AO Smith vs. Bradford White Water Heaters: Which One?

by Jay | Last Updated:  Last updated on November 7th, 2022,

Nothing sounds better than a hot shower at the end of the day. There’s just something about it that washes off the stress of the day. This is even truer when the winter comes! Imagine being in the winter season without a water heater? COMPLETE HORROR!


Two of the most popular water heaters are Bradford White and AO Smith. They are both efficient and provide reliable service. So if you’re here because you’re considering purchasing a new water heater, you might want to hop in and learn with us!

Buyer’s guide

Here are the essential things to consider before investing in a water heater:

Water heater types

There are two main types of water heaters:

  • Tank water heater: this type comes in two variants: electric or gas. In this type, insulating the tank helps retain the warmth. The temperature can also be controlled with the use of a thermostat.
  • Tankless water heater: this type of water heater gives you warm water whenever you need it making it more convenient and easy to use. This is the more affordable type and comes in a smaller size, making it easy to install!

Energy efficiency

To save money off your electric bills, you should get one that saves energy. For example, water heaters utilize electricity and will give you the highest electric bill during winter. Check the energy star ratings to learn more about a unit’s energy consumption. As a rule of thumb, the higher the rating, the lesser energy it consumes.

Flow rate

The water flow performance from your water heater is indicated by the flow rate and is calculated in gallons per minute. The higher the flow rate, the faster it can give you hot water. Take note; however, too fast of a rate may also produce unwanted humming. Therefore, we suggest that you go for a balanced flow rate.

Design and durability

Buying a water heater is an investment in itself, so make sure to invest in a water heater that’s high quality. These water heaters may hold higher price tags, but they can save you money if they last you long enough. Plus, a durable and efficient water heater saves you from having it repaired repeatedly. 

On top of the durability is the design. You might want to, at last, choose a unit that goes well in the overall interior of your bathrooms!

Venting options

Three sizes of venting systems are as follows:

  • Atmospheric venting is the most common, which works like a chimney. It releases gasses into the atmosphere by drawing flue gasses out of the heater through a vertically placed metal pipe.
  • Direct venting: this type houses a sealed combustion chamber and a horizontal flue pipe connected to a wall that leads outside the unit. This has less noise and is more flexible.
  • Power venting: this type moves flue glasses outdoors using a fan. This is more flexible because it can be installed vertically or horizontally and even far from the unit. However, this is the most expensive.

Size

Make sure that the size of the water heater fits well in the available space you have in the bathroom to avoid any problems!

Operational cost

Fortunately, most of the water heaters on the market are more energy-efficient and affordable than before. You can easily compute the cost using a calculator on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) website. Generally speaking, electric water heaters are more efficient but are pricier to operate compared to gas variants.

Lifespan

To have an idea of the probable life span of your water heater, here are the things to consider:

  • Type of water heater: Tank waters usually last for 10-15 years, while tankless ones have a lifespan of approximately 20 years. 
  • Maintenance: Proper maintenance is vital! Buildups of dirt and other substances may cause premature wear and tear, so have it cleaned regularly.

Technology

Relatively new water heater features to look out for:

  • Controllable units: This feature provides a control panel to the user for easy setting adjustment.
  • Glass-lined tanks: this type of build protects the steel from any corrosive effects of water.
  • Hybrid units: these units are a part heat pump and part storage-tank water heater. Per the DOE, these units utilize approximately 62% less energy than a 50-gallon electric water heater.

Table of comparison: AO Smith vs. Bradford White

Bradford WhiteAO Smith
Energy efficiencyEnergy star-qualifiedUtilizes less power than a regular heater
Flow rateUp to 4.4 GPMUp to 10 GPM
Noiseless operationSoundproof operationNot as soundproof as Bradford White
LifespanLess than 6 yearsLess than 12 years
Power supply240 voltage120 voltage
Top picksBradford White BWC RE350S6 Water Heater 
Bradford White RE120U6 Water Heater
Bradford White RE16U6 Water Heater
AO Smith BT 100 Tank Water Heater 
AO Smith LTE-66D Water Heater
AO Smith ENS-50 ProMax Water Heater

AO Smith Water Heaters

AO Smith is a residential and commercial water heater and boiler manufacturer from America and was founded in 1904. The brand is known for its high-end products that give you value for your money. From advanced features to durable build, you can rely on AO Smith to not disappoint. 

