When searching for the best water heater for your new home, as a replacement or simply to upgrade, it can be tough. There are a lot of brands giving you offers of durability, quality, and cost-effectiveness.
This article will take a close examination of Reliance brand water heaters. We will rate, review and compare the brand, their available models and give you everything you need to make a good decision. Is Reliance the right brand for you? There’s only one way to find out. Read on.
Reliance was established in 1981 as a budget-friendly portion of the State Water heater brand. The pairing worked well, and Reliance was able to make a name for themselves as a DIY solution for homeowners on a tighter budget.
In 2001 State was acquired by AO Smith as a subsidiary and Reliance along with it. Since then, the Reliance brand has been manufactured under the watchful eye of the premium water heater company.
Today, Reliance continues to be the go-to budget-friendly brand with mid-range models designed to last, perform and meet all your hot water needs.
Types Of Reliance Water Heaters
Reliance has continued to grow and thrive under the AO Smith umbrella. Portioned out as the budget friendly, DIY-friendly brand, AO Smith has helped the smaller brand provide better value and larger product lines over the last couple of decades.
Gas fueled water heaters from Reliance come in two types, tanked and tankless. There are plenty of features and options to go around, as well. You will find that the gas systems come with the new safety standards for ignition, fire and flame control, and temperature settings.
The tankless models are highly efficient and rival even the premium brands on energy savings and warranty length, with many models featuring 15-years of coverage.
Like the gas models, electric water heaters are also available in tanked or tankless. The tanked models are the biggest portion of the lineup, as is true with most brands. The tanked models come with newer features, and some of the top-end models have touch screen interfaces, digital controls, and even wireless communications. These features aren't found on budget models often.
The electric tankless models are among the highest efficiency and lowest running costs of any brand on the market, and that is thanks to the AO Smith premium components. Not all of the tankless models offer the AO Smith internals, but the ones that do are considered top of the line.
Pump Tanks, High Efficiency Models
Reliance doesn’t offer some types of power options like solar power or alternative fuel. They do, however, have their top-end high-efficiency line that comes with all the features and options at a slightly higher price point.
You will also find they have a small selection of heat pump water heaters designed for use with integrated pump systems.
Why Choose Reliance Water Heaters
With budget models, the obvious reason for choosing them is the initial cost savings. Reliance water heaters, though, offer so much more than that. Let's take a closer look at why you should consider the brand.
Self Cleaning Water Heater
Self cleaning options are few and far between with Reliance, but they do exist. The Sta-Kleen and Self-Cleaning 909 models offer inlet tube and hydrojet power to move the water and reduce limescale and sediment deposits. This not only helps the system heat more evenly and efficiently but reduces the likelihood of corrosion and aids in heat transfer through the system.
Wide Variety of Sizes
If you need a small capacity water heater for your under cabinet installation or a large multi-family water heater to run multiple showers or chores at once, Reliance has you covered. Their large range isn’t as big as some of the name brands out there, but it is large enough to find a solution for your needs.
Efficient And Convenient
In today's market, if you aren't energy efficient, you aren't going to be in business long. Reliance water heaters may not reach the efficiency numbers of the premium brands, but they are high enough to lower your monthly energy bills and qualify for tax credits or energy rebates.
The tanks and internal components got a facelift when AO Smith took over, and they added durability to the mix that wasn't there before. All of this at no additional cost to the consumer keeps Reliance at the top of the budget-friendly market for the last 10 years.
As with any water heater brand, the warranty coverage will vary depending on model, location, and other factors. For parts and service, the warranty ranges from 1 to 6 years, with tank and control warranty coverage lasting up to 12 years (15 for tankless models).
Unique Features Of Reliance Hot Water Heaters
So what does Reliance offer that makes them stand out as a viable option for your home? As it turns out, plenty. Let’s dive in and find out what they have to offer.
Point-Of-Use Water Heaters
Reliance offers 6 different point-of-use models. This half dozen is more than almost every other small brand, and their dedication to the POU market is undeniable. Each model is efficient, reliable, and easily installed in just a couple of hours.
