Gas vs Electric Water Heater

For homes located in cold climates, having hot water on demand is a necessity. With a dependable water heater installed to provide your household’s hot water needs, bath time in the midst of winter is no longer a dreaded icy-cold affair but it becomes an enjoyable experience that everyone in your family can look forward to. The heated water will also enable you to use important household appliances such as dishwashers and clothes washers.
However, enjoying heated water comes at a price. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE), the average household spends between $400-600 each year for water heating. In fact, the agency says that water heating is the second largest household expense accounting between 14-18 percent of a home’s total utility bill.
If you want the right balance between dependable performance and cost-effective water heating, then you need to carefully evaluate all options before investing in the right water heater system for your home. One of the biggest dilemmas you’ll be facing in trying to decide what equipment to buy is to decide between electric or gas-powered water heaters. To keep you up to speed in this long-running Electric vs Gas debate, we’ve put up a brief pros and cons discussion for each type of heater. Hopefully, the knowledge you’ll gain from this article will arm you with the right knowledge so you can evaluate for yourself which type of water heater is best for home.

Electric Water Heaters

electric water heaters

The pros of choosing electric water heaters

Convenience and Ease of Use

The electric water heater is generally easier to use compared to a gas powered heater. The reason is that the equipment runs purely on electrical power so you don’t have to worry about turning the gas on to start its water heating operation.

Compact and Space Saving Design

Because they run purely on electricity, electric water heaters are more compact when compared to gas water heaters of the same capacity. In addition, they do not require venting for exhaust gases so you will have more options where to install them. Their compact design makes them ideal for homes where space is rather limited.

Easier and Lower Installation Costs

Since electric water heaters do not require venting, installing them in your home is a lot easier compared to the installation process of gas powered ones. Installing gas water heaters, on the other hand, usually requires you to install a new ventilation system as existing ones may not be adequate due to its high rate of gas consumption. Thus, electric heaters have the advantage when it comes to installation cost as well.

Availability of Power Source

Electric gas heaters can be used at any home that is connected to the power grid because they use electricity to heat water. On the other hand, gas-powered heaters are limited only to homes that are connected to local gas service.

You will never run out of hot water

As long as your house has an electric connection, you are never going to run out of hot water with an electric water heater.

The cons of choosing electric water heaters

More expensive in the long run

While the initial installation cost of an electric water heater is lower than their gas-powered counterparts, the operational costs of running an electric heater are generally more expensive in the long run. The reason for this is very simple – the cost of electricity is usually more expensive compared to gas. Yes, you’ll definitely save up on the installation costs but you have to be prepared to pay more when the power bill arrives.

No electricity, no hot water

Sadly, just like any other electronic devices such as your TV and smartphones, electric water heaters need electricity to function. Thus, in cases of power outages, be prepared to use unheated water for your showers.

Longer recovery time

Compared to gas-powered heaters, the recovery rate for the electric water heaters is lower. This means that if a household has a high peak usage, the amount of hot water generated by an electric heater may not suffice to cover the household’s needs.

Gas Water Heaters

gas water heaters

The pros of choosing gas water heaters

Rapid heating / High recovery rate

Gas water heaters are known to be twice as fast at heating water as electric models. This is because gas-powered heaters have a higher recovery rate ( the amount of water it can heat to a certain temperature in a given time period) compared to their electric counterparts. This makes them ideal for larger families due to their greater hot water demand.

Lower operating costs

In most parts of the world, gas is cheaper than electricity. This means that gas heaters have a lower operating cost compared to models that use electricity to heat the water up. While the initial cost of installing a gas water heater is quite high, using this type of heater will be more economical in the long run.

They can work even without electricity

One big advantage of gas water heaters over electric powered ones is that they can operate even without electricity. This means that even during power outages, you don’t have to suffer icy-cold showers at all as your hot water supply will remain unaffected.

Cons of choosing a gas water heater

The initial costs are high

While gas water heaters are more economical in the long run, you’ll have to shell out a considerable amount of cash initially to get it up and running. The reason for this is that gas heaters have higher installation costs. You’ll have to pay extra to lay down the ventilation system for its exhaust.

More complex installation process

Unlike electric water heaters that can be installed anywhere; gas water heaters have a rather complex installation process. This is because a ventilation system also needs to be installed with a gas water heater. This also limits the possible locations for the water heater as it needs to be connected to the ventilation system.

The risk of gas explosion

Since the heater uses gas to power its heating function, there will always be the risk of explosion especially if no regular maintenance is done on the system.

