Gas VS Electric Water Heaters: Which is Best?

On average, a good water heater will last you about 10 years, so if you’ve passed that, it’s time to consider investing in a new one. Two of the most common types of water heaters are gas and electric models, so let’s take a look at what each of them has to offer and compare them to see which might be best for you.

Gas VS Electric Water Heater

What Is a Gas Water Heater?

A tank-type water heater, as the name implies, heats cold water and then stores it until it is required by various appliances around the home. The convection law of physics governs the operation of a gas water heater, which explains how heat rises in a closed space. With water heaters, there is a water supply tube that enters the tank to fill it, which ensures that the tank receives a steady supply of cold water.

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In the bottom of the tank, there is a lot of cold water that needs to be heated, thus a gas burner is installed below the sealed tank. Due to the increasing temperature of the water, it rises in the tank, where it is taken out by the hot water outlet pipe and used to heat water wherever it is needed. In comparison to the dip tube, the hot water discharge pipe is significantly shorter because its purpose is to channel away the hottest water, located at the top of the tank.

In order to keep the water heated at the desired temperature, a gas regulator assembly installed on the side of the heater is used. The gas regulator assembly includes a thermostat, which measures and regulates the water temperature inside the tank, turning on and off the gas burner as necessary to keep the water heated at the desired temperature.

This entire system also requires the installation of exhaust pipes to eliminate gases through vent pipes or chimneys. The hollow flue is equipped with a spiral metal baffle that collects heat and delivers it to the surrounding water, allowing the appliance to operate at peak efficiency. The typical tank-type gas water heater’s remarkable simplicity is demonstrated by a thorough analysis of each of its constituent components.

What Is an Electric Water Heater?

Electric water heaters operate on a different concept than gas water heaters since there is no burner, no heat exchanger, and no need for a flue system. Electric water heaters normally include two immersion elements, one on each side of the tank. One is located towards the top of the tank, while the other is located near the bottom of the tank.

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These elements generate the heat, and the water layout is largely the same as it would be on an oil or gas system. Cold water is fed into the tank towards the bottom, while hot water is taken out of the tank near the top of the tank. When the cold water towards the bottom of the tank reaches the thermostat for the lower element, the thermostat will be activated. The lower element will be activated, and the incoming chilly water will be heated. It will still be surrounded by hot water and will be satisfied even if the higher element is not used.

In a continuous flow system, cold water entering the unit activates a PCB, which in turn activates the heating element to heat the water. Electricity requires more time to complete this chain of events since elements require a little bit of time to warm up, but the effect of a gas flame is instantaneous in comparison.

When water is heated in a tank, the influx of cold water will slowly start to rise in temperature and reach the top as the temperature increases. In contrast to gas, the heating element is located within the tank.

Pros and Cons to Gas Water Heaters

Before choosing between a gas and an electric water heater, it’s important to know the differences and determine which of these units might be best for you:

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Pro: They heat up fast. When compared to electric water heaters, gas water heaters will render hot water twice as fast. While it may take an hour for an electric heater to heat a certain amount of water, a gas heater can heat twice that amount in less than an hour using natural gas. As a result, you’ll be less likely to experience a hot water shortage. When it comes to larger households, a gas water heater is usually the superior choice because electric water heaters may have difficulty keeping up with the increased demand for hot water.

Con: they require a larger upfront investment. While a gas water heater will generally result in cheaper energy bills, gas models are more expensive to purchase upfront and are more expensive to maintain and install. Despite the higher initial cost, you will have your return on investment within a year provided they are kept in good working order, according to the manufacturer.

Pro: They save money in the long run. Because gas storage units lose heat through the walls of the tank and exhaust gases, electric heaters are more energy-efficient than natural gas storage units. However, electricity is more expensive than natural gas. Gas heaters become more economical to operate in terms of energy expenses as a result, more than compensating for the heat lost through combustion.

Con: They don’t last as long. The lifespan of a gas water heater is slightly less than that of an electric water heater. If you install both a gas and an electric unit at the same time, the electric unit is predicted to last around one year longer than the gas unit.

