There are a number of issues that must be addressed when deciding whether to purchase a gas or an electric water heater. The four key issues that we will address are recovery rates, pricing, life expectancy, and operating costs. Some additional considerations are also listed at the bottom of this page. The first chart below indicates which water heater, gas or electric, has the edge in each category.
The recovery rate indicates the amount of water that is heated in a given period of time and by how many degrees of temperature. The chart below shows how many gallons of incoming cold water are increased by 90 F in a one hour period for both gas and electric water heaters. As you will see, gas water heaters have the edge in this category by offering a much faster recovery rate.
GAS WATER HEATERS
|Size||BTU’s||US Gallons/hour @ 90F|
|30 US Gallons||30,000||31|
|40 US Gallons||40,000||41|
|50 US Gallons||40,000||41|
|65 US Gallons||65,000||68|
|75 US Gallons||75,000||78|
ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS
|Size||Watts||US Gallons/hour @ 90F|
|6 US Electric||1500||7|
|12 US Electric||1500||7|
|20 US Electric||1500||7|
|30 US Electric||3000||14|
|50 US Electric||3000||14|
|65 US Electric||4500||21|
|80 US Electric||4500||21|
The installation price is another factor that must be taken into consideration when deciding whether to purchase a gas or electric water heater. There is no clear cut winner in this category for the reasons outlined below:
In general, electric water heaters are approximately $100 dollars less expensive when comparing apples to apples. For example, a 40 US gallon gas water heater is approximately $100 more expensive than a 50 US gallon electric water heater (these two water heaters are the standard size in their respective categories).
However, other issues may make the installation of an electric water heater more expensive. For example, if you are converting from a gas water heater to an electric water heater, there is a one-time conversion fee* that must be considered. Also, if you opt to install a larger capacity electric water heater to offset the slower recovery time, then the cost of the electric water heater alone could surpass that of a gas water heater.
*This conversion fee covers the cost of having a breaker installed, running a new electrical wire to the water heater and also to cap off the gas line and venting from the old gas water heater which will no longer be required.
We offer two options for the actual conversion fee. They are:
Currently, gas water heaters cost substantially less to operate than electric water heaters. This information is based on an average family of 2.4 persons and is obtained from Manitoba Hydro's website, where you can look at this information in further detail on their operating cost comparison form. Therefore, a significant edge is given to gas water heaters where operating costs are concerned.
A number of consumers are being told that when their existing furnace is replaced with a high-efficiency furnace, that the water heater should be changed to electric or that a smaller liner must be dropped down their chimney. This is not necessarily true.
The existing gas water heater can stay when the furnace is replaced and it can also be replaced with another gas water heater in the future. Also, the chimney does not need to have a smaller liner dropped in. The only provision to this statement is that the gas water heater must vent properly. It has been our experience that gas water heaters in these situations will vent properly the vast majority of the time.
If considering changing from a gas water heater to electric, some thought must also be given to the size of the water heater being installed. In Winnipeg, 80% of homes with gas water heaters have a 40 US gallon size whereas homes with electric water heaters have a 50 US gallon water heater. Almost every new home being built today has an electric water heater and they are almost always either 65 or 80 US gallons.
While the 50 US gallon has been the standard size in electric water heaters for a number of years they may not be adequate to provide for the needs of today's average family. Today we are showering more often, have large tubs or body spray showers installed, dishwashers, washing machines, teenagers and so on. Therefore, you may want to give some consideration to a larger-sized electric water heater in order to offset the slower recovery rate inherent to electric water heaters.