How to Lower Your Water Heating Bill

Soaking in a hot tub after a problematic day at work is probably one of the best de-stressing activities you can do at home. But, if you’re not careful with your hot water usage, you’ll get a nasty surprise at the end of the month when the utility bill arrives. If you are looking for ways to reduce your bill without totally giving up on heated water, here are a few tips to lower the cost of running a water heater.
lower water heating bill

Use Less Hot Water

One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce your home’s water heating bill is to use less hot water in the first place. There are actually a few strategies you can employ so you can save money while still enjoying hot water daily.
Use cold water when doing your laundry – Detergent these days don’t really need hot water to be effective when washing your clothes; using cold water during your laundry will do just fine. If you use this tip, you’ll end up saving $161 per year if you are using an electric heater or $67 per year if your home uses a gas heater. That’s quite a saving for such a simple trick.
Lower your heater’s thermostat setting to 120°F – According to the Department of Energy, you’ll save between 3 to 5 percent of your water heating costs with every 10ºF reduction in your water temperature.
Take short showers instead of baths – Most bathtubs have a large volume that can usually accommodate up to two people taking a bath simultaneously. You can just imagine the huge amount of hot water need to fill the tub and the amount of electricity or gas needed to heat it. By comparison, the amount of water you’ll use when taking a shower seems minuscule.
Of course, we’re not saying that you need to totally ditch using your bathtub forever; you can still indulge in soaking yourself in a hot bath once in a while. But for daily hygienic purposes, a quick shower will be better if you really want to save on heating costs. The shorter the shower time, the better it will be for your finances.
Use low-flow shower heads and water fixtures – Another trick that will bring down your utility bill without impacting too much in your shower routine is to use low-flow shower heads and other water fixtures. With a low-flow shower head, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of hot water you use and save up on water heating costs. The DOE says that using low-flow faucets and showerheads saves between 25-60 percent water.
Don’t keep the water running – Most people are probably guilty of leaving the water on even when water is not needed at the moment. Discipline yourself to turn the faucet or shower off during those brief moments when water is not needed. These include turning the tap off when you are brushing your teeth or grabbing dirty dishes from the table as well as turning the shower off while you are still shampooing or soaping up.

Opt for a More Efficient Water Heater

The price of a water heater is not the biggest consideration if you are serious on lowering your water heating-related expenses. The reason is that some water heaters might be cheaper compared to others but they might not be as energy efficient. This means that in the long run, you will end up shouldering a larger utility bill which offsets the money you saved for its cheap price.
Whether you eventually end up deciding to buy a gas-power heater or an electric one, always choose a model that is more energy efficient. This efficiency will help you save on power costs in the long run.

Install a Timer

If your existing water heater does not have a timer, then it’s time for you to invest in one. Set the timer to turn the water heater off when you don’t need it such as when everyone in the house is either at work or at school.

Additional Considerations When Buying a Water Heater

Warranty length – Different manufacturers offer different lengths of warranties for their products, which can range from three to 12 years. If you have to choose between similarly priced products with the same features, always opt for the one with longer warranty coverage.

Even if you use the heater as prescribed, you can never predict when the water heater will experience some trouble. A longer warranty means that you have a longer worry-free period where you can always ask the manufacturer to have it repaired.
Digital display – We live in the digital age and are somehow more familiar with digital displays in all appliances. Choose water heaters with digital displays as they are easier to monitor. In addition, digital displays mean you can probably access more functionality via the interface such as data collection where you can view your household’s hot water usage trend, making it easier for you to find ways to cut down on power consumption.

Final Thoughts

Now back to the question – Gas vs Electric water heater, which is better for your home? 

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the question since what works best for your home may not be the perfect solution for another homeowner. As the buyer, it’s up to you to determine which type of heater is the best choice for your household’s water heating needs taking into account your unique circumstances.
For instance, if there is an existing gas utility company in your area, then you can consider choosing a gas water heater. Otherwise, the option is not available to you and you have to stick to electric water heaters.
Another factor to consider is your financial situation. While gas heaters are known to be more economical in the long run, can you afford its higher initial costs? If you are just renting the house you are in, are you planning to stay in that location for a long period of time to justify the higher initial investment of a gas water heater? If you’re the type who prefer a change of scenery every two years or so, then an electric water heater might be a better choice.
In addition, there are homeowners who are just not comfortable using gas-powered water heaters for safety concerns. For these folks, it might be best to opt for an electric water heater if it gives them peace of mind.
As you can see, each homeowner will have different sets of circumstances to consider when choosing between a gas water heater or an electric water heater. It is our hope that this electric vs gas comparison is helpful to you as you make your own decision.
  1. I like your advice to evaluate all options in order to find the right type of water heater system for your home. When figuring out which kind to get, it could help to consult a professional. This could help you discuss the benefits of the different options and would also help you have a professional to hire so that the water heater is installed correctly.

