When homeowners go shopping for tankless water heaters, one of the most critical decisions they have to make is whether to buy an electric vs gas tankless water heater. Sometimes, a homeowner may not have the opportunity of choosing one model over the other if only one type of tankless water heater is available in their locality, forcing them to buy what is available at that moment.
Should You Buy a Gas or an Electric Tankless Water Heater?
There are several factors to consider before choosing an electric or gas tankless water heater. It’s difficult to say that one is the better of the two. What is best for you depends on various factors. Some being the price, installation cost, efficiency, location, number of people using water, running costs, among others. It’s important to consider all these factors and your preferences before going for any of these tankless water heaters.
7 Considerations When Choosing Between Electric or Gas
Price of Tankless Water Heaters
When considering to buy, it’s essential to compare the initial cost of the heater and the installation cost. Many homeowners forget to determine the installation cost before buying. This can be as much as double the cost of the unit, especially if you are buying a gas unit.
Electric tankless water heaters are considerably more affordable compared to gas tankless water heaters. For about $500-$700, you can get a quality electric tankless water heater to cover a whole house. Whereas, an electric-ignited gas tankless water heater of the same capacity typically costs up to $1000 to $1,200 apiece. Bear in mind that this does not include installation costs, which can be significantly higher due to its complexity.
Installation costs generally depend on the type of heater, access to utility (electricity or natural gas), as well as a suitable installation location. It’s almost impossible to install a gas tankless water heater in a home without gas utilities. Where utilities are available, existing gas lines and venting ducts are usually not compatible with the gas tankless water heater. Because of its complex combustion air supply and venting requirements, especially if you need side wall venting. The complicated venting and combustion coupled with the tremendous amount of gas these systems consume make their installation costs prohibitively high.
On the other hand, electric tankless water heaters are smaller, do not require combustion air supply or ventilation pipes. Making it easier to fix them in small spaces where a gas tankless water heater will not feat. You can install an electric unit under a sink, in the closet, and many other places a gas tankless water heater cannot go.
Meanwhile, electric tankless water heaters also require a high amount of electricity to perform efficiently. They only use energy when you use them since they don’t have to keep water hot throughout the day. Sometimes, a building may need to upgrade the electrical current to 200AMP. Especially in colder regions where the electric tankless water heater must work more to raise the water temperature higher.
Upgrading electrical equipment can be expensive. But if your current fixtures are ideal for your electric tankless water heater, then it costs significantly less to install one than a gas tankless water heater. In most cases, it is more cost-effective to install an electric tankless water heater compared to the installation of a gas tankless water heater. Plus, an electric tankless water heater offers more flexibility of location, and you can even fix it at the point of use.
You also need to consider the operating costs. Regarding operating expenses, an essential factor to consider is the current and future price of gas and electricity in your area, although both systems will probably cost almost the same amount to run. If the electricity rate in your area is lower than the cost of natural gas or propane, it’s better to go for an electric tankless water heater, and vice versa, but gas prices are relatively lower than electricity rates currently.
It’s important to note that the cost of natural gas is projected to rise in the future to about two or three times the current price. On the other hand, electricity rates are expected to remain stable and may even drop in some places as new green energy technologies come online. Meanwhile, political, economic, and social factors can affect the price of natural gas, and cause sudden spikes.
Here’s the ultimate guide on how to choose the most energy-efficient water heater.
Regarding efficiency, electric tankless water heaters have an efficiency of over 98 percent and deliver this impressive figure consistently. Conversely, gas tankless water heaters have an efficiency of about 80-85 percent, and this can decrease over the years due to wear and tear. Meanwhile, an electric tankless water heater has a longer service life, lower initial and installation costs, as well as higher efficiency, making an electric unit the better of the two regarding operating costs and efficiency.
An electric tankless water heater is simple to maintain. You only need to ensure that there are no obstructions or debris in the inlet screen filter. On the other hand, you have to check the fuel consumption and operation of gas tankless water heaters every year to ensure they are working safely.
Gas units are prone to accumulation of mineral scales which reduces its efficiency, necessitating regular flushing of the compartment. The water inlet screen in gas units must be cleaned regularly to remove debris. Also, it is easier for the homeowner to troubleshoot, diagnose and repair electric tankless water heaters compared to gas units which require a trained technician for routine maintenance and repairs due to the complex design.
Household Water Use
Due to their smaller sizes, electric tankless water heaters have a limited capacity, with most providing about 3-8 gallons per minute of shower temperature water. But there are several models of gas tankless water heaters that can provide more. You may choose an electric unit if only two people will be using the water at the same time. Go for a gas variant if more individuals will be using the water simultaneously or you will be running the dishwasher or washer at the same time as the shower.
If you fear for the safety of your family and property due to the combustibility of natural gas, then you should get an electric tankless water heater. Where electricity cuts are frequent, and homeowners in such areas may opt for a gas tankless water heater to ensure they always have hot water on demand.
Electric Tankless Water Heater Pros & Cons
Advantages of Electric Tankless Water Heaters
- More affordable to buy and install
- Requires minimal maintenance
- Higher efficiency
- Lasts longer
- Ideal for low use households
- Perfect for point of use
- Flexibility of installation
Disadvantages of Electric Tankless Water Heaters
- May require expensive electrical installation upgrades
- Low capacity and may not be economical for cold regions and large homes
To check out in-depth reviews of all the latest models head over to electric tankless water heater reviews.
And here’s everything you need to consider when buying a gas tankless water heater.
Gas Tankless Water Heater Pros & Cons
Advantages of Gas Tankless Water Heaters
- Higher capacity
- Cheaper to operate
Disadvantages of Gas Tankless Water Heaters
- Require expensive and extensive venting and combustion facilities
- Heavy maintenance
- High initial and installation costs.
The electric tankless water heater is the clear winner, although this depends on your particular circumstances. If efficiency, cost of installation and purchase, environmental-friendliness, ease of maintenance, and longevity are important to you, then the electric tankless water heater is the right choice for most people.
We hope you enjoyed our detailed comparison on Electric vs Gas Tankless Water Heaters, please let us know if you have any unanswered questions!