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Does A Gas Water Heater Need Electricity?

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

A gas-fired water heater uses natural gas or propane as fuel. An electric water heater uses electricity as fuel.

Both types of water heaters use an internal combustion engine to generate steam. Steam is then piped into the house where it heats the water. 

When the power goes out, both types of water heaters will be affected but it does depend on the type of water heater you have as to how much of an interruption you’ll get.

How does it work?

Water heaters use a continuous pilot light to heat your water. When electricity is available, the gas water heater (see also ‘Basic Parts For Gas Water Heater‘) uses electricity to turn on the pilot light.

Once the pilot light is turned on, the gas water heater continues to run even when there is no electricity available.

Electricity is not always necessary for the gas water heater.

The pilot light is what needs lighting in order to heat your home. It’s easy and safe. Turn your gas and use an electrical lighter to light the pilot light.

This heat source will let your water be heated the whole time. You will never need to wait for warm or cold water anymore.

It may need resetting or the heater may be leaking natural gas or propane. 

Gas Ignition Appliances 

Water heaters use gas to heat up water. Gas water heaters need a gas control valve to turn the gas on and off.

A thermostat regulates how much gas goes into the burner. Standing pilots were used before electronic ignition was invented. 

Electronic ignition uses a sensor to detect the flame and turn the gas on and then off as needed. Hot surface igniters work by sensing the heat coming out of the burner.

Water heaters using the HSI system are more efficient than traditional ones. They don’t need a continuous pilot light to operate.

And they don’t add heat to the room during the summer. However, if there’s a power outage in your area, you might want to consider other options for heating.

Electronic Ignition 

Electronic ignition systems use gas burners to heat up water in your house. There are two different kinds of electronic ignition systems used today.

The first is called intermittent pilot, and it uses a small gas burner to ignite the gas burner in your water heater. 

This type of system is very efficient and does not use much electricity. However, it requires a match to start the gas burner. 

The second kind of electronic ignition system uses hot surface ignition.

This type of system heats up the resistance element, which then glows orange or red, causing the gas burners to ignite.

This type of system uses less electricity than the intermittent pilot system, but it still requires a match to get started.

Tank Gas Heaters 

Tank-type gas heaters work by heating up the water in a tank. When the water gets hot enough for you to drink, the heater shuts off automatically.

You can control how much hot water there is by adjusting the thermostat setting as they control the heat.

They can turn the gas burner on and off. They can also be used to set the temperature.

A tankless heater does not need a pilot light. It heats up the water directly. Once ignited, it will continue burning even when there is no fuel.

However, if the fire extinguishers, it must be re-ignited by another means.

You may wonder how long water stays hot in a tank without electricity. A typical tank holds about 10 gallons.

Water stays hot for 2-3 days. If you want to take a cold shower, you’ll need to do it before the power goes out.

Conventional Water Heater 

Gas water heaters do use natural gas, but some also use propane or other fuels. Some types of gas water heaters have electric pilots, while others don’t.

If there is a power cord plugged into your gas water heater, then it relies on mains electricity. You should turn off the gas supply to prevent damage when there is a power outage.

Gas On-Demand Heater

On-demand gas water heaters don’t need to be plugged directly into an electrical outlet to operate. However, if there is a power outage, they won’t function without electricity. 


Gas water heaters are generally cheaper than electric ones. How much you can save depends on the efficiency of your particular model.

Electric water heaters should have an energy factor (see also ‘Uniform Energy Factor Explained‘) rating of over 90. Look for high-efficiency models with solar panels or heat pumps.

Gas Water Heaters are very popular due to their efficiency. And are great in emergencies 



Gas water heaters (see also ‘A Review And Buying Guide To GE Gas Water Heater‘) need regular flushes and maintenance. A vertical pump on the front helps keep sediment away from the tank.

If there isn’t one, you may want to add one. 

As for maintenance, hot water heaters need to be flushed every six months. Adjust the temperature and reset.

Gas water heaters should be turned off and then back on. Travelling water heaters should be set to vacation mode.