Along with the POU models, there are a wide range of compact models in both electric and gas fueled options. You can find durable and leak-resistant water heaters that install in mobile homes, attics, crawl spaces, and even under kitchen cabinets.
Leak Detection Sensor
With the digital readouts and touch screen services, you also receive leak detection sensors. These sensors work to notice a leak before it happens and alert you through the interface. If the leak does occur, the sensors will shut off the system and minimize the amount of water that escapes.
Heavy Duty Sacrificial Anode Rod
The anode rods are designed to attract lime and mineral deposits which prevent them from attaching to the tank and corroding your water heater from the inside out. These consumable rods need regular replacement on most brands. With Reliance, they are extra strong and last longer, reducing the number of times you need to replace them.
Premium Heating Elements
AO Smith helped Reliance with a new style of heating element. The fewer welds mean the heating element are stronger, last longer, and are more affordable, further reducing the production costs of the water heaters. That extra savings was then passed down to the consumer for an even greater overall value.
Built-in Touch-Screen Display
Many models feature the touch screen display and digital readouts. These help you diagnose problems, see error codes without having to count blinking lights, and set the correct temperature with ease.
Ultra-low NOX Gas Emission
Gas models produce vapors, and there is no way around that. However, Low and Ultra-Low NOx models like those from Reliance offer you minimized vapor production and safer levels of NOx when it is produced.
Reliance Hot Water Heaters Reviewed
Unlike other brands that have multiple lines of product or series names, Reliance simply has their products. To help make this Reliance water heater review easier to follow, we will break it up by fuel type. Read on to find out which model is right for your needs and what to expect when you bring it home.
Reliance Gas-Fueled Water Heaters
When choosing a Reliance gas-fueled water heater, you have two primary options, natural gas or propane gas. The natural gas options give you 53 models to choose from, so you aren’t without options there. Everything from small 30 gallon tanks to the largest 100 gallon tanked models are available.
For Propane, you have 28 models to choose from, and each one comes in a range between 30 and 75 gallons. The propane adapters are built-in, and no extra parts are needed when you install them. Everything is ready to go right out of the box.
For Low NOx options, Reliance has you covered there, too. There are 16 total models to choose from for minimized vapor production and additional safety features.
You will also find that the warranties cover all the ranges from 6 to 12 years. 62 of the gas units are also self cleaning tanks to reduce sediment and limescale deposits.
As with all Reliance units, each will come with thorough installation instructions so you can have your new tank installed the same day it arrives.
30 - 100 Gal
Natural and Propane Gas
25,000 to 125,000 BTU Input
First Hour Output
Up to 190 gallons
Up to 210 Gallons Per Minute
Stainless steel construction glass-lined tanks
Digital readout, leak detection, auto-shutoff
6, 9, or 12 years tanked, 15 years tankless
Reliance Electric Water Heaters
The electric side of the Reliance water heater house offers plenty to choose from. Your first choice is tanked or tankless. Besides the obvious differences, tankless models are slightly more challenging to install but last longer and are more energy-efficient.
There are also Point of use (POU) tallboy, small boy, and compact models available. Depending on the usage amount, family size, and installation location, you will find the size you need. The tanked models come in sizes ranging from 2.5 to 80 gallons which is enough for a large family to have plenty of hot water for multiple showers and laundry.
The larger units also come with wireless communications, digital displays, and all of the safety features offered by the brand.
With simple DIY install, the electric water heaters are a favorite of homeowners across the country, and you will find Reliance water heaters installed in every state.
The only downside is that you need to go big to get the most efficiency. Only 6 of the 51 electric models are Energy Star rated, and all of these are standard tanked models. You will also find that the warranties are more varied as well, with 6, 9, 10, and 12-year options depending on the model.
