Kenmore Elite Natural Gas Water Heater 33262 (40 gal) & 33264 (50 gal)

Manufacturer: A O Smith
Today we're going to talk about the Rodney Dangerfield of appliances. The one appliance that never gets respect. The one product that nobody ever pays any attention until it dies. That unsexiest of all appliances: the water heater. Yes, we're talking about that big tank of water that keeps your showers toasty and your dishes clean.
When the water heater goes, we've got to replace it, but what to choose? Well, if your home has natural gas, there are the old standards, but there's a new generation of water heaters available that heat more efficiently and save you a bunch on your energy bills. They're Energy Star-qualified, and today we're going to look at the Kenmore Elite natural gas water heaters. There's a 40 gallon (33262) and a 50 gallon (33264). Everything about one will apply to the other, so we'll cover both at once.
Traditional natural gas water heaters have a burner beneath the tank, and hot air travels through the center of the tank to heat the water. There's not very much surface area of the water exposed to the heat, so much of that valuable hot air is being wasted as it exits the home.
These water heaters make much better use of that heat. There's a fan that draws air in from about three feet up from the floor (so it's not competing with the burner for air), and that drives the air more forcefully from the burner through the tank. This additional force allows for many more baffles to the tube carrying the hot air, and that means more surface area transmitting heat from the air into the water. What does all that mean for you? It means the burner runs less to heat up a tank full of cold water.
Of course, that's not all. We don't want to waste the heat that's in the water, so there's two full inches of insulation to keep that water hot. There's no sense in getting it hot with less gas if it's going to take more gas to keep it hot! And, digital controls allow you much greater precision for temperatures. No more dots on a dial. Pick a temperature.
Add to that the two long anode rods, and you've got a 12 year tank warranty. Of course, you should still maintain your tank properly, by flushing it from the spigot at the bottom at least once a year, and testing the pressure relief valve on the side of the tank a few times a year. Treated properly, most water heaters should last significantly longer than their tank warranties. And, doing so maintains higher levels of efficiency over the life of the tank.
If your home has 3 or fewer people, a 40 gallon tank is probably fine, assuming you don't have a Jacuzzi or hot tub or other hot water-intensive items in the home. If there are 4 or more people, the 50 gallon tank is probably the better choice. While they might cost more up front, there are rebates for them in most states and municipalities, and there may be federal tax credits available for switching to an Energy Star-qualified water heater.
Remember, you don't need to wait for your current tank to fail to replace it. You may want to be proactive and take care of it before it becomes a catastrophe. And, you'll be lowering your utility bills at the same time!
NOTE: Energy Star-qualified water heaters will require a grounded outlet within 3 feet of the tank.
Kenmore Elite 33262 / 33264