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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
- 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.
- Cost of purchase: Electric water heaters cost less than gas heaters of the same size…period.
- 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…
- 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?
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