When it comes to water heaters, the question of whether to choose gas or electric water heaters is never-ending. Summer, winter, day or night, you need a reliable, inexpensive water heater to run your house and your life. Both gas and electric have their pros and cons, both walk the talk. But which one is better? If you are thinking about a replacement home water heater here are some pointers that might peak your interest.
Heating water is the second-largest expense for most homes, taking up between 14%-18% of utility bills. A good water heater works efficiently, to reduce costs, but is still ready when you are with an uninterrupted supply of hot water. But how costly is this and how safe is it?
Most tank heaters use electricity or gas. The energy type already in your home can help you decide which type of water heater you should buy and how to hide it!
There are 5 main types of water heaters.
- Standard – definitely the most popular type. They use a gas flame or electric heating element to heat your water supply. Depending on your supplier, electric heaters are more expensive to operate than gas. They also cost less upfront. However, gas heaters can make up the difference in energy savings within a year. Cost: $250-500 for electric, $300-$600 for gas. Installation costs between $700-$2,000. They cost less than other water heaters and have a lifespan of 8-15 years.
- High-efficiency (HE) – Gas-fired water heaters use an energy rating or energy factor (EF). This helps you compare appliances. The higher the number, the more efficient, and less energy the appliance uses. The EF rating for standard gas heaters is .50 -.60. The EF rating for High Efficiency heats is .67 and above. They can save you $140 per year in costs or almost $3000 over the lifespan. Cost: Higher costs at $620-$1,500. Installation is $700-$2,000. If you want an HE electric heater, hybrid models are available and good for mild to hot climates but they are more expensive than gas HE versions. They cost more than the average electric heater but can save you upto $3000 over the life of the heater.
- Heat-pump Water Heaters – these large units need 1,000 cubic feet of air space around the unit and in an area that is between 40-90 degrees. They have an 8-15 year life span. Cost: Higher costs at $1,100- $3,000. Installation is $1,400 to $2,000.
- Solar Water Tank Heaters – These Energy Star-certified HE water heaters start with an EF rating above .67 adding $140 in savings per year or almost $3000 over the lifespan of the unit. While cutting your heating costs in half compared to standard heaters, they cost more (thermal collector, storage tank and installation). Cost: Equipment and install cost between $8000-$10000 if you need freezing protection equipment, $4000-$5000 if freezing protection is not required. Prices are decreasing but it still takes up to 30 years to recoup up-front costs. See if you qualify for local rebates or tax credits. Equipment lifespan is 20-30 years.
- Point-of-use – these provide instant hot water, reducing water and time wasted waiting for water to run hot. They are often used to supply hot water to kitchen faucets and are an easy DIY install. Units are mostly electric with 2.5 to 30 gallon capacities. Cost: 2.5 gallon heater – $200, 30 gallon heater – $400. While convenient, and reduces water waste, it is a utility cost. FYI: There are no EF ratings for these units but used wisely they can save you a lot of money.
Water Heaters – Performance
Most gas heaters take one hour to heat around 50 gallons of water, catering for a family of four people, and they have a fast replacement time, compared to most electric heaters.
Electric water heaters, on the other hand, take time to get your water to a usable temperature, but once they so they leave gas water heaters way behind. Using a timer, they are easy to use and installation is a breeze. For maximum performance each year, make sure to place your water heater on your maintenance checklist. as part of your annual energy audit.
Water Heaters – Costs
The cost to run gas water heaters is lower, with natural gas costing less than electricity. That doesn’t make gas heaters cheaper.
You have to take two things into account; electric water heaters have a longer life expectancy and their units are cheaper to buy than gas units.
Taking these into account, the costs can often balance out.
While the cost of running your water heater is a priority, you want a unit that is super safe. Gas water heaters require adequate and proper ventilation, space and maintenance, or they can become a weapon of mass destruction. Maintenance includes checking the pilot light, gas pressure and leakages.
Electric water heaters are often compact and generally safer. They don’t require ventilation and have built-in safety switches if your power has a surge or is overloaded. But if you have a power failure, then you have hot water failure too.
Ability to Work
Which one is more efficient?
Gas heaters heat up faster, but they also lose a lot of heat. The tank, exhaust, pipes all lose heat, consuming more natural gas in preparation for your next shower.
There are ways around gas leakage, such as wrapping your unit in foam insulation, to help it be more energy efficient.
Electric heaters don’t use or need insulation. All they depend on is constant supply of electricity. If you live in a power problem area, take note, if your electricity supply is inconsistent so is your hot water supply.
While gas water heaters can heat up faster and cost less to run, electric heaters can be safer and energy efficient. Which one suits your home the best?