2.5 to 80 Gal
10,000 to 95,000 BTU Input
First Hour Output
Up to 2250 gallons
Up to 330 Gallons Per Minute
Stainless steel construction glass-lined tanks
Digital readout, leak detection, auto-shutoff
6, 9, 10, 12 years tanked, 15 years tankless
Comparisons With Other Hot Water Heater Brands
Reliance is known as a reliable and durable DIY brand. But how do they stack up against larger names in the industry? We compare them against Rheem, Bradford White, and AO Smith to find out.
See our favorite how water heaters here.
Reliance Vs Rheem
Rheem is a mid-range brand that offers higher quality and better efficiency than Reliance. However, Rheem also produces water heaters under the Richmond brand name, which is a budget-friendly manufacturer like Reliance.
In this respect, Rheem is compatible with Reliance on many fronts. However, Rheem has a larger focus on the future and spends a great deal of their efforts in the tankless water heater install market.
The cost difference is slight, but the edge goes to Reliance there, and in many cases, Reliance has a better warranty coverage than Rheem. However, it is more likely that you will need that warranty with a Reliance product than a Rheem model.
If you are on a smaller budget, Reliance is a reputable and dependable brand to go with. However, for a little more, you can buy a Rheem with better efficiency and higher value overall.
Read our full Rheem review
Reliance Vs Bradford White
Bradford White is on the other end of the spectrum compared to Reliance. Bradford White is arguably the best water heater brand in the world. Side by side comparisons of Bradford White and Reliance will see Reliance lose on every count except for one; price.
However, sometimes the product is worth the expense, and in this case, Bradford White is. The high-quality, premium water heaters will last a long time and outperform Reliance in energy efficiency, design, flow rate, and heating ability.
Still, for those looking for an additional water heater or who don't want to break the bank buying a new model, Reliance is a suitable answer.
Read our full Bradford White review
Reliance Vs AO Smith
AO Smith water heaters is technically the parent company of Reliance, even though the true parent company is State water heaters. AO Smith's hand is felt in every Reliance water heater that is installed, and the value has risen for the small brand over the last few years because of it.
AO Smith, like Bradford White, is a premium brand with high quality, attention to detail, and innovation that can’t be matched by Reliance. Once again, the only saving grace is the initial cost. In this instance, the difference is enough to pull people away from AO Smith and to the budget side of the house.
See our full AO Smith review
Where To Buy Reliance Water Heaters?
Reliance is one of a few brands that is specifically designed for sale direct to the public. Like Richmond, Reliance is a DIY option for those looking to save money.
Because of this, you can find Reliance water heaters anywhere water heaters are sold. This includes Home Depot, Lowe's local hardware stores, and reputable dealers.
If you are looking to have your water heater professionally installed, though, it is easier to order through your contractor than to buy yourself and have to deal with shipping, timing, and delays. We have partnered with Networx to help you in these cases as well, as you will see below.
Installation Of Reliance Hot Water Systems
Reliance is a DIY install option and, as such, gets a lot of recommendations from homeowners to other homeowners. Each model comes with a manual that details the installation process step by step.
However, DIY is not your only option. Reliance installation by a professional is cheaper than most other brands, and with its straightforward design, you can have these models installed for as little as $400. In some instances, the cost will be much higher.
This is why it is important to get multiple estimates and quotes before you pick an installer. If you don't know many contractors or are worried about background checks, reviews, and licenses, we can help.
Our partner, Networx, brings you the free app below to find local, trusted, and fully vetted professionals to help with your install. Just enter your information and get up to 4 local contractors trusted to complete the job. It's that easy.
Reliance Water Heater Troubleshooting Maintenance
Reliance water heaters are generally maintenance-free, like most water heaters. However, from time to time, things can break down or go wrong. We have included the following chart to help you diagnose the problem and learn what to do to fix it yourself or when to call a professional for assistance.
