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
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
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.
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.
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.