Recently Discovered Vintage Water Heaters Reveal Time-Honored Quality and Durability.

At a time when disposable household products and appliances dominate the marketplace – and usually waste natural resources – consumers have a state-of the art residential water heating choice that is not only long-lasting, but also energy-efficient. “Rheem breaks the mold in reliability and environmental stewardship,” says Laura Butler, communications manager at Rheem Water Heating.

“The old adage, ‘They just don’t make ‘em like they used to,’ doesn’t hold up when you look at our track record.” As testimony, Butler points to two vintage water heaters that Rheem recently reacquired for its corporate historical collection.

Built in 1904 and 1913,the cast iron heaters were made by the Ruud Manufacturing Company, which Rheem purchased in 1959. Both units were still functional at the time of their recent discovery.

The Norwegian immigrant Edwin Ruud pioneered heated water technology in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1889. A mechanical engineer, the inventor received a coveted 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis World’s Fair) Gold Medal for his automatic water heater. In 1905, the Franklin Institute presented him with the Edward Longstreth Medal of Merit for the Ruud Instantaneous Automatic Water Heater.

Great time capsule: The 1904 Ruud water heater – the oldest ever acquired by Rheem – was located by Rich Bellitto, a Bayview, Ohio, resident who has been uncovering unusual antiques for more than 40 years. With a professional background in welding and fabrication, Bellitto learned his love of antiques from his father.

“My dad was from the old country,” he says. “He instilled in me the love of quality. He could pick something up and just know it would last a lifetime.”

It was that learned instinct that helped Bellitto recognize the rare Ruud water heater find, discovered at a plumbing and heating contracting business that had been founded in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1886. Bellitto took one look and knew he hit the jackpot.


“When I saw this water heater, my heart jumped,” he continues. “I thought, This is a great, great time capsule. And when I saw the cartouche on the front and all the fancy embossments, I knew it was turn of the century. It’s not a complicated piece, and it’s so efficient. If you were to hook it up right now, it would work.”

Bellitto contacted the Rheem marketing staff and offered up his treasure. “We are thrilled to have this wonderful piece of history here at our headquarters,” says Butler. “We have several vintage units that help tell the story of our quality construction, but as the oldest we’ve received, this one will hold a special place of honor.”

Rich Bellitto is already searching for his next antique discovery, but his Ruud find is a particularly memorable one. “This water heater is one of my favorites,” he explains, “because I was tickled to get it back to its original people.”


1913 unit still in use: One hundred or so miles to the east in neighboring Pennsylvania, not far from where Ruud founded his manufacturing company, Jack and Cynthia Vogel are hard at work gutting and renovating an estate carriage house that dates back to the early 1900s. When the Vogels bought the Pittsburgh property – which was converted to a residence in the 1940s – they discovered a 1913 Ruud water heater still operating in the basement. The Vogels offered the heater to Rheem, and the couple plans to install a new Rheem tankless water heating system in their home next spring when the renovation is complete.


Although the Vogels aren’t trying to historically restore the carriage house, “we will try to remain faithful to the original, fundamental design,” says Jack. All of the mechanical installations will be state-of-the-art, including the new Rheem tankless heater, which will play an important role in the basement transformation, as well as the overall odernization
of their prized property.


“Space-savings is also an attractive aspect of going tankless. We like very clean and well laid-out utility areas. Everything goes in the best spot without using too much space, and that makes the utility area almost as important to us as the living room.”

Old-fashioned reliability, modern convenience: The sleek modern unit that the Vogels will eventually install in their newly renovated home shares an important characteristic with the 1913 Ruud unit they discovered, as well as the 1904 model that Bellitto found: All are tankless water heaters.

Like their modern counterparts, those earlier models did not store hot water for later use, but heated it “on demand,” as it moved through the unit, sending the water immediately to wherever it was needed (most likely a bathtub or sink). For example, the 1904 model incorporates 15 burners to quickly boost the temperature of the water to the required level – a necessity, no doubt, during those frigid Ohio winters when the  temperature of the ground water supply was barely above freezing.

During the first half of the 20th century, an era of cheaper energy costs, manufacturers began making residential water heaters with built-in storage of between 30 and 100 gallons. These units were designed to fire up periodically over time to overcome heat lost through the tank and maintain a preset temperature in anticipation of need. This technology continues to account for the vast majority of units in North America today. But over the past decade, as consumers and business have sought to counter the impact of rising energy costs, on-demand tankless water heating technology has made a strong “comeback.”

The new Rheem tankless units are even more compact than their forebears – about the size of a medicine cabinet – and take up a lot less space than a tank-type water heater. Just as importantly, these new units carry far more powerful burners, capable of raising water temperature from 40°F to 140°F in an instant while minimizing carbon emissions. They also are equipped with more sophisticated electronic controls to maintain consistent output temperatures, diagnose maintenance needs and, in general, keep the unit running properly. The energy savings these new-generation water heaters provide make them eligible for federal energy tax credits of up to $300.

Rheem tankless water heaters still offer customers the same old-fashioned reliability that is Edwin Ruud’s legacy of excellence, but with modern efficiency and convenience. Innovative tankless technology makes it possible to enjoy – on demand – continuous hot water – and continuous savings – for many years to come.

For more information on Rheem tankless water heaters, visit or call 1-866-720-2076.

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RHEEM MANUFACTURING COMPANY, headquartered in Atlanta, is a leading worldwide provider of total comfort systems including water heaters, heating and air conditioning equipment, pool and spa heaters, and boilers. Its Water Heating Division manufactures a full line of tankless propane (LP) and natural gas models that provide a continuous flow of hot water whenever needed. With no standing pilot light and no storage tank, the energy-saving units eliminate the need to maintain a large supply of pre-heated water.