No Hot Water
Pilot light out, power not sent to unit
For gas models, ensure the pilot light is list and gas lines are open and flowing to the unit. For electric units check that none of the circuit breakers are not tripped
Hot Water Slow to Temp
Cold weather. Heat exchanger burnt out
If it is wintertime, the most likely cause of an otherwise fine working system is poorly insulated water pipes. Otherwise, the heat exchanger may be broken or damaged and in need of professional inspection.
Pilot Does Not Light
Pilot Does Light But Goes Out Right Away
Gas is off, gas tube clogged
Ensure gas is turned on and making its way to the pilot light. If gas is on, but no flame ever develops, the tubes may be clogged and should be cleared or replaced.
Leaking or Smelly Water
High sulfate bacteria in the tank
Soft water breaks down magnesium that creates sulfate gas giving water a rotten egg smell. You will need to sanitize the tank or chlorinate the water. Contact a professional for pricing and details.
Reliance Water Heater Warranty Information
The Reliance warranty will vary greatly between 1 year and 15 years. Most models will fall in the 6 to 8 year range, with the exception of tankless models, which have a 6year warranty on parts and 15 years on the unit itself.
All other models, gas or electric, compact or full-sized, will depend on the type, size, capacity, when and where it was installed, and who installed it. You will need your serial and model numbers handy if you no longer have a copy of your warranty.
You can find your warranty by entering your serial number on the website. To find your serial number locate the rating plate on the front of the water heater. The serial number will be located at the top of this plate.
Reliance Water Heater Replacement Parts
When the time comes, and a part needs to be replaced, Reliance makes it easy. You don't always have to call your installer or contractor (though you can). But if the unit is under warranty, still it is a good idea to make that call before you repair the problem yourself.
The most common replacement part for gas-fueled water heaters is the thermocouple. This is an inexpensive part that takes minutes to replace. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and will have your pilot light back on in no time. For the Reliance brand, it may be easier to replace the entire pilot assembly, though.
You may also find that the upper or lower thermostat has gone out and needs to be replaced. You can easily find these parts online. The anode rod will need replacement, too, as it begins to corrode. Keeping up on this replacement will prolong the life of your tank, so don't skip out on it.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How do you cancel Reliance water heater rental contract?
Reliance rentals can be terminated by the consumer or agent in charge. You will need to fill out the proper termination paperwork and ensure you follow all directions on the rental agreement site found here.
How do you drain the Reliance water heater?
Draining a water heater is fairly simple and only requires a garden hose. You need to shut off the breaker at the panel or close the gas inlet valve first. Next, turn off the water inlet valve to stop freshwater from coming in and attach the garden hose to the drain bib on the bottom front of the unit. Open the drain valve, and the water will drain through the garden hose.
Once it has fully drained, close the drain valve and remove the garden hose, open the inlet valve to begin filling the tank with water, and after at least 5 seconds, you can relight the pilot or turn the electrical breaker back on.
How do you reset the Reliance water heater?
Open the access panel where the thermostats are located and find the red reset button. Some models have a reset on both thermostats, so make sure you look at both. If one of the reset buttons is popped out, press it back in to reset the system.
How long does a Reliance water heater last?
Reliance water heaters will last at least 8 years with reliable service. Tankless system can last over 15 years without worry. Providing no major issues arise, tanked models will easily last a decade or more.
How do you light a reliance water heater?
Reliance water heaters use Piezo ignition switches, so lighting the pilot light is easy. Just press the ignite button and hold it in until the pilot stays lit, and then release the button. That's all there is to it.
Reliance may be a budget brand water heater company, but they are far from low quality. Since the AO Smith acquisition, Reliance has continued to be a direct-to-consumer brand. However, the new look and internal upgrades brought to the company by AO Smith have helped them become a stronger name in the industry.
If you want an inexpensive yet reliable water heater, regardless of size, install type, or power source, Reliance has an answer for you. With decent efficiency ratings, durable construction, and simple installation, Reliance is a brand you can trust to supply hot water to your home.
Josh enjoys researching, testing and diving into home improvement & DIY products. He has a passion for tools, learning new skills and fixing the everyday problems that arise around the house.