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Gas vs. Electric: Which Water Heater Is Right for You?

Gas vs. Electric: Which Water Heater Is Right for You?
gas vs electric water heater installation

Gas and electricity are the two most popular ways water heaters are powered in homes. Depending on which one you opt for, you are expected to use it for at least 10 years. You should begin preparing to get another one once it starts showing signs of failing. There are pros and cons you should consider before picking the one that suits your need. The water usage and size of your family usually affect your final decision.

When comparing the two systems, you should consider important factors like lifespan, energy usage, installation, accessibility, and environmental issues. Understandably, a gas water heater is a cheaper alternative to an electric water heater. However, installing gas is often costlier. The overall role of your water heater regardless of which one you go for is the availability of hot water in your household.

How does a Gas Water Heater work?

The traditional tank water heater heats and stores the hot water until it is needed by the members of the house. The warm water is used for washing, dishwashing, and in the shower. In a gas water heater, the water supply tube fills the tank with cold water. Thus, it makes water available to be heated from the bottom of the tank. The gas burner is placed underneath the sealed tank. The rising temperature within the tank heats the water supply to where it is needed via the hot water outlet pipe. The hot water discharge pipe channel away the water, which is why it is short and placed at the top of the tank.

The gas regular assembly found at the side of the heater helps keep the heated water at the desired temperature. The thermostat, which is on the gas regulator assembly, regulates and measures the water temperature in the tank. It is important to turn the gas burner on and off to keep the heated water at a preferred temperature. The installed exhaust pipes disperse the gas via chimneys or vent pipes. The spiral metal baffle on the hollow flue delivers the collected heat to the surrounding water, making sure the water heater is performing at the highest level.

The working mechanism of an electric water heater

Unlike the gas water heater, an electric water heater doesn’t need a heat exchanger, flue system, or burner to produce hot water. There are two immersion elements on a typical heater. One is found near the tank base while the other is placed toward the top. The required heat is generated by these two elements. Cold water is supplied into the tank towards the base. Hot water, on the other hand, is passed near the top of the tank. The thermostat installed on the heater is always activated when the water is supplied via the lower element.

Gas, unlike electricity, heats the water faster. An electrically powered heating system usually requires more time to heat the water. The heating element is not placed outside like the gas water heater. It is located inside the tank. The temperature of the water will increase to the top when it is heated within the tank.

Gas water heater vs. electric water heater – Pros and Cons

Advantages of gas water heater

  1. Gas water heaters are known to heat water faster than electric water heaters. Since it heats twice as fast, hot water is always available for use. It is a smart idea to go for gas when you have a large family. It makes it easier for every member of the family to have quick access to hot water.
  2. Gas water heaters are more economical than electric-powered heater units. You will be able to save money in the long run despite the intricacies of installation. The energy expenses for natural gas are affordable.
  3. Whether there is power or not, your household is guaranteed hot water. Instead of the electric pilot, the gas-powered water heater is designed to be ignited by a pilot power.

Disadvantages of gas water heater

  1. A gas water heater usually requires a lot of investment. Though people get the worth of their investment in the long term through cheaper energy bills, it is costlier to maintain and install.
  2. The lifespan of a gas water heater isn’t as long as its counterpart. An electric water heater should last a year more than a gas system when they are installed same time.
  3. You cannot install the gas water heater system by yourself as a regular homeowner. The installation process is more intensive and requires serious expertise to run the PVC pipes and other components. Also, you will need an expert to help with the repairs and periodic maintenance of the ventilation system.

Advantages of electric water heater system

  1. They are more affordable to install. The cost of an electric water heater is reliant on the size you want to choose. Regardless, it is a great choice and you spend less on upfront expenses. You may be required to spend more only if you are going for the tankless heater.
  2. The installation process of an electric water heater system is pretty straightforward. Since the power supply is regular, your household shouldn’t have a problem getting hot water. You can be someone other than an expert before you install or replace it. It will also save you money from installation.
  3. Unlike the gas water heater, the electric water heater doesn’t need much maintenance. They are not prone to the maintenance problem of the gas line associated with a gas water heater. The only required maintenance practice for an electric water heater is the draining of the tank to remove mineral deposits forming at the tank base.

Disadvantages of an electric water heater system

  1. They usually take longer to get the water heated. While the time might not worry you much, it is faster on a gas power heater. An electric heater doesn’t produce as much heat quickly as a gas water heater combustion.
  2. You spend more on energy bills. Despite the higher energy efficiency, you will spend more money on your monthly electrical bills. Unlike electricity, natural gas is cheap.
  3. Your household will lack hot water in any case of a power outage. It has always been the advantage a gas water heater has over an electric-powered water heater. There are situations when the power supply is out due to storms or other unforeseen circumstances. It will make it impossible for you to run the water heater system in your home. The gas water heater will keep working in the absence of electrical power.

Factors that can influence the gas vs. water heater debate

Operational cost

An electrical water heater is an economical alternative to the gas system during installation. However, the long-term operational cost of a gas water heater is cheaper when compared to its counterparts. The efficiency and the size of the heater unit will also determine how much it will cost. A 50-gallon water heater is more expensive than a 40-gallon tank. If you already have a gas line in your home, it is a more economical option to continue with a gas heating system.


The design and size of the water heater are key factors to consider when deciding which one to buy. Going for a bigger size might incur more energy bills, but it will serve your large household better. The bigger the tank, the higher the quantity of water it can store for various uses in your home.


The warranty on electric and gas water heater systems is usually between 5 and 6 years, depending on the manufacturer and specifications. There is a couple of products with more warranties. However, they come at a higher price. Water heaters made from fiberglass and stainless steel offer lifetime warranties. Ideally, they have a longer lifespan than traditional water heaters.

Use of energy

It explains how much energy is consumed by gas and electric water heaters. The efficiency of products of similar size from the same manufacturer is relatively identical. However, some electric models offer better efficiency ratings. You should inspect its Efficiency Rating (EF) in the manual that comes with the device. Other essential factors under the water heater energy use include the unit’s energy, first-hour rating, and the size of the tank.


Installing an electric water heater usually requires grounding and plumbing the unit before it can serve the household. In the case of the gas water heater, it involves getting the heater plumbed and connecting the natural gas supply and the vent. It is more tasking to convert from gas to electricity and vice versa. It is mandatory to create a vent during the installation of a gas water heater. To do this entails drilling and cutting through the side of your home. The lengthy installation process mostly results in higher expenses.


The average lifespan of electric and gas water heater is between 10 and 13 years. Tankless heaters last up to 20 years if properly maintained. Whether you opt for electric or gas, the maintenance routine practice will determine how long the product will work in your home before breaking down.


Choosing the right water heater is vital to the availability of hot water in your home when required and the amount you will be spending on energy bills. Depending on your family size, an electric or a gas water heater system should do the job as long as you know what suits your needs. While comfort might be an essential factor when deciding which one to go for, you should consider some of the factors we have explained in this article. Gas and electric water heaters appear the same at first glance, they operate differently with the same goal.

John, Larry, Mike, owners of Western Rooter & Plumbing

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