Did you know that the cost of heating water amounts to almost 20 percent of your household budget? Which is second only to the cost of heating and cooling your home! Beyond that, people tend to largely ignore their water heaters until they're not working properly.
If you are facing the burden of purchasing a new water heater for your home, there are several factors to consider and models to choose from. If you are short on time and just want our recommendation you can read what we think is the best tankless water heater in our guide.
The 50-gallon water heater is one of the most popular sizes for residential use. Why? 50 gallons usually meets the hot water demands for a 1 -2 bathroom home, condo, or apartment.
There are several models to choose between on the market today. And, they are economical both to buy and to operate. Tank-type water heaters do tend to take up more space, but they also have the ability to heat greater volumes of water.
To determine the right size water heating system for your household, one of the most important factors to consider is simultaneous use.
Essentially, your hot water heater should provide enough hot water for you to use multiple sources of water at the same time. For example, you should be able to take a shower while also running the washing machine or dishwasher.
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You can estimate which size water heater tank you need by using the first-hour rating. A first-hour rating is the number of gallons of hot water that the heater can supply per hour. The first-hour rating for a particular heater is displayed on the left corner of the Energy Guide sticker
50 gallon water heaters will typically have a first-hour rating in the range of 70-80 gallons for gas and around 60 gallons for electric. For an eight minute shower, you'll consume about 15 gallons (or 56 liters) of hot water.
So, if four people in your household take showers simultaneously in the morning, you would need a system with a 60 gallon first hour rating.
Calculating Your Needs
Its fairly easy to calculate what size water heater is best for your needs:
- Determine what time of day (morning, noon, evening) you use the most hot water in your home (the peak hour).
- Note the number of people using hot water in your home.
- Determine the average gallons of hot water that will be used during that peak hour.
- Choose a tank with a first-hour rating that matches your peak hour demand figure.
The table below can help you estimate your average usage of hot water during your peak hour for common tasks:
Average Gallons of Hot Water Used
Shaving (.05 GPM*)
Washing Dishes by Hand (2 GPM*)
Running Washing Machine
*GPM - Gallons per Minute of hot water used.
To calculate your total peak hour demand, multiply the "Average Gallons of Hot Water Used" by the number of times used during the peak hours.
This will give you the total number of gallons used in one hour for each activity. Then, add together the totals for each activity in order to get the TOTAL peak hour demand.
When choosing a new water heater for your home, it's important to consider what fuel type of energy source you'll use. The fuel used by your water heating system will affect both the annual operating costs and the energy efficiency.
There are two main fuel types that power 50-gallon water heaters: Electricity and gas.
Electric Water Heaters
Electric water heaters are extremely popular and they tend to be less expensive to purchase. They operate by using large coils within the tank that heat the water. These coils are similar to those found in an electric oven.
Generally, electric water heaters aren't as efficient as those powered by other fuel sources. Additionally, electricity tends to be more expensive than natural gas or propane. On the other hand, electric models are less expensive up front and they don't require the same venting as gas.
The biggest disadvantage of an electric water heater is the comparatively slow recovery rate. A typical 50-gallon electric unit set to 120 degrees takes about:
- 1 hour and 47 minutes to heat water entering the unit at 40 degrees.
- 1 hour and 20 minutes to heat water entering the unit at 60 degrees.
- 1 hour and 6 minutes to heat water entering the unit at 70 degrees.
Gas Water Heaters
Gas water heaters will heat water with a gas burner located in the bottom of the tank. Each time the water temperature falls below a set level, a gas burner will ignite to bring the water back up to the desired temperature. Most Americans use natural gas for their heating system, though some use propane gas.
Both natural gas and propane (LP) water heater models are generally more expensive to purchase than electric. Gas water heaters are also less energy efficient than electric heaters.
The cost of running electricity, though, makes those units more expensive to operate. The most appealing feature is a much faster recovery rate, which makes them a convenient option for larger households.
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A gas heater can heat a 50-gallon tank in about one hour. Its recovery rate is much faster than that of an electric heater. About half the time, in fact. A typical 50-gallon gas unit set to 120 degrees takes about:
- 53 minutes to heat water entering the unit at 40 degrees.
- 40 minutes to heat water entering the unit at 60 degrees.
- 33 minutes to heat water entering the unit at 70 degrees.
Another major advantage of gas powered water heaters is that they'll still work even in the event of a power outage.
Aside from the power source, there are several other factors to consider when choosing a water heater:
- Energy Factor: A water heater's energy efficiency is determined by the energy factor (EF). This number is based on the amount of hot water produced per unit of fuel consumed over a typical day. The higher the energy factor, the more efficienct the water heater. The best 50-gallon water heaters should have at least a .62 EF.
- Energy Star: A 50-gallon water heater that has earned the Energy Star is about 15 percent more efficient than a standard model.
- Warranty: Coverage for water heaters typically lasts 3-12 years. Its wise to choose a water heater with the longest warranty available.
- Flow Rate: The flow rate is not something you can just ignore. The flow rate will determine just how much access you have to hot water. Its the reason you always get people asking about the various flow rates before buying the water heaters. Having a higher flow rate is often the best thing. It means that you can end up with a model that can deliver hot water each time you want it to do so.
- Anti-Scale Devices: Some models will offer features that help reduce the buildup of mineral scale at the bottom of the tank. If you live in an area with hard water, you may want to invest in one of the these models.
- Brass vs. Plastic Drain Valves: Drain valves are situated near the base of the water heater and are used to attach a garden hose in order to drain the heater. Brass drain valves tend to be more durable than plastic.