  2. I found it interesting that you state that gas water heaters are known to heat water twice as fast as other options. My parents' house is fairly old, so my siblings and I have been looking into what we can repair and upgrade for them, to make living there more comfortable. I will send this information over to my brothers, so we can add it to our list of options.

  3. Thanks for the tip to find a water heater with a relatively long warranty so we can have a longer worry-free period after installation. My husband and I are having a custom home built and need to decide on the water heater we want to have installed. I'm glad I read your article because now I know that we should prioritize the warranty length and details as we start shopping.

  4. You've written some great defining factors when deciding whether to choose an electric or gas heater. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you for pointing out that an excellent way to lower the water heating bill is to use cold water when doing the laundry. My husband noticed that we had a higher bill than usual this last month. It's good to know that washing laundry in cold water can help us save some money.

  6. I love your tip about how most bathtubs use a ton of water and should be used sparingly. That makes sense considering your water heater will take a beating with multiple uses. I'll have to consider getting my water heater tuned up.

  7. My husband and I are building our dream house, so we wanted info and advice on what type of water heater we should install. I didn't know gas heaters are more economical in the long run because it has a lower operating cost. I'll have to keep that in mind and find a water heater service that can tell me more about gas water heaters, thanks to this post!

  8. I'm not sure what kind of water heater to use in my home. It makes sense that an electric water heater would be beneficial! I like that they are so easy to use.

  9. It was interesting to learn about gas versus an electric water heater. My sister is looking to get a hot water system. It could be really beneficial for her to get it done by a professional.

  10. I appreciate that you mentioned that gas heaters are faster than electric models. My husband has been asking me to remodel parts of the technology in our home, and I finally have some time to focus on it. I think we should look into getting gas heating to renovate our home a bit more.

  11. You make an interesting point that related expenses should be the biggest consideration. I'm moving into a home that doesn't have a heater in a few weeks and winter is coming. I'll have to look at the right heating installation for me.

  12. You made a good point about gas heaters operating without the need of electricity, making them more efficient. My uncle bought a cabin, and he wants to install a water heater. Since the cabin log will be powered by a generator, maybe he should consider a gas water heater to save more energy.

  13. I loved how you mentioned that a gas water heater can work even when the power goes out. My husband and I just recently moved into an older home a couple of weeks ago, and it has an old water heater that won't warm up our water at all, so we are wanting to get it replaced. I really appreciate you helping me learn more about the benefits of gas water heaters!

  14. You made a good point that I should go for heaters with longer warranties. The previous winter was pretty harsh that taking a bath wasn't so enjoyable anymore. Hopefully getting a hot water system would make things bearable and even therapeutic.

  15. I like your comment on how a water heater is usually supposed to last about 10 years. I would imagine that if your boiler begins to fail after this it may be time to replace it. My husband and I have lived in our home for about 10 years now and our water heater is not working very well so maybe we could find someone to install a new one.

  16. I found it interesting when you said that gas water heaters heat up quicker than electric ones. My bother told me that he pays a lot on energy bills and he would like to find a way to save money. I will recommend him to think about making some of his appliances propane-powered so that he can use propane gas instead of electricity.

  17. My wife and I wanted to replace our current appliances now that we've remodeled our entire house. I really liked your example of gas water heaters and how it uses gas which is cheaper than electricity because we've installed many other appliances and fixtures that we invested more money into that are longer-lasting and more energy-efficient and so a gas water heater sounds like the perfect choice for a heater. I'll be sure to show this article to my wife so we know what to ask from any heater installation contractors we can find. Thank you!

  18. Thanks for helping me choose between gas and electric water heater. Before the rainy season arrives, I'd like to have my heater installed so I wouldn't have to bother heating my water every now and then. It's great to know that the gas type has a lower operating cost compared to the electric type. Besides, it can also be twice as fast at heating water compared to other models. Hopefully, I can find heating services available here in town this coming weekend.

  19. I'm glad you mentioned that it is important to consider your financial situation when you are looking to get a new water heater. I want to get a new heater so that my family can actually have warm water when they shower instead of the first person who is lucky enough to get it. It would probably be a good idea for me to find a company that has been working with heaters for many years now so that I can get my money's worth.

  20. The part of your article that talked about the lower operating costs of gas water heaters was definitely helpful to read. I've been doing everything I can to reduce the utility costs that we end up spending at home since we're staying inside more often, and our recent hot shower habits have gotten the best of us. I'll take your advice and look for a plumbing professional to help us with the complex installation process of gas water heaters so we can save more money in the long run.

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