Professional-grade and big box store water heaters are very different, especially regarding product quality. If you’re looking for a water heater, you should be aware of these differences to ensure that you’re choosing the right one.

While it’s usually easy enough to identify a big box store water heater and a professional-grade water heater, it is harder to discern what separates them. What are some of the key differences? Let’s take an in-depth look at their significant distinctions.


Professional-grade water heaters offer much higher quality than their big box store counterparts. They’re fitted with superior components such as drain valves and pressure relief valves that can make all the difference when hot water is at stake.

They often have more features as well. Many have a broader range of temperature controls, for example. If your family has varying hot water needs, like children who need warmer showers and seniors who need cooler ones, temperature control can help you save money by heating only what you require for a particular application.

Professional-grade water heaters are typically more expensive than big box store units, but they last longer and require much less maintenance because they’re intended to hold up for many years without issues. They also have various safety features you don’t see on comparable big box store models. These include heavier internal plumbing to prevent leaks and better pressure relief valves to prevent dangerous explosions. Anti-corrosion measures are often incorporated to avoid potential failure due to rust.


You can use either type of heater in a residential home or small businesses, but professional-grade water heaters are generally designed for larger buildings. They have a heating capacity of 40,000 BTUs. Big box store water heaters, on the other hand, have a heating capacity of 36,000 BTUs. This feature makes professional-grade water heaters more efficient, which can save energy and money.

Professional-grade water heater tanks are thicker than those of big box store water heaters, and they are composed of more steel. Their storage tanks are also taller than big box store brands, meaning you will have more space to fill with water. This is convenient if you have a larger family or you run multiple appliances that utilize hot water. The larger capacity can satisfy all those needs simultaneously.

Professional-grade water heaters also come equipped with expansion tanks for additional protection against high pressure. Most home water heaters make do with only a check valve. If that valve should fail, this expansion tank will release excess pressure so that you don’t end up with a burst pipe or flooding in your home.


When it comes to personal peace of mind, it’s essential to make sure you have a good warranty in case something goes wrong with your water heater. The average lifespan of a standard water heater is eight to 12 years, depending on how well the tank is insulated. If you choose an ENERGY STAR-certified model, the device will usually last longer. This can save you a lot of money in repairs or replacement costs in the long run.

Professional-grade water heaters have a much greater lifespan and often provide a better warranty than their big box store competitors. That can be of particular concern to the new homeowner or building manger looking for long-term value. A professional-grade water heater can have a functional operating life of up to 15 years.

Big box stores typically carry shorter warranties on the water heaters they offer, meaning that you might need to replace one of them sooner than if you had purchased a professional-grade water heater. Therefore, it’s important to consider the value of having this more durable equipment in your household.


The quality of materials used for a professional-grade water heater’s heating element is better than that used in the box store type. Professional-grade ones use copper tubing and anodes, while those from box stores use aluminum, which corrodes much more easily and needs replacement more often. Also, the interior tank lining of professional-grade water heaters is ceramic, while that of box store competitors is “glass” or porcelain enamel.

The drain valve on a professional-grade water heater is made of brass, which is durable and long-lasting. On the other hand, box store water heaters often have plastic drain valves that can be easily damaged. This makes it necessary to replace them frequently, which can be disadvantageous for the owner.


When it comes to installing these two types of water heaters, there is a major difference. In a big box store, you will have to choose from a limited selection of products. You will then have to hope that the product fits your needs and is installed correctly by a qualified person. In the end, you could wind up with an inferior product that does not deliver on its promises. In contrast, when you purchase a professional-grade water heater, you get a higher level of support, leading to fewer installation errors and fewer service issues in the future.

If there are any problems with your product or installation, the installers should be able to address them quickly and responsively thanks to a close working relationship with the vendor. In addition, you can trust that your professional-grade water heater is built according to industry standards and quality control measures to ensure it lasts for a long time.


Professional-grade units are not only more powerful than their counterparts, but they also use less energy to operate. They have better insulation in a tank with energy-efficient components, including gas valves. On the other hand, big box store units are more expensive to run because they have less insulation and use energy-guzzling features such as a power vent instead of a gas valve.

Additionally, professional-grade water heaters quickly heat large quantities of water and don’t lose much energy in the process. Some models include additional insulation to reduce heat loss, keeping your family warm with less power.

Professional-grade water heaters also feature an automatic shut-off burner that will turn off when there is no more demand for hot water. When you don’t use your hot water tank for extended periods, it can lose up to 20% of its initial energy efficiency rating, which will end up costing you more on your monthly bills. This feature is not available in the big box store water heaters, making them less efficient than professional-grade heaters.

A professional-grade water heater is often worth the investment, but how do you decide which one is right for you? Our experienced professionals at Sierra Air Conditioning & Plumbing will give you the correct information on choosing the best product. In addition, you can count on us for all your water filtration and water softener needs. We also offer HVAC services, including indoor air quality, heating and cooling repair, installation and maintenance. Besides that, we take care of UV lights and whole-house zoning. With over 30 years of experience, our team serves the entire Greater Las Vegas area. Contact us today and set up an appointment.

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