Posted 10/20/2017

An Electric vs. Gas Water Heater: Which is better?

An Electric vs. Gas Water Heater: Which is better?

Unless you are training to be an HVAC technician, you wouldn’t necessarily read about water heaters in your spare time. However, it becomes especially important when you buy a new house and have to choose between an electric or gas water heater. You might also face this problem if the existing water heater starts to leak. Although water heaters are built with thick, durable materials, the moisture and constant heating cycles causes the walls to thin-out and result in leaks. A leak, usually, cannot be fixed and the whole thing needs to be replaced.

Most companies and manufacturers offer a 12-year warranty on all models so if your water heater broke down within the warranty period, try contacting the manufacturer for a replacement. If the warranty period is completed and you haven’t purchased a new water heater in a while, you will be surprised by the different models that are available. You might contemplate buying an expensive model for those additional features and save you from future hassles or repairs and maintenance.

After April 16, 2015, all water heaters must adhere to the efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy. This is actually meant to be good for the planet as well as consumers. Usually, increased regulations mean more money going out of your pocket, but implementing these standards allows more savings. Water heaters with the maximum capacity under 55 gallons are expected to achieve a reduction in their water bill by 20%. Above 55%, a reduction of 25% to 50% can be there depending on the model being used.

Gas water heaters have been used in the United States for a very long time. It uses conventional heating by burning fossil fuels and natural gas to heat the water. Electric heaters are relatively new and heat up the water by passing an electric current through electric resistance coils. Electric water heaters are definitely more efficient but the cost of electricity required alone can cost more to run the equipment than a conventional gas type. About 60% of households use gas water heaters compared to only 40% that use an electric one. This is due to the fact that gas water heaters have a higher first hour rating and this is a convenience if you have a large family.

How to decide which water heater would be most suited for you?

Water heating accounts for the second largest cost in your home that is about 16% of the total utility bills. Choosing the right heater will not only give you a peace of mind but also save you money in the long run.

Maximum Capacity

The larger the unit’s capacity, the higher will be the price tag. Simple. It is up to you to assess how much hot water is required by your family to conduct their daily washing activities. We would like to place a special emphasis on “how much hotwater is required” because an average family of fourmight require 90 to 100 gallons of water per day, but that doesn’t mean you have to purchase one that big. It is important to consider the First Hour Rating (FHR) and recovery rate which basically tell you how much water can be heated within one hour after all the hot water is used.

Efficiency Types

Water heaters are available in four efficiency types:

  • Standard – This is available in both gas and electric variants although gas heaters tend be less costly over the course of time. They are available in a wide range of capacities from 20 to 80 gallons and will be good for 8 to 15 years on average.
  • High Efficiency (HE) – These are also available in both gas and electric variants. As you might have already guessed, these are the most efficient type of water heating tanks that are available in the market today. The Department of Energy allocates an energy factor (EF) number to most gas water heaters so the comparison is easier for the average consumer. The higher the EF rating, the higher it ranks in efficiency. 
  • Solar type – putting up silicon panels on your roof can reduce heating costs more than half. Yes, you heard me right, by half! Solar panels act as a thermal collector which are connected to a storage tank, either gas or electric. It supplies hot water even on cold days, even if the pilot light has gone out and needs to be re-lit. However solar panels are not recommended for regions which experience below freezing temperatures in winters because the panels might get damaged if they are covered by snow. Even though rebates and tax incentives are offered in my states, it can still take up to 30 years to recover the initial cost of $8000. Maybe you should re-think this one.
  • Point of Use water heater – devices can be attached to specific taps in the house and the garage to get instant, hot, running water. This helps save water from being wasted however it adds another electricity consuming device that jacks up your bill.

Popular gas water heaters cost from $200 to $1500 and electric water heaters cost about $300 to $3000 on Amazon, although prices can go much higher when you include fitting, wiring and installation charges.

Advantages of gas heaters

Gas heaters are widely popular just because they have been available for a long time. It is easier to find an experienced professional to fix a gas water her. On the plus side, gas heaters top electric heaters in the following ways:

  • Lower operation cost
  • Longer life
  • Higher FHR
  • Works even if there is a power out

Advantages of electric heaters

Electric water heaters are a relatively new but offer additional advantages that you need to consider before you decide:

  • Safety – the fact that there isn’t a live flame near a source of gas in your house makes electric heaters the safe substitutes. There is no chance of an explosion from any undetected gas leaks.
  • Requires comparatively less space.
  • Life expectancy – the fact that it has a simpler design which uses lesser parts makes it easy to repair and maintain.
  • Backup power – allows them to operate even if the power goes out.

Additional features and benefits which are worth having

  • Extended warranties – Companies that trust their own products usually offer longer warranties than the standard 12 years’ coverage.
  • Brass drains – located near the bottom of the water heater, these drains are used to empty the tank for repairs and maintenance. Plastic valves and pipes soften and corrode due the moisture. Choose a heater with brass valves.
  • Glass lining inside the water tank—A layer of glass inside the water tank helps stop corrosion and extends the life of the unit. Some heaters come standard with this feature. For others, you might have to pay a few hundred dollars but it is worth it.
  • Add a digital panel – We’re all so used to technology and everything being digital that sometimes analog dials can get annoying. Digital meters come with additional settings as well. It can also help monitor usage and reduce costs accordingly.

In Conclusion

Water heaters are an important amenity in every home, and choosing the right one is rarely easy. We hope this post has helped clear the air and made it easier for you to decide the one you need.


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