Are Power Vent Water Heaters Better?

Investing in a high-performing water heater is a wise decision as it can help you save money on energy consumption and expensive services. Among the various types of water heating devices, power vent water heaters are becoming increasingly popular.

In this guide, we’ll explore what power venting is and how it compares to other types of venting, the top features to look for, and tips for installation. We’ll also provide a selection of the best models to help you make an informed decision.

Power Vent Water Heaters: Buying Tips

What Are Power Vent Water Heaters?

Power Vent Water Heater
AO Smith PV water heater (photo: aosmith)

Power vent water heaters (PV) are a type of gas water heater that use a fan or blower to expel exhaust gases through a dedicated venting system. They are also known as forced-draft or fan-assisted models.

Unlike traditional water heaters, which rely on natural draft to vent exhaust gases, power vent water heaters use a forced draft system to move the gases out of the home.

The power venting system typically includes a motorized blower, which draws in combustion air from the surrounding space and forces the exhaust gases out through a separate vent pipe. Due to the pressure created by a fan, the risk of negative pressure inside the home is significantly reduced, improving the air quality.

This allows the water heater to be installed in a wider variety of locations, as it doesn’t require a chimney or other natural venting source.

Power vent water heaters can be powered by either gas or electricity, and are available in both tank and tankless models. They are generally more efficient than traditional water heaters, as they can extract more heat from the combustion process and have lower standby heat loss.

Additionally, they are often quieter and safer to operate, as there is less risk of backdraft or carbon monoxide buildup.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a PV Water Heater

When choosing a power vent water heater, there are several factors to consider to ensure that you get the best model for your needs. Here are some important factors to keep in mind:

  • Size and capacity: The first factor to consider is the size and capacity of the water heater. You’ll want to choose a model that is the right size for your household’s hot water needs. This will depend on factors such as the number of people in your household, the number of bathrooms, and your typical hot water usage patterns.
  • Energy efficiency: Power vent water heaters come in different levels of energy efficiency. Choosing a high-efficiency model can help you save money on your energy bills over time. Look for models with a high Energy Factor (EF) rating, which measures how efficiently the water heater converts energy into hot water.
  • Venting options: Power vent water heaters require a dedicated venting system to expel exhaust gases. You’ll want to choose a model that has venting options that work for your home’s layout and structure. There are different types of venting systems, such as through-the-wall venting or chimney venting, so make sure to choose the one that’s right for you. These heaters are appropriate for areas with no chimney access or tightly built homes. They can be installed near or away from the exterior wall due to their long pipes and blowers that ensure proper venting. The venting system must run from the water heater to the termination with minimal length and the number of elbows.
  • Cost: They can be more expensive than traditional water heaters, so you’ll want to consider the upfront cost when choosing a model. However, it’s also important to consider the long-term savings in energy costs that a more efficient model can provide.
  • Noise level: Power vent water heaters can be noisy due to the motorized blower. If you’re sensitive to noise or the water heater is located in a living space, you’ll want to choose a model that operates quietly.


Here are some highlights of the advantages of power vent water heaters:

  • Energy efficiency: Power vent water heaters are generally more energy-efficient than traditional water heaters. They use a motorized blower to expel exhaust gases, which allows for more efficient heating of the water. This can result in lower energy bills over time.
  • Improved safety: Power vent water heaters are safer than traditional water heaters because they expel exhaust gases outside of the home through a venting system. This reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and other safety hazards.
  • More installation options: Since they don’t require a chimney or other traditional venting system, they can be installed in a wider range of locations. This makes them a good option for homes without a chimney or other venting options.
  • Longer lifespan: PV models are often built with more durable components, which can result in a longer lifespan than traditional water heaters. This can save you money on replacement costs over time.
  • Faster recovery time: They typically have a faster recovery time than traditional water heaters, which means they can provide more hot water on demand. This is especially beneficial for households with high hot water demands.


