Gas Water Heater Vs. Electric: What’s Better For Your Home & Wallet?

Gas Water Heater Vs. Electric: What’s Better For Your Home & Wallet?

Anthony Barnes

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Gas water heaters have been around since the 1930s.

They heat water through the expansion of gas, which gets converted into thermal energy.

The hot water then goes through a series of pipes to various fixtures throughout the house.

Gas Water Heater Vs. Electric: What’s Better For Your Home & Wallet?

Electric water heaters heat water instantly using electricity and deliver it directly from the source to each fixture.

Conventional models also heat hot water via a boiler, but they use a method called the indirect cycle. 

But which is the better one for you? And which is going to be better for your bank balance?

This article will discuss gas and electric methods of water heating so you can decide which is best for your home and wallet.

Table of Contents

What Is A Gas Water Heater?

A gas water heater uses natural gas as its fuel.

It heats water by expanding gas inside a tank that holds about 60 gallons (227 liters) of water. 

When the gas expands, it turns into thermal energy or heat.

The hot water then travels through a system of pipes to other parts of the home.

The most common type of gas water heater has an internal combustion engine that converts the thermal energy in the gas into mechanical energy.

That mechanical energy powers a pump that circulates the water through the system.

The second type of gas water heater is a direct-fired unit.

These are similar to conventional boilers except that their heat exchangers are located outside the tank.

In this way, the entire unit is self-contained.

Another type of gas water heater uses propane instead of natural gas. Propane is cheaper than natural gas, but it does not burn as cleanly.

Because of this, propane-powered water heaters must be installed with special care.

Advantages Of Gas Water Heaters

There are many advantages to using a gas water heater over an electric one.

1. Gas Water Heaters Are More Efficient Than Electric Models

One advantage of gas water heaters is that they are more efficient at converting thermal energy into usable hot water.

An electric model only produces enough heat to fill a single sink.

On the other hand, a gas water heater can produce enough heat to supply all sinks in the home.

2. Gas Water Heaters Have Longer Life Expectancies

Gas water heaters last longer than electric ones because they don’t need to run constantly.

Instead, they operate on low power when there is no demand. 

As long as the pilot light stays lit, the gas continues to expand.

Once the pilot light burns out, however, the gas stops expanding and begins contracting.

This causes the temperature of the water to drop, which means less heat is produced.

3. Gas Water Heaters Can Be Installed Anywhere

3. Gas Water Heaters Can Be Installed Anywhere

Unlike electric water heaters, gas water heaters do not require any electrical wiring.

All you need is a connection point to connect the gas line.

You can install them anywhere in the home where there is space for a large tank.

4. Gas Water Heaters Are Less Expensive To Install And Operate

Electric water heaters cost more money upfront because they have to be connected to the grid.

They also require regular maintenance to ensure safe operation.

Disadvantages Of Gas Water Heaters

While gas water heaters offer numerous benefits, they also come with some drawbacks.

1. Gas Line Leaks May Occur

If your gas lines leak, you could end up losing a lot of money.

Not only will you lose the use of your gas water heater, but you may also have to pay for repairs.

2. Gas Lines Must Be Plumbed Into Every Room

If you want to add a new sink or bathtub, you’ll first need to run new gas lines. This adds time and expense to the project.

3. Gas Water Heaters Require Regular Maintenance

Like most appliances, gas water heaters need to be maintained regularly.

This includes checking the thermostat, inspecting the heating element, and cleaning the burner.

4. Gas Hot Water Heaters Produce A Lot Of Heat

The amount of heat produced by a gas water heater depends on its size. The larger the unit, the greater the capacity.

However, this comes at the price of increased operating costs.

What Is An Electric Water Heater?

An electric water heater converts electrical energy into heat so that it can be used to warm water.

It uses an electric coil to transfer the heat from the water through a metal shell.

Electric water heaters work similarly to gas water heaters. They convert electrical energy into heat, which then warms the water.

Unlike gas models, however, electric water heaters must be plugged into an outlet.

Advantages Of Electric Water Heaters

There are many advantages to using an electric water heater over a gas one. Here are just a few examples.

1. Electric Water Heaters Are More Energy-Efficient Than Gas Models

Electric water heatings are much more efficient than their gas counterparts.

They can produce up to 90 percent of their output while consuming only 10 percent of the energy.

2. Electric Water Heaters Have Fewer Moving Parts

Most electric water heaters have fewer moving parts than gas ones. Because they don’t rely on combustion engines, they tend to last longer.

3. Electric Water Heaters Can Be Installed Anywhere There Is Space For A Tank

3. Electric Water Heaters Can Be Installed Anywhere There Is Space For A Tank

Unlike gas water heaters, electric ones can be installed almost anywhere in the home.

Whether you live in a small apartment or a sprawling mansion, you can find a model that fits your needs.

4. You Can Install An Electric Water Heater With No Plumbing Required

You won’t need to install any pipes or wires when installing an electric water heater.

