If you are looking to get a tankless water heater for your household or upgrade on your current one, you have two options in the market. You can go for either the gas or the electric tankless water heater. The electric and gas tankless water heaters are both excellent in serving you and your household, depending on your needs, and most importantly, your preferences.
Before you buy one, you should consider several factors, as well as the pros and cons of each type. In this article, we will highlight all the things you need to consider before buying a tankless heater, as well as point out the advantages and disadvantages of each model.
Read on to know which is better, gas or electric tankless water heater.
The Electric vs Gas Tankless Water Heater Debate
If you are lucky enough to live in a place with a constant and undisrupted supply of both gas and electricity, you might find yourself wondering whether to choose one of the electric tankless water heaters in the market or the gas tankless water heater.
Electricity, natural gas, and propane are the most common sources of fuel for tankless water heaters. You might have to go with the model whose source of fuel is most available.
Both models serve the same purpose, which is giving you and your family gallons of hot water, only that they do it differently. The gas model can use either natural gas or propane, although most manufacturers offer both propane and natural gas tankless models. The electric model only uses electricity as fuel.
It is impossible to rank one model over the other, especially because different consumers have different needs. The differences between the two available models will help you decide which one is best suited for your household. Some of the deal-breakers would be your budget, the hot water needs in your house, your area of residence, and preferences.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Tankless Water Heater
When you decide to buy a tankless water heater, you want to be sure that you get one that best suits your household. Deciding between gas and electric tankless water heaters does not have to be such a big debate. Here are the factors that will help you decide.
1. Your Budget
How much money do you intend to spend on the type of tankless water heater you want? This is the question that should be the baseline of your search for a tankless water heater. When looking at the prices in the market, consider both the initial cost as well as the installation and maintenance costs.
A good tankless gas water heater retails at $1000, and even though the non-condensing tankless option is cheaper, it might not serve you as well as the condensing system. The non-condensing option becomes more expensive because of the complicated installation process which will be inclusive of venting. The condensing tankless gas water heaters are more intricate in design and are more expensive.
On the other hand, a good electric tankless water heater will go for $500, and with the more expensive brands going for around $700. Their installation process is also not as complicated as the gas tankless water heaters. If your deal-breaker is the budget, then the electric tankless water heater would be most appropriate.
2. The Installation Cost
Whichever model you choose, you need to ensure that it is properly installed, both for safety and performance purposes. With that in mind, gas tankless water heaters have higher installation costs as compared to their electric counterparts.
Installation of the non-condensing tankless heater goes hand in hand with the installation of a venting system. The venting systems allow air circulation which is important for combustion. Even if opt for the condensing tankless water heaters, you will most probably have to invest in the installation of new gas lines in the point of use to be able to heat water.
Electric tankless water heaters are cheaper to install because there are no venting requirements. They are also smaller, meaning that you do not have to modify your house too much to accommodate them. It is an added advantage if your power supply is strong enough for the heater; you won’t have to upgrade to heat the water. Consult your amp electrical service provider about this.
3. Cost of Operation
Gas tankless water heaters use either natural gas or propane, while electric tankless water heaters will use any form of electricity. When you think about operating costs, you need to think about the more cost-effective and energy-efficient option.
Fuel prices may be lower than electricity in most areas, but they are also likely to fluctuate more often than electricity prices. The bottom line is; invest in the model that will not have you digging deeper into your budget to sustain it.
You also need to think about the efficiency of each model. This translates to how much water can be heated with a single fuel unit. On this note, an electric tankless heater would be more efficient. Gas tankless water heaters are 80-85% efficient, while electric water heaters are 98-99% efficient. This makes an electric tankless water heater a better option.
While assessing the efficiency of each model, you need to think of the alternative sources of energy for each of them, and how available they are. With the gas tankless water heater, you can either use propane or natural gas. With the electric model, you can use solar, hydro, wind or geothermal energy to power it. The availability of these alternatives should determine which of the two models you should go with.
4. Your Household’s Affinity for Hot Water
You need to go for the tankless water heater that will provide the amount of hot water you need. Ideally, 8 gallons per minute (GPM) is enough to sustain an average family, but this may change depending on the size and needs of your family. If you live in colder regions, you experience a less GPM flow rate, meaning that you need to invest in a tankless water heater that will not leave your family cold.
Gas tankless water heaters can produce more than 8 GPM with a constant supply on the gas line, and they may be the most ideal choice for a large family. If you experience a colder than hot climate in your area of residence, you might consider going for this option.
