigh the Brands Evenly and Patiently

Try to be as objective as possible. Even if you’re fond of your current Rheem water heater, give one of AO Smith’s models a fair shake.

It’s important not to overly rely on brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is nice because it’s a convenient way to decide, but the other brand may meet or exceed your expectations. It might even be cheaper, too!

Give yourself a day or so to decide on a water heater that you like. The day-long time limit provides enough leeway to weigh all your options without putting the decision off. Make sure you have a clear idea of the features that you’re looking for.

  • Do you want something that’s wifi-enabled?
  • Do you just need something basic that gets the job done?
  • What do your family members think?

With all that hard work out of the way, it’s time to find one. Here are some criteria to make your decision easier to make. 

What’s Your Budget?

Cost is king for most buyers, but the price of a new water heater is more than just the price tag. There are also energy and opportunity costs. Choosing the best water heater to meet your needs is the only way to save time and money in the long run.

  • You have a favorite, but what are the benefits that it offers?
  • Does it have a particular feature you think will drastically improve your quality of life?
  • Can it handle the demands in your household?
  • How quickly does it heat water, and is its fuel source readily available in your region?

If you frequently experience power outages, then a gas water heater may be the best option for you. All of these questions affect the price as well.

Make sure that you don’t just opt for the cheapest option now because you may end up with a product that doesn’t have all your necessary features or doesn’t heat your house well.

Whether it be Rheem or AO Smith, the ideal heater should fit within your budget but still meet all your household demands.

How User-Friendly Are Their Websites?

Online shopping is critical these days, and customers need a smooth user experience to locate the products they’re looking for. 


Rheem website snapshot for a piece on Rheem vs AO Smith

Rheem has a much larger product offering than AO Smith for residential as well as commercial properties. This added complexity makes their website harder for average consumers to navigate, but all the information they need is there. 

Prices aren’t on Rheem’s water heater product page. Though their absence makes the buying process more opaque, it’s good that consumers consult local installation professionals about the most appropriate product for their residence. 

Product specifications and documentation are more prominent on Rheem’s website, too. This is great for analytical-minded folks who enjoy facts and figures. Other consumers are going to feel confused and alienated. What exactly does “7.4 gal/min. at 45 F rise max” mean?

Reviews are nested under a drop-down menu. There also aren’t many reviews, and few products have more than ten.

This isn’t helpful for people who like to see various opinions before deciding on a purchase. The review system has an average five-star rating and arbitrary quality, value, and reliability metrics.

AO Smith

AO Smith website snapshot for a piece on Rheem vs AO Smith

AO Smith’s website is more consumer-friendly. The homepage directs visitors to either their water heating or water treatment products. When you click on water heaters, a dialogue window pops up, and you can select either the Proline or Signature Series.

Choosing Proline brings up another page with clear menu options. One half is for professionals; the other half is for homeowners.

The layout makes it easy to learn about where to buy an AO Smith water heater, find a service provider, register an existing product, or browse rebates.

Selecting Signature Series links to a simple product page with water heaters, filters, and softeners. The appliances have different groups: fuel type, application, and capacity, which is terrific for helping consumers narrow down what they’re looking for.

Again, this page reminds visitors that this product line is only available at Lowe’s. There’s a convenient map that shows the closest store. A nice feature of the Signature Series is that prices are on Lowe’s website, which is also well organized.

Rebate information is available right under the cost. The link to the reviews and FAQ is just a few pixels away. The AO Smith team is proactive in answering product questions. No question went unanswered for more than 24 hours.

Is the Customer Service Good?

Customer service is an essential part of any business because consumers buy from companies they like and trust.

Here’s an overview of the general sentiment for both Rheem and AO Smith’s customer service representatives.


Rheem has an impressive product lineup, but buyers rarely go out of their way to comment on the company’s customer service. Rheem’s rating on Consumer Affairs averages three stars out of a possible 5.

Low reviews frequently mention faulty units. One person was frustrated that his family went without hot water for six days, but he found the customer service representatives pleasant.

Many discussed reaching out to customer service multiple times via phone and email before customer service resolved their issue. 