You should also be aware of several drawbacks:

  • Higher upfront cost: Power vent water heaters can be more expensive to purchase and install than traditional water heaters. This is because they require a blower motor and venting system, which adds to the overall cost.
  • More complex installation: They require more complex installation than traditional water heaters. This may require additional time and expertise from a professional plumber or contractor, which can add to the overall cost.
  • Noise: The blower motor in these heaters can produce noise, which may be noticeable in some homes. This can be a concern for those who are sensitive to noise or have a water heater located in a quiet area of the home.
  • Dependence on electricity: PV models rely on electricity to operate the blower motor and other components. This means that if there is a power outage or electrical issue, the water heater may not function properly.
  • Venting requirements: They require a dedicated venting system to expel exhaust gases outside of the home. This can be a challenge for homes without an existing venting system or adequate space for installation. A sufficient amount of air must be provided, usually through the provisions on the wall or adjacent doors.

Differences Between Atmospheric and Power Vent Models

One of the biggest differences between atmospheric and power vent water heaters is the way they vent exhaust gases.

Atmospheric water heaters rely on natural draft (buoyancy effect) to expel exhaust gases through a chimney or other venting system. This can limit the locations where they can be installed and also lead to negative pressure, which can suck the flue gases back into the home, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.

However, because atmospheric water heaters don’t have a blower motor, they are generally quieter and less expensive.

Power vent water heaters, on the other hand, use a motorized blower to expel exhaust gases through a dedicated venting system, providing homeowners with more installation flexibility. They are generally more energy-efficient and safer, reducing energy costs and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Differences Between Direct and Power Vent Models

Direct vent water heaters (DV) have a sealed combustion chamber and do not require an electrically operated fan or blower, which makes them quieter. They usually feature a steel venting pipe, either solid or flexible, that carries combustion byproducts outside. Fresh air is drawn in from outside through an air intake pipe, in a single or dual-pipe setup. This type of setup can also be found in tankless models that use a sealed combustion chamber.

Compared to power vent (PV) water heaters, direct vent models usually move exhaust gases through a horizontal vent pipe without the need for a blower or electricity. Because they are often installed near an exterior wall, the vent pipe is typically short, but this limits the locations where they can be installed.

On the other hand, PV water heaters are more advanced and offer more benefits at a higher cost. They have higher energy efficiency, resulting in more savings, and they offer venting flexibility, making installation easier and eliminating problems related to back-drafting. PV models use a motorized blower to expel exhaust gases through a dedicated venting system.

Popular Manufacturers of Power Vent Water Heaters

If you’re in the market for an energy efficient water heater that uses power vent technology and is made by a reputable US or Canadian manufacturer, there are several great options to consider.

Some of the top brands to look for include AO Smith, Bradford White, and Rheem. These companies are known for producing high-quality water heaters that are reliable, durable, and energy-efficient.

When shopping for the best power vent water heater, it’s important to consider your specific hot water needs, budget, and installation requirements to find the right model for your home.

AO Smith

Over 20 different models from AO Smith use power venting and both natural and propane gas. Most of the models utilize low NOx burners, while only two have ultra-low NOx burners.

Power vent water heaters mainly come from the ProLine XE series, while only one is from the Vertex series, which is also the most efficient and ideal model to buy. The available sizes range from 40 to 75 gallons, with the 50-gal unit being one of the most popular.

The Vertex GPHE-50is the power vent model with one of the highest energy efficiency ratings – over 90% – of all AO Smith gas water heaters.

The GPHE-50 is a 50-gal unit designed to produce a high water flow of 3 GPM for a continuous hot water supply.

Its high water flow, first-hour rating of 124 GPH, and recovery rate of 95 GPH are great advantages over other models, and are easily achieved using the unit’s powerful burner with 76,000 BTU, advanced electronics, and fully submerged spiral heat exchanger.

The GPHE-50 water heater uses combined vertical and horizontal vents through the outside wall, providing more flexibility during installation. The vent pipes are made of PVC, PP, ABS, or CPVC material and have 4″ diameter vents that can run up to a maximum of 128 feet. Other details can be found here.