All you need to do is plug it into an existing circuit.

5. Electric Water Heaters Don’t Need To Be Refilled Or Replaced As Often

Because they don’t depend on fuel, electric water heaters don‘t require regular maintenance like gas models.

When the tank runs out of hot water, all you need to do is replace the tank.

Disadvantages Of Electric Water Heaters

While there are many benefits to electric water heaters, there are some drawbacks as well. Let’s take a look at them now.

1. Electric Coils Aren’t Always Reliable

Like other types of electric equipment, electric water heaters can fail.

This means that if the water heater breaks down, you may not get hot water for several days.

2. Electric Coils May Burn Out Over Time

Coils burn out after about 15 years. If yours has been around for more than 20 years, it may need replacing.

3. Electric Coils Require Regular Maintenance

Coils also need to be cleaned every couple of months. This involves removing the cover and manually wiping off the insulation.

4. Electric Water Heaters Can Cost More Upfront

The initial cost of buying an electric water heater is higher than the cost of buying a gas one.

However, once you factor in the savings from reduced maintenance, you might end up with a lower monthly bill.

How Do I Choose Between A Gas Water Heater And An Electric One?

When choosing between a gas water heater and an electric one, consider these factors:

1. Size

A gas water heater has a much higher capacity than an electric one. It will hold enough hot water to meet most household demands.

2. Efficiency

Both gas and electric water heaters are very efficient.

However, electric ones are usually more energy-efficient because they use less energy to heat the water.

3. Installation

3. Installation

Electric water heaters can be installed just about anywhere. They don’t require plumbing or wiring.

On the downside, they must be plugged into a power source.

4. Warranty

Both gas and electric water heatings come with warranties. The warranty period depends on the manufacturer and type of product.

5. Price

Electric water heatings typically cost more upfront. But over time, their efficiency makes them cheaper to operate.

6. Durability

Gas water heaters are made of heavy materials. They have thick walls and are built to last. Electric water heaters are lighter weight and easier to move.

7. Safety

Gas water heatings contain flammable gasses. These can explode if damaged.

While this isn’t likely to happen, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

8. Noise Level

Gas water heaters produce loud noises. Electric water heaters make little noise.

9. Energy Consumption

Electric water heat systems consume less energy than gas-powered ones.

10. Environmental Impact

Gas water heater systems emit carbon dioxide (CO2). Electric water heaters don’t.

11. Ease of Use

Electric water heat pumps are easy to install and maintain. They require no special skills or tools.

12. Flexibility

You can easily add additional features to your electric water heater. You won’t be able to do this with a gas-powered unit.

How Much Do Gas Water Heaters Cost?

In general, a new gas water heater costs $500-$600. Older models sell for as low as $300.

If you buy a used model, expect to pay at least $200.

How Much Does An Electric Water Heater Cost?

An average electric water heater sells for $400-$700. Used units go for even less.

If you buy a used electric water heater, expect to spend around $150.

What Are Some Other Factors To Consider When Choosing Between A Gas Water Heating System And An Electric One?

1. Location

If you live in a rural area, you may want to opt for a gas water heater.

This way, you won’t need to worry about running out of hot water during the winter months.

2. Budget

2. Budget

The price of a gas water heater should not exceed 10% of your annual budget.

If it does, then you should probably choose an electric system instead.

3. Space

The size of your home determines how many gallons of hot water you need.

If you live in a small space, you may want to get a smaller-sized unit.

4. Usage

A larger unit is needed when you have a large family.

5. Maintenance

Gas water heat pumps are easier to maintain. You only need to change the filter once every six months.

6. Features

Some electric water heaters offer remote controls. Others allow you to control the temperature from a smartphone app.

Installing A Gas Water Heater

Before installing a gas water heater, you will first need to run some tests.

This includes checking whether there is enough pressure to supply your home with hot water.

Also, check that the water flow rate is adequate.

Once these tests are complete, you can proceed with the installation.

The process involves connecting pipes, valves, and other components.

To avoid any leaks, you must ensure that all connections are tight. Don’t forget to use pipe sealant before making any adjustments.

Once everything is connected correctly, turn on the main valve. Wait until the pilot light comes on.

Then, adjust the thermostat to the desired setting.

When you start using the water heater, keep an eye on the pilot light.

It should stay lit for at least 30 minutes after turning off the main valve.

Installing An Electric Water Heater

Unlike gas water heaters, electric water heaters come ready to use. All you need to do is plug them into the wall socket.

After doing so, wait for the power to stabilize. Once this happens, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

This usually involves adjusting the thermostat. In most cases, you don’t need to make any changes to the electrical circuit.

However, if you notice any problems, contact your local utility company.

Conclusion

Both gas and electric water heaters work well. However, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Which one would be better depends on your needs and preferences.

If you want a reliable source of hot water, then you should consider buying a gas water heater.

If you prefer to save money, then you should go for an electric water heater.

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By 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