Pro: They continue to function during power outages. Gas water heaters that are ignited by a pilot light rather than an electric ignition will continue to operate even if the power is lost. Electricity blackouts aren’t that uncommon in many countries and especially across the US, and the ability to maintain hot water even when the power is off can be a significant benefit.

Con: You can’t install them yourself. Gas water heaters necessitate a more involved installation process that includes the installation of a ventilation system. The installation of PVC pipes to vent through the roof will be required if the home has never before had a natural gas water heater. This ventilation system will also require periodic maintenance or repairs, which may be completed at the same time that the water heater is replaced.

Pros and Cons to Electric Water Heaters

Now let’s take a look to see what are the advantages and drawbacks of using electric water heaters to the detriment of gas heaters:

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Pro: They cost less. When it comes to upfront cost, an electric water heater is likely to be the most economical alternative among the several water heater options that you have at your disposal. What’s more, the cost will be heavily influenced by the type and size of the unit installed, regardless of the fuel used to operate it. For example, standard tank water heaters don’t cost as much as tankless units, which are typically more expensive upfront than tank water heaters.

Con: They take longer to heat water. When discussing the time it takes to heat water using an electric heater, this procedure will take even longer to complete than it would with a gas-powered water heater. This is due to the fact that the combustion process of gasoline creates heat more quickly (often even twice as quickly) than electric heating.

Pro: Are easy to install. Almost every residence is connected to the electric grid, and as a result, they all have access to a reliable source of electricity at all times (except for cases of power outages). This means that an electric water heater can be used effectively in almost any home. When replacing an electric water heater, a motivated do-it-yourselfer with basic electrical expertise may usually save money on installation expenses (which can range from an additional $350 to $450 (note that prices vary depending on your area of residence).

Con: Electricity bills are higher. Despite the fact that electric water heaters are more energy efficient compared to their gas counterparts, you will most likely end up spending extra cash if you heat your home’s water with gas. This happens because of the cost of the fuel source.. Natural gas is currently one of the most affordable sources of energy, and in most circumstances, electricity bills end up being higher compared to those of natural gas. Because the rates of electricity and natural gas differ depending on where you live, it’s a good idea to look at what each of these two heating sources will cost you. Some countries and regions may provide financial incentives for the installation of electric water heaters, which can help to make this a more cost-competitive alternative.

Pro: Don’t require that much maintenance. When it comes to gas water heaters, both the appliance and the gas line require regular maintenance. Electric water heaters are not susceptible to this problem, but it is recommended that the tank system be flushed out at least once a year to avoid mineral deposits forming at the bottom of the tank.

Con: There’s no hot water in case of a power outage. If the power system is disrupted by a storm or other incident, you will be unable to use your electric water heater because you will be without hot water. Gas water heaters can continue to run even if the electricity is gone. This is a crucial consideration if cost is the main factor in your decision. It is also important to ensure that your gas water heater does not require electricity to function properly. Even if electricity isn’t the major source of fuel, some contemporary gas water heaters come with electric ignition. In addition, these sorts of water heaters will be rendered inoperable in the event of a power failure.

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Gas VS Electric Water Heaters

#1: Design & Size

Hot water heaters are affected by their size in two ways. First and foremost, the majority of individuals are aware of the volume in gallons. In general, the more water a tank can store, the larger it will be in terms of overall size. Electric and gas warmers are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 20 to 100 gallons. Electric heaters, on the other hand, are also available for use as point-of-origin warmers. Installing this very small water heater immediately at a tap allows you to have hot water available on demand for purposes like making tea or coffee.

First and foremost, an electric water heater doesn’t usually take up as much space as a gas water heater.  Gas heaters must be vented, so they are slightly larger all around and have pipes that must escape your home, limiting their ability to be placed in certain areas. Electric heaters have the advantage of being more compact, which allows you to put them in more places.

#2: Cost

Gas water heaters are typically more expensive compared to their electric counterparts. Of course, there are plenty of factors that influence the end price, especially the size and efficiency of the heater you’re thinking of buying. However, gas-electric heaters are cheaper to operate in the long run but that also depends on the cost of your local utilities. In the US, people usually pay between $300 and $600 for gas and between $250 and $500 for an electric heater.

A 40-gallon water heating that uses gas costs between $1,300 and $2,600, while a 40-gallon heater costs between $950 and $1,500.