The best-selling model from the AO Smith Proline XE series is the GPVT-50. This 50-gal model comes with great features and specs, including an energy factor of 0.72 and Energy Star compliance, a first-hour rating of 97 GPH, and a recovery rate of 56 GPH, making it great for 3-bath homes. According to the manufacturer, the GPVT-50 has an estimated energy cost of around $225, while the Vertex has an estimated energy cost of $186.

Bradford White

The RC2PV50H6N model is part of the High-Efficiency eF series, which is the most efficient PV model from Bradford White. This water heater has similar specs to the Vertex model from AO Smith. It utilizes a powerful and low-NOx gas burner that can provide up to 76,000 BTU, a high energy factor of 0.80, a first-hour rating of 120 GPH, and a recovery rate of 93 GPH.

This 50-gal PV water heater is equipped with a high-efficient dual-pass heat exchanger system and the ICON System for high performance, stable temperature, electronically controlled gas combustion, and smart troubleshooting. The Hydrojet System reduces sediment buildup so the unit can perform as designed.

The URG2PV50H6N model is a 50-gal model from the TTW Ultra-Low NOx series, which is a series of Energy Star models that utilize the Eco-Defender Safety System for safe and reduced NOx gas combustion. The model is equipped with the ICON system to ensure enhanced performance, accurate temperature control, and intelligent diagnostics for simpler troubleshooting. The Hydrojet Total Performance System guarantees efficiency and performance due to reduced sediment buildup. It comes with an EF of 0.68, a recovery rate of 60 GPH, and a first-hour rating of 107 GPH.


Rheem offers power vented water heaters in the Performance and Professional series.

The XG50T06PV42US model is part of the Performance series and is an Energy Star model with an energy factor of 0.67, a first-hour rating of 88 GPH, and a recovery rate of 42.4 GPH. The model offers several advantages over simpler models, such as a self-diagnostic system for easier troubleshooting, low gas emissions, and a durable silicon nitride ignitor.

The PRO50-38U model also has a 50-gallon capacity, but it has a lower recovery rate than the above model, at 38.4 GPH. It has a first-hour rating of 86 GPH and an EF of 0.66. It comes with the Guardian System and an ultra-low NOx radiant gas burner. The EverKleen system ensures consistent performance and efficient work by protecting the system and elements from sediment buildup.

Things to Consider When Installing a Power Vent Water Heater


Choosing the right location for your unit is crucial for its safe and efficient operation. When selecting a location, make sure to consider the following factors:

  • Code requirements: Consult with local building codes to ensure that the installation location meets all code requirements. This can vary depending on your location and the type of building you have.
  • Ventilation: Power vent water heaters require proper ventilation to ensure that exhaust gases are safely and effectively expelled from the building. Choose a location with adequate ventilation and airflow.
  • Access to electricity: They require electricity to power the blower motor and other components. Choose a location with easy access to an electrical outlet or have an electrician install one nearby.
  • Space requirements: Make sure the location has enough space to accommodate the size of the water heater and any necessary piping and connections.

For the safe, professional and worry-free installation, contact the expert.

Venting Tips

When installing a power vent water heater, it’s crucial to choose the right venting system. There are two primary options available – the one-pipe and two-pipe systems.

single vent pipe system can be installed as a concentric system (coaxial), where one pipe is used as a discharge and the other as an air intake. When internal air is used for combustion, a designated room must be provided with access to the air with sufficient supply. A coaxial system is typically the simplest and most affordable option, but it does have some potential drawbacks. For example, if the same pipe is used for both intake and exhaust, there is a risk of backdrafts that can push dangerous carbon monoxide fumes back into your home. To mitigate this risk, it’s important to ensure that your one-pipe system is installed correctly and is regularly maintained.

