Emergency Services

What’s the Difference: Electric vs. Gas Water Heater

gas vs electric water heater graphic

Water heaters play a crucial role in our daily lives, supporting essential tasks for cooking, showering, cleaning, laundry, and more! We often take for granted the convenience of heated water until it’s time for a replacement. Choosing the right water heater for your home can be daunting and time-consuming. That’s where Shamrock Plumbing comes in!  Learn the difference between the two main fuel types for water heaters: electric and gas. By weighing down the pros and cons of each option, we will help you find the best water heater for your home and your needs. 

gas vs electric water heater infographic

Do you need a quote? Or an expert to talk you through these options? We’re open for free consultations! Call us today!

How Does a Gas Water Heater Work?

As the name suggests, gas water heaters utilize gas as a fuel source to efficiently heat your water. This type of water heater operates based on the fundamental principle of physics known as convection. When the gas burner located at the bottom of the tank ignites, it generates heat, which is then transferred to the water within the tank. As the water absorbs this heat energy, it gradually becomes warmer. To ensure a continuous supply of hot water, gas water heaters are designed with a specific mechanism. When you open a hot water tap or demand hot water from a connected appliance, cold water enters the water heater through an inlet tube. The incoming cold water is directed towards the bottom of the tank, where it displaces the hot water present.

This displacement pushes the hot water towards the top of the tank, creating space for the colder water to be heated. As the fresh cold water fills the tank, it gradually absorbs heat from the gas burner, raising its temperature. This process continues until the desired hot water temperature is reached. When you require hot water, the heated water is readily available for use. It flows out of the gas water heater through a dedicated hot water discharge pipe, delivering the desired hot water to your faucet, shower head, or any other point of use.

What Are the Advantages of Gas Water Heaters? 

When it comes to providing hot water for our daily needs, a water heater fueled by gas offers several distinct advantages. If you decide to invest in this type of   water heater , here are some benefits to look forward to:

  • Efficiency: Known for their high energy efficiency. They heat water quickly and efficiently, resulting in lower energy bills compared to electric water heaters. Gas is often less expensive than electricity, making gas water heaters a cost-effective choice for many homeowners.
  • Faster Recovery Time: Typically have a faster recovery time than electric models. This means that they can heat a new tank of water more quickly after the hot water supply has been depleted. This is especially beneficial for households with high hot water demands or multiple occupants.
  • Reliable Operation: Known for its reliability and consistent performance. They can provide hot water even during power outages, which is an advantage over electric water heaters that require electricity to function. As long as you have a gas supply, you can have hot water available.
  • Environmental Considerations: Commonly used in gas water heaters, is a relatively clean-burning fuel compared to other fossil fuels. While it is not a renewable energy source, using gas water heaters can still have a lower carbon footprint compared to electric water heaters that rely on electricity generated from fossil fuels.
  • Long Lifespan: Generally durable and long-lasting. With proper maintenance, they can provide hot water for many years. This can result in lower long-term costs as you won’t need to replace the unit as frequently.
  • Lower Upfront Costs: Tend to have lower upfront costs compared to some other options, such as heat pump water heaters or solar water heaters. This affordability can make them an attractive choice for homeowners on a budget.

A gas water heater uses a pilot light, or a small flame, to ignite the gas burner that heats the water. Because of this, a gas water heater doesn’t need an electric source to work thus being able to function properly even during power outages.

When it comes to heating the water, the gasoline combustion process generates heat more rapidly than electric heating. On average, a gas heater can heat a 50-gallon tank in about one hour while an electric heater can take several hours. Therefore, running out of water is less of a worry compared to an electric fuel source. In fact, gas water heaters can heat water at a rate that’s two times faster than an electrical water heater, which means they have a higher recovery rate.

What Are the Disadvantages of Gas Water Heaters?