Water Heater Brands
There are several brands that manufacture gas water heaters. They all offer models at various price points and features:
- A.O. Smith makes residential and commercial water heaters, boilers, and storage tanks that are sold exclusively by plumbing wholesalers and plumbing contractors. It manufactures tankless, hybrid, solar, and high-efficiency tank water heaters.
- General Electric makes both gas and electric water heaters. GE tank water heaters are available in multiple sizes, with energy-efficiency claims that vary by size and multiple levels of warranty coverage. The company's tank water heaters are available exclusively at Home Depot.
- Kenmore makes both gas and electric water heaters. Their models are available in multiple sizes and configurations. Kenmore water heaters are available at Sears and other retailers.
- Rheem manufactures gas and electric water heaters. Rheem water heaters are available in multiple sizes and with multiple warranties, with energy-efficiency claims that vary by size. Rheem tank water heaters are available online and through a network of dealers.
- Whirlpool manufactures gas and electric water heaters. Whirlpool tank water heaters are available in multiple sizes. Their products are available at Lowe's.
- Other water heater brands currently on the market include: American, Bradford White, EcoSmart, Heat Pump, Rinnai, State, and Westinghouse.
So, you have calculated your needs, considered your options, and decided that a 50 gallon gas water heater is the best choice for you and your home.
Now you have to choose the right model. Below we have listed our top picks. We based our list on efficiency, reliability, user reviews, and price.
A.O. Smith GPVL-50 ProMax Power Vent Gas Water Heater
The A.O. Smith GPVL-50 ProMax Power Vent is, in our opinion, the best 50-gallon gas water heater on the market today. Its engineered to maximize efficiency and it offers greater flexibility in terms of installation options.
This model has a 0.7 Energy Factor and is ENERGY STAR qualified. Its also eligible for some local utility and rebate programs. Most states offer rebates between $50 to $250.
- A 50-gallon tank and a 40,000 BTU gas burner.
- The GPVL-50 Power Vent delivers a first-hour rating of 90 gallons and a recovery rate of 44.7 gallons per hour.
- This unit is ideal for large families with high demand for hot water.
- It provides enough hot water for 3 showers at the same time.
- Comes with a 6-year limited warranty.
- All ProMax models feature an exclusive 3-position rotatable blower outlet which adds flexibility (it can be installed in more positions).
- Equipped with a sensor that detects the presence of flammable vapors and automatically disables the burner to prevent ignition.
Bradford White 50 Gallon Defender Atmospheric Vent Energy Saver Natural Gas Water Heater
Bradford White was established in 1881 and has become an innovative leader in the commercial, residential and industrial wholesale water heater industry.
This Bradford White 50 Gallon Defender Atmospheric Vent Energy Saver model offers quality design and advanced technology, making it one of the safest and reliable water heaters on the market.
- An input of 40,000 BTUs and a First Hour Rating of 89 gallons.
- 90°F. recovery rise for this tank is about 43 minutes.
- Intelligent diagnostics through an LED screen that gives you 10 different indicators of how your water heater is functioning.
- A flashing light so you can tell if the pilot light is operating correctly.
- A tank made from stainless steel with a durable enamel lining to protect it from corrosion.
- Eco-friendly foam insulation that reduces energy use and helps the system operate more efficiently to save money on utility bills.
- Factory-installed heat traps that cut down on heat loss in the pipes, which also reduces energy consumption.
Westinghouse WGR050NG076 Water Heater
Westinghouse is a well-known company that produces high-efficient water heaters using the latest technology. The model WGR050NG076 is one of the few 50-gal gas water heaters that's built as a tank-type which utilitzes condensing technology.
The unique design allows this Westinghouse heater to produce hot water with the superior 97% energy efficiency, making it Energy Star compliant and eligible for rebates.
The stainless steel tank and heat exchanger also makes the unit corrosion resistant and maintenance free. This is one of the most innovative 50 gallon water heaters on the market, offering advanced electronics for easy control, diagnostics, and troubleshooting. Unfortunately, the unit is expensive, big and heavy.
- Ultra-high energy efficiency of 97%.
- 76,000 BTU.
- The water storage tank is made of 316L stainless steel for long-lasting operation.
- Advanced electronics equipped with the LCD display for easy control and diagnostics.
- High First-Hour Delivery of 133 GPH.
- Versatile unit for use in residential and commercial applications.
- Flexible installation.
- Temperature range 70-160° F.
- 10-year warranty.
American Proline XE Polaris PG10 50-199-3NV
The American Proline XE Polaris PG10 50-199-3NV is another great 50 gallon gas water heater. This is the most expensive unit on the list, but also the most powerful with 199,000 BTU.
- Condensing design.
- Stainless steel tank and heat exchangers for durable operation.
- Power Direct venting.
- Advanced control panel and digital display.
- A maximum gas input of 199,000 BTU.
- Whisper quiet operation.
- Ultra low gas emissions.
- Side and top connections to allow recirculation and combined space and water heating.
- A recovery rate of 253 GPH.
- 10-year warranty.
Rheem Performance Platinum Gas Water Heater
The Rheem Performance Platinum is an excellent 50-gallon gas water heater for medium-sized households. This heater provides ample water at a lower cost than older models.
A simple push button ignition system makes for safer startups, while the tank's lifespan is increased by a premium grade anode rod.
The heater comes with a 3-year in-home labor warranty, a 12-year limited warranty for tank and parts, and full 2015 NAECA compliance.
With a 0.62 energy factor, 86 gallon delivery in the first hour, and ability to provide for homes up to 8,500 feet in elevation, this tank provides excellent efficiency for most homes.
The single most significant problem with this heater is that it doesn't meet the current Ultra Low NOx emissions standards in California.
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