Those who left high reviews praised Rheem’s high performance. One commenter was impressed that his new water heater could handle long, back-to-back showers.

Others seemed to believe in brand loyalty. Their previous Rheem products lasted 10 to 13 years, and they wanted to continue to buy from a company that had earned their trust. 

AO Smith

AO Smith is known for its superb customer service. According to reviews on Consumer Affairs, most customers are indeed very satisfied. AO Smith has an average rating of 3.5 stars out of 5. Common complaints revolved around the temperature of the water.

Many expressed disappointment that the water wasn’t hot enough, and one person was frustrated that their water was too hot, even in the vacation setting. Others had trouble with rust at the bottom of their tanks.

The positive reviews were glowing. There were many reports of AO Smith sending replacement parts or units utterly free of charge, and they even waived shipping.

Lots of reviewers felt that their new AO Smith product was an upgrade compared to their previous model, and a common theme was the ease of installation.

The five-star reviewers all mentioned reasonable pricing. Some took advantage of a sale, while others simply felt that they received great value.

Rheem vs. AO Smith FAQ

Side by side image of AO Smith vs Rheem logos displayed on a building and on a phone


Below, you’ll find a list of common questions people have about water heaters.

What Brand of Water Heater Is the Most Reliable?

Reliability means different things to different buyers. Some prioritize the longevity of the water heater. Because these appliances cost about $1,500, many people don’t want to pay that kind of money more than every ten years.

Other consumers care more about performance because, let’s face it, no one likes to run out of hot water.

Those with large families will enjoy a water heater that can accommodate multiple showers while supplying hot water to the dishwasher and washing machine. Having an ample supply of hot water is a significant component of what makes a household run efficiently.

Is AO Smith a Good Water Heater?

AO Smith is a great water heater brand. Back in 1878, Charles Smith founded the company with the mission to make “hardware specialties,” namely bicycle and baby carriage parts.

Then, he and his three sons tinkered with car frames and sold them to manufacturers like Ford, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile. 

The sons continued to seek out innovative engineering solutions. For example, they discovered more effective welding techniques, which aided in the creation of larger pipes.

Wider pipes were not only helpful for the family business but also for the oil and gas industries. One of the sons also pioneered a way to weld glass to steel, which paved the way for glass-lined beer kegs, brewery tanks, and residential water heaters.

Charles Smith instilled in his sons guiding principles that the company still lives by to this day. It values innovation. Being an industry leader is what has kept AO Smith in operation for more than one hundred years.

The company also strives to protect its image by only presenting truthful information in its advertising campaigns. 

The company’s internal dealings align with its outward image. AO Smith works hard to ensure that all its employees feel good about their work environment.

Everyone is respected and treated equally. Because AO Smith takes care of business at home, it’s a model global corporate citizen.

What Is the Best Electric Water Heater on the Market?

A good water heater meets your family’s needs, but here are a few other things to consider when buying a new water heater: fuel, efficiency, cost, and size.

How Long Should a Hot Water Tank Last?

Generally, a water heater should last at least ten to thirteen years with a traditional water tank. A benefit of having a tankless water heater is that it can last as long as twenty years!

Unfortunately, for those who live in older homes, it may not be possible to retrofit a tankless water heater because of mismatched pipes. 

What Are the Signs of a Hot Water Tank Going Bad?

The signs of a failing water heater are pretty obvious. Age is a significant factor. Water heaters generally need to be replaced once they hit the double-digit mark.

You’ll know it’s time to replace your water heater if you’re experiencing a lack of hot water after using a home appliance like a washing machine or dishwasher. 

The water temperature will also be inconsistent if the water heater is going bad. Water pressure can be negatively affected, too. Smelly or discolored water is a telltale sign that the water tank is rusting. The unit might make strange noises or even leak.

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How Do You Choose Between Rheem vs. AO Smith?

So there you have it — Rheem vs. AO Smith. Both companies make quality products, but personal preference will determine which brand a consumer chooses.

It’s important to note that not all brands make equally good water heaters across all categories.

Potential buyers should always check a product’s reviews and discuss their plans with a qualified installation professional.