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Gas vs Electric Hot Water Heaters: What’s the Difference?

Are you starting to notice signs that your water heater needs replaced?

When it’s time to replace your water heater, you’ll likely start to do some research. And you’ll notice that you can find hot water heaters that run on gas and others that use electricity.

Understanding the differences between the two can help you decide what’s best for your home.

Keep reading to explore the differences.

Upfront Cost

You can look at the costs of water heaters in two ways: the initial cost and the ongoing costs.

Gas water heaters usually cost more initially. When you compare it to a similar electric model, you can expect to pay more for the gas.

Installation can also cost more for a gas unit. That’s because it’s more complicated to install.

Operating Costs

Looking long term, a gas water heater is usually cheaper to operate.

That’s important because standard tank-style water heaters can last 8 to 12 years. Tankless water heaters last longer, up to 20 years or more. Saving on operating costs could make one option cheaper than the other over the life of the unit.

The actual cost can vary depending on where you live. But in most areas, natural gas costs less than electricity.

Choosing gas appliances over electric could lower your utility bill by 30%.

You’ll pay more to get the system, but you could save a lot on your utility bills over the life of the water heater.


A tankless water heater is the smallest option no matter what type of power source you choose. It uses a small wall-mounted unit.

Traditional water heaters use larger tanks where they store the heated water. This option requires more space overall.

Electric tank-style water heaters are usually slightly smaller than gas models. This can be important if you’re working with a compact space.


Installing an electric water heater is usually easier than installing a gas unit. Electric units require less to operate.

Gas water heaters need to be connected properly and safely to the gas lines. They also need to be vented, which requires more work.

The installation for gas is even more complicated if you’re switching from an electric to a gas model. Even if your home already has natural gas service, you’ll need a new line running to your water heater location if there isn’t one already.


Even though gas water heaters are cheaper to operate, they don’t win in the efficiency category.

Electric water heaters tend to be more efficient than gas models. Heat from a gas water heater escapes through the venting, which can make it less efficient.

Power Source Availability

Most people go with the same power source for a new water heater as they previously had. This is the easiest option because the connections are already there.

Homes have electricity, so an electric water heater is always an option. If your previous water heater was gas, you could switch to electric.

If your home doesn’t have natural gas running to it, an electric water heater is what you’ll need.

Heating Time

One of the most important deciding factors in choosing a water heater is its heating time. You want the water to heat up quickly so you don’t end up taking a cold shower.

Gas water heaters usually have a faster heating time than electric models. This can be beneficial for larger families who need lots of hot water and don’t want to wait for it.

Recovery Period

Recovery time is important if your tank runs out of hot water. A longer recovery period means you’ll have to wait longer for more hot water.

That can be a problem at times when your family uses more hot water than usual and runs the tank out of heated water.

It can also be a problem if your water heater is too small for your family’s needs.

It makes sense that a gas water heater has a shorter recovery time considering the heating time is faster. That faster water heating means it can recover in a shorter period if you run out of hot water.

Electric water heaters typically have a longer recovery time. That can be a problem if you tend to run out of hot water frequently.


Gas water heaters require proper venting to keep your home safe. It’s necessary to get rid of the exhaust gases.

If you choose an electric water heater, you don’t have to worry about the venting. This gives you more options when choosing a location for your water heater.

Use When Power Goes Out

When the power goes out, so does the heating source for your electric water heater. That means you won’t have hot water if the power stays off for an extended period of time.

A gas-powered water heater can continue working if the electricity goes out, assuming there’s no interruption to your gas service. This can be beneficial if your electricity goes out frequently and for long periods of time.


All appliances have their risks, especially if you don’t maintain them or they’re not properly installed.

Gas water heaters come with an additional risk because of the power source. There’s the risk of a gas leak or explosion with this type of water heater.

Gas water heaters can also cause carbon monoxide leaks in your home. Carbon monoxide is potentially deadly. You can’t see, smell, or detect it in any way on your own.

You’ll need carbon monoxide detectors in your home to constantly monitor the air for potential leaks.

It’s important to maintain your water heater to prevent problems. If you notice anything suspicious or smell gas, contact the gas company immediately.

Comparing Hot Water Heaters

Both gas and electric hot water heaters have benefits and drawbacks. Unless you’re building a brand new home, you’ll likely go with the same type of water heater you already have. But knowing the differences helps you choose if you’re considering converting.

If you’re in the market for a new hot water heater in the Seattle area, we can help. Explore our hot water heater services to learn more.