Drain valves should be tightened. Thermostats should be set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Solar Power 

You can use solar energy to heat up your water without needing any electricity. Solar panels can be used to generate enough energy to heat up your hot water.

Traditional electric hot water heaters (see also ‘Electric Hot Water Heaters Buying Guide & Review‘) have some hot water to work with. You can figure out how much hot water there is by looking at the temperature gauge. 

Tankless Water Heaters 

Tankless water heaters are great for saving money because they don’t waste energy by producing the same amount of hot water over and over again.

A tankless water heater doesn’t need a reservoir of hot water to operate. It heats up water as it needs it, and then stops.

Tankless water heaters heat up water instantly and don’t have a storage tank. You don’t need a storage tank to get hot water.

Instead, you’ll be able to turn on your faucets and get hot water instantly. But, there is a limit to how much hot water you can get out of a tankless water heater.

Tankless water heaters are great because they save money on energy bills.

But if you take showers and run the dishwasher at the exact same time, then you might need to get another tankless water heater to keep up with the demand.  

Tankless water heaters are used in many homes.

They are often used for remote bathrooms or hot tubs, booster for appliances, such as a dishwasher or clothes washer, and a solar heating system.

Tankless water heaters (see also ‘Water Heater for Mobile Home Guide‘) are more expensive than traditional ones. But they save money over time because they don’t need as much electricity to  run them.

And they’re easier to repair. That means fewer repairs and less downtime. They may be more expensive up front, but they’ll pay off in the long term.

Tankless water heaters use less energy than storage water heaters because there is no need to preheat the water before heating it.

Gas-fired tankless water heaters also have lower costs of operation. But they still have a pilot light, and this may be expensive to operate. So look for models that have an IID.

Hybrid Water Heaters 

Heat pumps are the most efficient type of water heater. They save money and use less energy.

Environmental groups like the NRDC love them because they help curb climate change. The federal government gives you a tax credit for buying a new heat pump.

Many states offer an instant rebate or a rebate over time. Your local utility may also offer a rebate. 

You can check out the database of state incentives online.

Even if you’re not interested in saving money, buying an efficient air conditioner will help reduce emissions.

Switching to renewable energy sources will also help reduce emissions. 

Replacing old appliances with more efficient ones will also help reduce emissions, but it might be hard to get people to do this.

Reducing Bills 

Reducing Bills

Utility bills seem to be getting higher and higher with each passing month so how can you help reduce such bills? 

Many people use more than enough hot water when taking a bath. Hot water heaters should be turned down to 120 degrees and try not to shower for too long.

Installing low flow faucets and shower heads saves energy and using  insulation blankets can also reduce costs. Choosing a tank size based on your family needs saves energy.

Checking out the Department of Energy’s guide to water heater sizing helps determine how much energy you’re using.

Efficiency technology improves every year so your hot water heater efficiency should be getting better and better. 

The dishwasher and washing machine are also getting better and better. You should invest in an Energy Star appliance if you want to save money.

Dishwashers use less hot water than hand washing, but they save time and money. Washing dishes by hand uses more hot water and takes longer.

Should I Choose Gas Or Electric?

Gas models are usually cheaper to install, but electric models are cheaper to operate.

High-efficiency electric models are more expensive to buy upfront, but save money over time.

Natural gas models are less expensive to purchase, however, they may be more expensive to install. 

Be sure to keep your water heater (see also ‘Water Heater Smells Like Burning‘) well maintained to ensure long term efficiency.

Turn off the pilot light before performing any work. Flip the power switch before starting any task to prevent electrical problems. 

Consider enrolling in an insurance plan to protect your home investment.

HomeServe is a great resource for home repairs. You can get quotes and compare prices before you make your purchase.



A generator is an appliance used to provide electricity when there is a loss of power. This allows you to continue your normal life without any interruption.

There are many different types of generators, but the most common ones are diesel-powered generators and gas-fired engines.

A modern-day generator works using the principle of electromagnetic induction. Electromagnetic induction was discovered by Michael Faraday.