Water heaters with two separate venting pipes (two-pipe system) use one pipe to supply air from outside and the other to discharge products of combustion, also to the outside. These can run either horizontally or vertically. This can help to reduce the risk of backdrafts and improve the overall safety of your system. However, since two pipes are required, this option can be more expensive and complicated to install.

Additionally, it’s important to keep the following guidelines in mind for the proper installation of a power venting system:

  • For efficient operation, the vent pipe for power vent water heaters should be able to run from the unit to the termination and have a recommended minimum length and number of elbows. It can terminate horizontally through the exterior wall or vertically through the roof, with adequate supports along its length.
  • When the pipes run vertically, it is important to install elbow fittings (45 or 90-degree bends) at the end of the pipes to prevent rain or snow from entering. For horizontal termination, provide a downward slope to prevent potential condensate from affecting blower operation.
  • A limited number of elbows is recommended in any vent installation, but it depends on the length. Use the manufacturer’s guide to determine the appropriate length and number of bends. Venting should be as direct as possible, with no reduction in vent diameter.
  • If the water heater is installed in an unconfined space within the building, infiltrated air is usually adequate for proper gas combustion. If it is installed in a confined space, provisions for air ventilation must be provided.
  • Non-condensing tankless water heaters need to use stainless steel pipes because of the acidity of the combustion byproducts. On the other hand, for condensing tankless models and tank-type storage tanks, PVC, ABS, or CPVC pipes are recommended. The most commonly used sizes are 2″, 3″, and 4″ in diameter, with a Schedule 40 rating.
  • Vents can be installed up to 180′ from the exterior wall and side-by-side with other furnaces or boilers.
  • When assembling the air inlet and vent outlet, both pipe diameters must be the same size. This requirement applies to both 2″ and 3″ diameter pipes.
  • Some manufacturer’s manual guides explain that a reduction in diameter at any point is allowed as long as the maximum and minimum length requirements are met.
  • When installed in a building, power vent water heaters cannot be connected to the chimney and share venting with other appliances, as significant building depressurization will occur, affecting the performance of all gas combustion appliances.
  • All venting materials and components must be joined with approved primer-cleaner and solvent cement, but do not cement the vent pipe to the heater. Rubber coupling and gear clamps are supplied with the water heater to connect the vent to the blower. These connections must be adequately sealed to prevent leakage of the products of combustion into the living area.

Note: If a power vent water heater is installed as a replacement for an existing unit in pre-existing venting, proper inspection must still be performed to ensure requirements are met.


Purchasing a power vent water heater can be a significant investment in your home’s comfort and safety. By considering the factors we have discussed and making an informed decision, you can enjoy reliable and efficient hot water for years to come.

One of the main benefits of choosing a power vent water heater is improved energy efficiency. These models are designed to be more efficient than atmospheric models, which can result in significant savings on your energy bills. Additionally, power vent models offer flexible installation options, making them an excellent choice for homeowners who need more installation flexibility.

So, if you are in the market for a new water heater, take the time to research your options and choose a reputable manufacturer and installer. Consider the benefits of power vent models, such as their improved energy efficiency and flexible installation options.


How Do I Maintain My Power Vent Water Heater?

Maintenance for a power vent water heater includes flushing the tank annually, checking the anode rod, and ensuring proper venting and gas supply. It’s recommended that you hire a professional plumber for maintenance and repairs.

What Is a Power Direct Vent Water Heater?

Power direct venting is a method used in water heaters that uses an electric blower to pull in air from outside the home and direct exhaust gases back outside. They are more efficient and flexible than direct venting. Power direct vents can use PVC piping for venting, reducing installation costs. This method is an excellent solution for areas with insufficient air circulation, when using inside air is not an option, or when flexibility in installation is needed.

What Size Power Vent Water Heater Do I Need?

The size of your power vent water heater will depend on the number of people in your household and your hot water usage. A general rule of thumb is that a family of four will require a 50-gallon water heater, but you should consult with a professional to determine the appropriate size for your needs.

Related Articles

Similar Posts