It is important to note that despite these advantages, gas water heaters still have their disadvantages. When it comes down to it, the choice of a water heater type should depend on your individual preferences and needs for your home. Here are some of the disadvantages of a water heater the is fueled by gas: 

  • Initial Cost: Tends to have a higher initial cost compared to electric water heaters. They require a gas line installation if one is not already present, which can add to the overall cost.
  • Installation Constraints: Requires proper ventilation and clearance for safe installation. This may involve additional expenses for venting and compliance with local building codes.
  • Energy Efficiency: Generally less energy efficient than electric water heaters. Although advancements have been made in recent years, gas heaters still lose some energy through the flue and require continuous pilot lights, which can waste energy.
  • Carbon Monoxide Risk: Gas water heaters burn natural gas or propane to heat water, which can produce carbon monoxide. If not properly vented or if there are leaks or malfunctions, carbon monoxide can accumulate, posing a health risk. Regular maintenance and proper installation are crucial to mitigate this risk.
  • Safety Concerns: Involves a combustible fuel source and potential risks associated with gas leaks, fire, or explosions. While these risks are relatively low when the unit is properly installed and maintained, they should be considered.
  • Maintenance and Repairs: Gas water heaters require regular maintenance, including checking the gas lines, pilot light, and burner components. Repairs can be more complex and costly compared to electric water heaters.

How Does an Electric Water Heater Work?

Electric water heaters and gas water heaters serve the common purpose of heating water, but there are significant differences between the two. The main distinction lies in the fuel source they utilize for heating. Electric water heaters rely on electricity, while gas water heaters use natural gas or propane. In terms of the heating mechanism, electric water heaters typically employ both upper and lower heating elements. These elements are submerged in the water and directly heat it.

What Are the Advantages of Electric Water Heaters?

It’s important to note that the advantages of electric water heaters may vary depending on factors such as local energy costs, availability of renewable energy sources, and individual preferences. Here are some of the benefits to consider:

  • Energy Efficiency: Are known for their high energy efficiency. Unlike gas water heaters that lose heat through flue gas, electric heaters directly convert electrical energy into heat, minimizing energy waste. They have high Energy Factor (EF) ratings, indicating their efficiency in converting electricity to hot water.
  • Safety: Generally considered safer than gas water heaters. They don’t require the combustion of fuel, which eliminates the risk of gas leaks or carbon monoxide poisoning. Electric heaters also have built-in safety features like temperature and pressure relief valves to prevent overheating and excessive pressure.
  • Installation Flexibility:Offer more flexibility in terms of installation options. They don’t require venting or exhaust systems like gas heaters, making them suitable for a wider range of locations. Electric heaters can be installed in smaller spaces, closets, or even inside the living area, without the need for special ventilation.
  • Lower Upfront Costs: Have lower initial costs compared to gas or solar water heaters. They are generally less expensive to purchase and install, making them a more affordable option for many homeowners.
  • Easy Maintenance: Electric water heaters are relatively low maintenance. They don’t have burners or gas lines that require periodic cleaning or inspection. Regular maintenance for electric heaters typically involves flushing the tank to remove sediment and checking the heating elements for any signs of wear or malfunction.
  • Renewable Energy Compatibility: Can be easily integrated with renewable energy sources like solar panels. By connecting the water heater to a solar power system, you can heat water using clean, renewable energy, reducing your reliance on the electrical grid and lowering your carbon footprint.

What Are the Disadvantages of Electric Water Heaters? 

Electric water heaters have several disadvantages compared to other types of water heaters. Here are some of the common drawbacks associated with electric water heaters: 

  • Higher energy costs: Electric water heaters tend to have higher energy costs compared to other types of water heaters, such as natural gas or propane heaters. The cost of electricity can be higher than the cost of other fuel sources, leading to increased operating expenses.
  • Slower heating time: Electric water heaters typically take longer to heat water compared to gas-powered heaters. This can be inconvenient, especially if you need hot water quickly or if you have a large household with high hot water demand.
  • Limited hot water supply: Electric water heaters have a limited hot water supply. Once the stored hot water is depleted, it takes time for the heater to reheat the water, resulting in a temporary shortage of hot water. This can be problematic for households with multiple occupants who require a continuous supply of hot water for activities such as showering or running multiple appliances simultaneously.
  • Dependence on electricity: Electric water heaters rely solely on electricity to operate. In the event of a power outage or electrical failure, you may be left without hot water until the power is restored. This lack of backup or alternative fuel source can be a disadvantage in areas prone to frequent power disruptions.
  • Limited placement options: Electric water heaters require a dedicated electrical circuit and may have specific installation requirements regarding space and ventilation. This limitation can restrict the placement options within your home, making it challenging to install the heater in certain locations.

Call Shamrock Plumbing for All Your Water Heater Needs!

Now that you know a little more about your water heater, we hope you are able to make the decision that is best for your needs. Once you have decided, give us a call to schedule the installation or make any repairs necessary.

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