He found out that when you move an electrical conductor (such as a wire) in a magnetic field, it generates a voltage difference between the ends of the conductor. 

This voltage difference causes the electric charges inside the conductor to flow. Thus, electricity is generated.

Power outages are becoming more frequent due to a variety of reasons. Many people are unable to use their wells or submersible pumps during power outages.

Generators provide an alternative source of power during these times. Before buying a generator, make sure you understand what to look for so you can invest in a reliable generator.


A common misconception about generators is that they provide power to everything. This is true for many things but not for pumps.

Most pumps require a lot of power to start and then use less as they spin.

For example, a 1 hp pump might require 746 watts to start and once started it requires around 200 watts. 

So a 1hp pump takes roughly 500 watts to operate. Now let’s say you have a 1 hp pump running 24 hours a day. That means it will consume 500 watts every hour.

So after 12 hours it will have consumed 12 x 500 6,000 watts. Let’s say you have a 2000 watt generator. 

To start the pump you will need 2 amps.

To run the pump for the 12A label on the control box indicates the voltage, most likely 110 or 120 volts, and the horsepower or current drawn (in amps). 

Most pumps require a label on the motor indicating the voltage, most likely 115 or 120 volts, and horsepower or current draw (usually 40-50 amps).

Pump manufacturers have provided information available for you to help you choose the correct size generator for your well pump. 

Franklin Water provides the manual, which has become the industry bible for many that instals, services and designs pumping systems equipment. 

The AIM manual contains this reference chart for selecting a generator for your well pump if you have a new type controller that uses a variable frequency (VFD) or constant pressure (CP) controller.

If you have a pump controller of a different manufacturer, use this Franklin subdrive reference chart as a guide for sizing a generator.

Use this Franklin information to approximate the needs.

Certain generators can be used to run a well and booster pump at the same time.

If you want to run a well and a booster pump at the same, you’ll need a generator that can do that. Generators come in different sizes. 

Be sure to get the right size for what you’re doing. You should buy this type of generator because it provides both 120 and 240 volt single phases.

It also offers a wide range of output wattage (from 600W to 2000W).

If your generator is too small to operate everything you need you must prioritize what you need to operate.

Plugging in the refrigerator for 8 hours and switching it off for 8 hours is a good idea. Turn off lights when you’re not using them.

Replace old bulbs with LEDs. Keep electronics running by turning them on and off.

Other Ways To Deal With Power Outages 

What are the downsides of relying on a generator for backup power?

You need to be prepared to deal with issues when using a portable generator because you will probably have to start it manually.

You’ll also have to check the fuel and oils regularly. 

After the power goes out, you’ll have to disconnect the generator and turn off the breaker.

You’ll also have to remember to replace the batteries and plug things back into outlets. All this can seem like hard work. 

There are several ways to get water without buying a generator.

You could ask your neighbors if they can hook up to each other’s hoses and then buy a double-hose connector from your local hardware stores. 

Pressure tanks are very useful because they allow you to store more water than we could otherwise.

If you are without water you can wash your hands, do dishes, and flush toilets with lots of water while without electricity. 

There are two types of pressure tanks. A 120 gallon well tank holds about 40 gallons of water, and a 110 gallon tank holds about 30 gallons.

A pressure tank increases the amount of water available to your house by storing extra water during times of high demand.

A small storage tank is a good idea for storing drinking water. Use a small amount of chlorine bleach or buy a commercial water preservative to make sure the water stays clean.

Install a float valve in the storage tank and connect the float to a faucet using a garden hose. You should be able to get a hose adapter to connect the hose to a float valve. 

There are some solutions if you want more water than a small storage tank can provide but they really depend on existing conditions. 

Another option is that solar panels can be upgraded with a battery bank to make sure there is power during outages.

These upgrades can be very expensive. Contact your solar installer for more info on upgrading your solar system to a grid-tied system with battery backup.


So, there you have it! Hopefully, this guide will have helped you understand whether a gas water heater needs electricity, and how to use your gas water heater without electricity. 

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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