Lifespan

A quick tip: the longer the warranty period provided by a company, the more durable their product is. While most affordable water heaters hold warranties ranging from 3 to 4 years, AO Smith confidently offers a whopping 12-year warranty on the usual parts and 6 years warranty on other significant components. Thus, we can say that they trust their products to last for 6 to 12 years, and possibly even more.

Energy efficiency

Unfortunately, water heaters from AO Smith are not energy-star rated. Thus, they may not be as energy-efficient as other brands. But note that the brand’s water heaters still use less energy than traditional heaters.

Flow rate

AO Smith heaters come with a higher flow rate; thus, it gives you hot water fast. It can flow water up to 10 GPM for a more efficient hot shower experience without waiting too long.

Performance

With its durable build and commendable flow rate, it is only reasonable to say that AO Smith water heaters offer excellent performance. Despite not being 100% quiet, it still operates at a reasonable noise you may not notice unless you pay attention.

Power supply

Generally, the higher the voltage, the better the performance, and the lower the voltage, the more energy is saved. Choose which of these factors matters to you more! AO Smith water heaters operate on 120 to 220 voltages.

Price

With its quality, we can say that AO Smiths are priced reasonably. It is durable, reliable, and convenient. Their relatively low price is due to the low capacity and lack of advanced features compared to Bradford White. But, AO Smith does everything a water heater should do and does so efficiently. This is a good run for your money!

Bradford White Water Heaters

Now let’s move to Bradford white. It’s an American employee-owned manufacturer that produces residential and commercial water heaters. The company is primarily based in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The company offers different heater options, but here are the essential things to know:

Lifespan

Bradford White offers a 6-year warranty period. This is less than AO Smith’s; thus, we can say that Bradford White is less confident about their product’s longevity. But as I’ve said, most water heaters only offer 3-4 years of warranty, so this is not half bad. 

However, with proper maintenance and installation, Bradford White water heaters can live up to 10 years or more. It has an “Is It Time To Replace Your Water Heater” page to let you know if replacement is imminent. Another thing to consider is the price of installing a unit. Installation costs can run from $600 up to $2000!

Energy efficiency

Bradford White heaters have an impressive energy star rating that assures you that they can save up to 20-30% energy. This helps you save money in the long run!

Flow rate

Heaters from the brand house have a rather low flow rate. This means that it takes time before it heats up. These water heaters have a flow rate of 4.6 GPM or less, which is low compared to AO Smith’s 10 GPM. But if we compare it to other heaters in the market, this is not bad at all.

Performance

Bradford White heaters offer excellent performance while being 100% soundproof! These heaters also house more advanced features than its top competitor.

Power supply

These heaters utilize 240 voltage which says a lot about their performance. As discussed, the higher the voltage, the better the performance!

Price

This one is another great run for your money! For their quality, this brand offers such fine prices to customers. However, while there are more affordable ones, the more advanced the heater houses’ features, the higher the price tag.

How often should a water heater be replaced?

Once you see signs of malfunctions and whatnots and you’ve already had the water heater for around a decade, we’re sad to say that it might be time for a replacement. But unfortunately, even with proper maintenance, replacement is bound to happen after many years.

Are electric water heaters more efficient?

Due to strict energy efficiency standards mandated by federal regulations, newer electric water heaters are more efficient than ever. A key here is that the bigger the tank, the more efficiency is needed. Electric heat pumps allow 55-gallon tanks to achieve more efficiency. While they come at a price, electric heat pump units are the most efficient.

Verdict

Now that all has been said, you should know by now that we cannot have a clear-cut winner as to which brand offers the best water heaters. This is because no brand single-handedly swept out all the categories. For example, AO Smith has strengths and weaknesses like Bradford White. So, this article aims to give you the comparisons you need, so you are armed with enough information to choose which one fits your preferences best! Good luck!

Jay

Self assessed Germaphobe, specializing in everything water, water filters, health and nutrition. Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I've acquired immense amount of knowledge when it comes to natural, biology, and everything about human anatomy.