One of the most difficult questions to answer is whether you should buy an electric or gas water heater. Which one is better, which performs better, and which one will give you the best return on your investment and helping you in this is water heaters comparison. Truth be told, there is no right way to answer this expect by making an attempt to compare water heaters based on factors that include initial price, cost of operating, ease of installation, maintenance, repair expenses.

Electric Gas
Prices Get good quality electric residential models between a price range of $500-$700 get good quality gas residential models between a price range of $1,000 to $1,200 or more
Installation Cost Quite easy and cheap to install in most homes. Requires proper electrical service, which is model specific Need a confirmed gas line, venting options as well as supply as fresh air. Due to venting requirements the installation can get very expensive
Flow Rate Flow rate ranges from 8 gallon/minute in warm climates to 3 gallon/minute in colder climates Flow rate ranges from 8 gallon/minute in warm climates
Operating Cost Electricity costs tend to be stable most times and rise at a slower rate than gas. In fact cheaper than propane fuel Though natural gas is cheaper, but they are going to significantly rise in the future
Maintenance Doesn’t require much maintenance Does require annual maintenance
Venting No venting necessary Requires venting making installation expensive. Difficult to install in separate locations due to venting issues
Environmental Impact Hardly any greenhouse gas emissions, small environmental footprint in manufacturing. In future electricity will be produced from environmentally friendly sources like solar energy, wind, and wave energy Reliant on fossil fuels; also produce greenhouse gases

Initial Price: You can buy electric tankless hot water heaters for a price much lower than that for gas water heaters. A branded whole-house electric tankless water heater can cost around $500 to $700 with all the standard features. On the other hand, a gas water heater can set you back by $1000 or more, especially if you opt for an electronic ignition system that are part of a high quality unit. Remember, these prices are exclusive of installation costs.

Operating Cost: Gas as a fuel costs less, and hence gas tankless water heaters are definitely more efficient as compared with electric units. Their efficiency is around 85%. However, electric units have an efficiency of 98% or more. Despite the fact that gas is cheaper than electricity as a fuel for heating water, the truth is that this advantage is outweighed by the much high efficiency of the electric water heaters. Additionally, electric units are cheaper to install and service and their initial cost is also a few hundred dollars less than their gas counterparts.

Another point to consider is the fluctuating prices of gas. In the future as well, gas prices are expected to see-saw, while electricity prices remain stable, more or less, or rise at a much lower percentage.

Whenever you buy a water heater, it’s important that a comprehensive water heater comparison is done to work out the various important factors that can affect your choices. While a gas tankless water heater allows you 10-15% more savings from operating costs as compared with their cousin, the fact is that the percentage of savings will really depend on the price of gas or propane as well as electricity in your area of residence.

If you want to know how to calculate the operating cost of either an electric or gas water heater, here’s how you can do it!

Calculating Yearly Operating Cost

In order to estimate the yearly operating costs of a gas/electric water heater you need to know the below two factors about that model:

  1. Energy factor (EF)
  2. Fuel type and its cost

Here’s how you can make the calculations:

For gas water heaters:

Work out the unit cost of the gas by BTU or British thermal unit or Therm.

1 Therm = 100,000 BTU

The formula: 365 X 41045/EF X Fuel Cost (BTU) = estimated yearly operating cost


365 X 0.4105/EF X Fuel Cost (Therm) = estimated yearly operating cost

For electric water heaters:

Convert the electricity unit cost by kilowatt-hour (kWh).

365 X 12.03/EF X Electricity Cost by kWh = estimated yearly operating cost

FACT: Based on water heaters comparison, an electric tankless water heater is a much better choice because it’s meets high flow rate demand in almost any climate.

Installation: Electric water heaters are smaller as compared with gas units and hence easy to install. They also require much less space and don’t require ventilation for waste gases. You can install an electric water heater in many different locations where it may be difficult to install a gas unit. Since gas units have venting as well as combustion requirements especially when they are installed in small, tight spaces, it can become a bit difficult and expensive to install a gas water heater unit. Gas units require new gas lines and ventilation ducts and if you opt for side wall ventilation, the installation can get quite complex. Put all that together and you’ll know that the installation of gas tankless water heaters is very expensive.

The bottom-line is that when compared to their gas cousins, electric water heaters are very economical to install and they can be fixed very close to the actual point-of-use making them convenient and easy to use.

Maintenance and Warranty: It can be said that electric tankless water heaters are almost maintenance free. All you need to do is clean the inlet screen filter once-in-a-while, other than that you can just forget about them. The same can’t be said about their gas cousins. At least twice a year, gas water heaters need to be inspected by an expert to ensure that the fuel combustion takes place safely and their performance. Moreover, electric heating units are very easy to troubleshoot, repairs and parts replaced, which means that tend to last much longer than gas units.

Energy Source Availability: This is an important point to consider when making water heaters comparison. Depending on which type of fuel is easily available in your area, you should go for either electric, gas, or propane water heating unit. For an electric unit you’ll need at least a 200 AMP, 208 – 240 volt electrical service. If your home doesn’t get such electrical supply, you may find it difficult to use an electric water heater. Alternatively, gas water heater would be uneconomical if you can’t get gas or propane easily in your neighborhood or if the diameter of the incoming gas pipeline is small.

FACT: According to water heaters comparison between gas and electric heating units, as of now, gas heaters work out to be just marginally cheaper in operating costs because of the very high energy efficiency of electric water heaters (98%+).

Homeowner’s Choice: Finally, since you are buying a water heater, the final choice rests on your shoulders. If you are uncomfortable with gas water heaters because of their safety risks, an electric water heating units is the better option for your peace of mind. You may also prefer gas over electric or vice-versa because of environmental issues. Other reason for choosing electric tankless hot water heater could be the energy factor which is over 98% when compared to gas water heater’s 85%.

To conclude, it can be said that while water heaters comparison is one way to work out what types of water heater is better, the finally decision should be based after evaluation your own pros and cons for each type. Of course, most water heater experts suggest that you invest in an electric water heater that is more economical and offers many other benefits as well. That being said, you can also consider a heat pump water heater that is even more economical, efficient and effective than an electric water heater. A heat pump water heater grabs all the waste gases released by your air conditioning system and use it to heat water, making them not just environment friendly but also cost saving, easy to install and easy to use. They are the latest hybrid water heating systems on the shelves now-a-days and more and more manufacturers are launching new models in different capacities for American homes.

Browse the web for information on other types of water heaters or for more information on electric and gas water heaters to satisfy your curiosity before buying either one!

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