What Is Cheaper to Run: a Gas or an Electric Hot Water Heater?

The utility bill, no friend to homeowners and some renters, is a monthly expense that can cause great financial pain. Having readily available hot water is a convenience to which modern mankind has become quite accustomed. The choice on how to heat water can have a significant long-term impact on budgetary matters.

Advantages of Gas Water Heaters

Hot water for a shower

One benefit of using gas is that it burns cleanly--producing only water vapor and carbon dioxide and causing no environmental damage. It can be used to power furnaces, ovens, fireplaces, washers and dryers, stoves and water heaters. Gas-powered heating systems are the most popular in the United States and there is over 100 years' worth of natural gas reserves in America. The delivery of gas, via underground pipes, makes it reliable during bad weather that may close roads to trucks delivering other fuels.

Disadvantages of Gas Water Heaters

Demand (tankless or instantaneous) model gas-powered water heaters have higher flow rates than electrics but can waste energy with a constantly burning pilot light. The largest tankless gas-powered water heater may not be able to supply adequate hot water for simultaneous, multiple uses in a large household and they are also more expensive to purchase than conventional storage water heaters.

Advantages of Electric Water Heaters

Electric-powered water heaters are less expensive to purchase than gas-powered models because they are less complicated, easier to install (requiring no pipes or vents) and are safer than gas models because they will never have a fuel leak that could possibly cause an explosion. And gas leaking into the home from a faulty pilot light will never be a concern.

Disadvantages of Electric Water Heaters

Electric water heaters cost more to operate than gas-powered water heaters because electricity is more expensive than gas. Electric water heaters also take longer to bring up the temperature of cold water than do gas-powered water heaters, sometimes being outdistanced by gas units in this rating by as much as 66 percent, making them less capable of providing multiple demands on hot water.


According to ConsumerEnergyCenter.org, natural gas is significantly less expensive on an annual basis than both propane gas and electricity for the purpose of powering water heaters. If you already have gas lines it may be financially beneficial to run a gas line to the water heater. Residents in rural locations not having natural gas lines may opt to use propane for heating water as it is usually less expensive than electricity.

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