#3: Warranty

This appears to be a straightforward question, but it is not as straightforward as it appears. Gas or electric hot water heaters are often covered by a five or six-year warranty, depending on the manufacturer’s specifications. Even so, there are some costly units available with lengthier warranties, which are frequently up to ten years in length. Furthermore, some stainless steel units and fiberglass heaters come with lifetime warranties, and those usually last years longer than the standard water heater.

Related: On-Demand Hot Water – Our Guide to Best Under Sink Water Heaters

As a result, assuming all other factors are equal, you should anticipate a brand new water heater to survive at least until the end of the warranty period without breaking down. After that, things start to become a little more uncertain. The average lifespan of a standard water heater currently on the market is typically between 10 and 13 years, depending on a variety of different conditions.

#4: Energy use

The energy factor of a gas or electric water heater is a measurement that compares how much hot water is produced per day by the heater to the amount of fuel consumed by the heater each day. More efficient water heaters have an efficiency factor that is higher than 1. While the efficiency of electric and gas models is generally equal, especially when comparing models from the same brand and size, there are some electric models that have an efficiency advantage.

You can find an appliance’s energy efficiency rating (EF) on the device’s box or in the documentation that comes with the appliance. In accordance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, every new conventional water heater must be labeled with a bright yellow and black Energy Guide label that includes the following information: what type of fuel the heater needs, how much it costs to operate it per year, first-hour rating, tank size measured in gallons, the Energy Star logo (only available if the unit meets the Energy Star requirements), and the unit’s energy factor.

Plenty of people turn on their hot water faucets and don’t give much thought to how the hot water is delivered. We have a tendency to take our hot-water heaters for granted in our houses.

However, disregarding your hot-water heater may result in the loss of an opportunity to save money on your hot water heater’s energy use. After all, the energy consumed by water heaters accounts for approximately 18 percent of the average power bill. There are a few different strategies to save money on your hot water heater’s energy use. However, understanding how to select a hot-water heater that is energy-efficient from the start is the most effective approach to reduce your energy expenditures from the moment the heater is turned on.

When comparing the energy consumption of different water heaters, energy.gov recommends looking for the yellow energy guide label that may be found on equipment to discover the most energy-efficient water heaters. When it comes to water heater labels, the FHR rating is located in the upper left corner and is labeled as “capacity (first-hour rating).”

When comparing water heater energy consumption, look for models with flow rates (FHRs) that are within one or two gallons of your peak hour demand during peak hours. The peak hour demand is the amount of hot water required by your family during the hour in which it uses the most hot water every day.

#5: Installation

Whether you’re looking to replace or install a gas or an electric water heater, the process is pretty straightforward. It is necessary to plumb and ground an electric heater before it can be used. Installing a gas heater with an existing natural gas supply entails plumbing the heater, connecting the natural gas supply, and connecting the vent.

When converting from electric to gas, the transition might be challenging. When installing a new gas heater, the tank is plumbed in the same way as the existing tanks, but a gas line must be run to the new position as well. It will then be necessary to construct a vent, which may entail cutting or drilling through the side of the house. This can result in an increase in both the length of time and the expense of the installation.

Generally speaking, installing an electric water heater can be a DIY process, but installing a gas water heater requires calling in a professional because you should never tamper with your home’s existing gas pipeline, for obvious safety reasons.

#6: Longevity

Tank water heaters, whether gas or electric, have an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years, but tankless water heaters can last even more than 20 years. Electric heat pump water heaters have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years on average. If you always adhere to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule and perform the required annual service, regardless of the type of water heater you purchase or whether you choose a gas or electric model, your water heater will have the longest useful life possible.

Conclusion

According to the Department of Energy, heating water is the second most expensive utility expense in our homes, accounting for 14 percent to 18 percent of our monthly utility bills. As a result, selecting the appropriate water heater is critical not just for your comfort, but also for keeping your energy expenditures under control.

At a first glance, it might seem that gas and electric water heaters are the same, and, while they do share a lot of similarities and end up serving the same purpose, there are plenty of differences between the two. Hopefully, we managed to answer some important questions today so that you’ll know which type of water heater to choose when your next purchase is due.