The GPM of an electric tankless water heater is determined by the climate. Electric water heaters tend to produce up to 8 GPM of water, but the GPM could drop depending on how cold the climate gets. You will consume more electric units to meet your hot water needs. In this regard, the gas tankless water heater seems like the most natural choice.
5. Cost of Maintenance
You do not want to buy a tankless water heater that will drain your finances in maintenance costs. A gas tankless heater will require an annual inspection to make sure that the venting ducts are in proper shape and do not endanger your family. It uses natural gas or propane, which are both a safety risk if they leak. The gas tankless water heating systems are also notorious for creating mineral buildups which means that you will need a technician to flush them regularly.
Electric tankless heaters require very little maintenance. For starters, they do not combust so there is no need for frequent inspection. The only maintenance they need is the cleaning of the water inlet screen filter and annual flushing of the system. The electric tankless water heater wins the debate on maintenance costs.
6. The Warranty and Service Life
The main advantage that a tankless system has over a tank system is that there are no leaks involved. The tankless electric or gas systems have room for repair, and most of them have over 20 years of service life. However, you need to look out for the factors that would have you repairing your electric or gas tankless water heating systems more frequently.
High water acidity levels could see you repairing your electric or gas tankless water heater more often than normal. The acidity will corrode the tankless water heater arts leading to wear and tear. Hard water is especially hard on gas water heaters, causing the buildup of scale. The installation and maintenance of the electric or gas tankless water heaters also determine how long it will last.
Gas tankless heaters can be functional for up to 20 years, while an electric heater can go beyond the 20-year lifespan. The warranty for the heat exchanger on the gas tankless water heater is 10 years, 5 years on the other parts, and a 1-year warranty for labor. The electric tankless water heater comes with a 5-year warranty, and 1 year for labor.
7. Your Carbon Print
Propane gas and natural gases are derived from fossil fuels, which leave a very big carbon print in the environment. Gas water heaters increase the amount of carbon released into the environment. On the other hand, an electric tankless water heater has 98-99% energy efficiency. It is also not derived from fossil fuels, neither does it emit greenhouse gases which are harmful to the environment. On this part of the debate, the electric tankless water heater wins.
The Pros and Cons of the Tankless Water Heater
The deal-breaker in the gas vs electric water heaters comes down to the advantages and disadvantages of each model.
The Pros and Cons of Gas Tankless Water Heaters
- It has a higher GPM capacity and is most appropriate if you live in cold climate areas
- It has a lower operating cost as compared to the electric model
- It has a high initial price compared to the electric model
- It is complicated to install and expensive to maintain
- You will need to invest in venting systems
- It poses a higher safety risk, in case of leaked gases that could cause explosions
- It requires annual maintenance, alongside other maintenance issues that may crop up in the year
- It also has a shorter lifespan as compared to the electric tankless water heater
- You will not have any hot water in the whole house if you run out of gas or your supply is cut off
- It may seem cheaper to sustain at the beginning, but fuel prices fluctuate so often that you might end up paying more for this model than the electric model
The Pros and Cons of the Electric Tankless Water Heater
- This model has a lower investment and maintenance cost
- The electric water heater easier to install as compared to the gas tankless water heater
- Electric heaters come in small and medium sizes and do not consume a lot of space in your house
- An electric water heater does not require an annual inspection because it does not use gases
- Electric heaters have more thermal efficiency as compared to the gas model
- You will reduce your carbon print because electric heaters do not use fossil fuels or emit greenhouse gases.
- On the safety of tankless water heaters, electric heaters are safer than gas heaters.
- Electric water heaters will only use power when they are operational and do not waste energy. You might end up saving more on your utility bills.
- Electricity prices are higher than gas prices, meaning that you might have to pay more to use electric heaters in your house.
- Electric water heaters have a lower flow capacity and are less effective in cold climate areas. This means that you might have to use more electricity to meet your hot water needs during the cold seasons, translating to a higher cost.
- You might have to go without hot water during power outages.
The gas vs electric tankless water heater comes down to what you think best meets your hot water needs. After evaluating the costs, the environmental impact, and all the factors in between of both the gas and electric tankless water heater, pick the one that resonates with you.
If you already have a gas or electric tank water heater, consider upgrading to a similar tankless version. Switching from one model to the other could be more expensive, or prohibited in your area of residence. Be sure to consult with the local authorities before making the upgrade.
After making your choice between an electric and gas tankless water heater, hire the services of a professional to install the tankless water heater. Also, ensure that you are keen on the maintenance of your tankless water heater to ensure that it serves you for a long time. You want to make an investment that will serve you well, and for as long as possible without hitches.