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8 Benefits of electric water heaters over gas water heaters

For some oddball reason, the previous owners of our home installed a second water heater when they added a second bathroom 10 years ago. The original tank is gas heated and holds 60 gallons, which is more than enough for a family of 4, much less just my wife and I. The second water heater is a 40 gallon electric heater, and is only hooked into the new bathroom’s shower and sink piping. The rest of the house uses the gas tank.

Since we must maintain and monitor both an electric and gas water heater, I figured I would comment on many of the reasons I prefer the electric option. Additionally, I would like to connect all the piping and replace both tanks with a single unit as they are both over 10 years old.

Costs of electric vs gas water heaters

Generally, gas water heaters are known to cost less than their electric counterparts when it comes to heating water. Gas is simply more efficient as it heats faster and uses less energy while doing so, compared to an electric unit. However, faster heating and potentially cheaper fuel costs shouldn’t be the only reason you would choose a gas water heater over electric…

Why choose an electric water heater

Although the basic price differences between gas and electricity and the efficiency of gas heat may persuade you to choose a gas water heater over an electric tank, let me provide you with a number of reasons why an electric water heater, 4 GPM is better than a gas one:

  1. Safety: Your chances of an explosion from a gas leak are much greater than electrocution from faulty wiring to your tank. Plus, the damage to your home after an explosion far exceeds most damage that an electric tank could do.
  2. Ability to install a timer on an electric tank: When we moved into our home, one of the first items we installed was a timer unit that cuts off power to the entire tank at times we determined. It costs between $40-$55 and can be installed by the average handy homeowner (turn off the fuse/breaker before working with electricity though). We have our timer come on at 5am and turn off at 8am. My wife has enough hot water for her morning shower and evening routine, and we only use 3 hours of electricity max, versus 24. Also, since we’re on time-metered billing, we limit our power consumption to off-peak times.
  3. Cost of installation: With a gas water heater, you must vent the exhaust through a flu. That means you must install PVC tubing up through your home and out your roof. With an electric water heater, you just install a special outlet or bare wiring. No need to saw holes into your roof!
  4. Space requirements: Gas water heaters need at least 6-18″ of ventilation around all sides and top, which means you can’t just install the tank in a small closet or crawlspace. An electric tank can be installed in confined spaces without fear of gas buildup or an explosion. There are even small electric water heaters for under the sink! (I’ll discuss tank-less water heaters in a later article).
  5. Life expectancy: Because electric water heaters use less parts, and subject those parts to less direct heat, they can last years beyond the lifespan of a gas water heater.
  6. Cost of purchase: Electric water heaters cost less than gas heaters of the same size…period.
  7. No pilot light: Along the lines of safety, electric water heaters do not use a pilot light, so you don’t need to worry about relighting the flame if it accidentally burns out. However, many new gas heaters use electric ignitions, not pilot lights, which leads us to…
  8. Gas heaters can no longer use the excuse that they work even when the power goes out: That’s right. Now that many gas water tanks use electric ignitions, when the power goes out, so does your hot water (except what’s left in the tank).

Do you have any more reasons an electric tank is better than a gas one? Was I way off on any of the reasons above? Can you prove why a gas water heater can overcome all 8 reasons to be the better choice?

More good reads from Cleverdude:

How you know your electric water heater is dying
Do You Know These Tips Can Help You Reduce Your Home Heating Bills?
Frugal Tip: Saving Money on Electricity using Time Metered Service
5 Key Things to Be Sure You Get Right on Your Loan Application
Review: National Consumer Panel – Pure Awesomeness or Waste of Time?
Meal Delivery Service: Blue Apron Review
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41 Comments

  • Here’s another scenario to consider. We are getting solar panels installed on our house. We currently have a gas water heater but are considering adding extra panels to the installation. The plan would be to convert the water heater to electric when it goes out the next time. Gas is more efficient but if we are creating more electricity with the solar that would compensate for added usage in the future. I tried to ask the solar company for any usage comparison so we’d know how many panels (probably just one) to add. He told me only that gas is more efficient (which I already knew!).

  • Correcting what I stated above, electric is actually more efficient, gas is just more economical and is faster at heating when you’re talking about a tank heater.

  • I would assume that electric water heaters would be slower on the heating response but more cost effective than gas heaters. I think not very many people know the benefits of a electric heater and that’s why its still not as common as gas heaters. I surely hope that as time progresses, more people will come to understand the need for electric heaters.

  • It was cool to learn about the benefits of an electric water heater. Thank you for explaining that an electric water heater can last a long time. I hope that I can remember this article if my water heater ever starts to give me problems.

  • I am going to switch from a gas to an electric water heater in my un-finished basement. That way, I can use the lined chimney for my wood burning stove and help heat the house while not needing a chimney for the electric water heater.

  • I think it’s really interesting how you mention that electric water heaters are safer than gas. Our water heater just broke and I need to have a new one installed. I’ll have to look for an electric water heater and a service that knows how to install them since I have no idea what I’m doing!

  • Another reason is we have to pay our local utility a customer charge of 13 dollars each month before we costs such as delivery charge, per and commidity charge are factored in. Moving to electric would eliminate the 13 dollars charge, without an increase on the electric side for this fee. That means 156 dollars a year x 10 years = 1056.00 dollars saved. Reduce that from the cost of paying someone to run electric to the area.

  • Note that the typical gas water heater is actually horrifically inefficient. Nearly 40% of the energy goes out the flue pipe. It is cheaper though, as you get a far cheaper price for the energy in gas compared to the energy in electricity. The reason is because many gas appliances throw out nearly half that energy, so charging the same price as electricity would make gas prices astronomically high. If you’re concerned about efficiency, get a “condensing gas” water heater, these offer efficiencies comparable to electric heaters while heating up far faster than either typical gas or electric heaters.

  • I agree with the article’s statement that you shouldn’t choose a heater type based only off of operating cost. Factors such as maintenance and safety should also be taken into consideration when choosing a heater. The article provided some helpful insight as why electric heat can be safer and easier to maintain/install than other heater types. I’ll definitely be keeping this in consideration when my wife and I finally get around to adding a guest room to our house.

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