In 2021, of the nearly 10 million water heaters sold in the United States, 52% of them were gas and 48% were electric, continuing a small yet consistent trend in favor of gas water heaters throughout the past two decades. While gas water heaters hold a slight edge, recently there has been a strong push to use more electric water heaters for environmental purposes.
So, which option is right for your job? Here’s a high-level breakdown and tips to help your customers understand what’s right for them.
Gas Water Heaters
More Hot Water in Less Time
Practicality is one of the most obvious reasons to choose a gas water heater over an electric water heater. Most gas units offer more gallons of hot water in the first hour of use — an industry standard. Not only do they offer more hot water, but they also recover hot water more quickly than their electric counterparts.
Flexible Fuel Type
While prices do fluctuate for both, gas heaters can run on either natural gas or liquid propane, giving homeowners the option to install a unit that matches what they already have set up in their home.
Not as Environmentally Friendly
The combustion process that heats the water in the tank needs a safe place to be released, which means the water heater needs a properly designed exhaust system to safely eliminate the exhaust outside the home. Sending that exhaust from the home into the air also means gas water heaters are not the most environmentally friendly option, even leading cities including Los Angeles to ban the installation of most gas-powered appliances.
Fluctuating Oil Prices
Since they run on natural gas or propane, the cost to operate them in a home may be more expensive depending on the gas price in certain regions. For instance, natural gas rates along the East and West coasts are much higher than in states across the Midwest. For those customers who want to tap into the lower price of gas in their region, it is much more difficult to switch from an electric water heater to a gas-powered one.
Electric Water Heaters
Easier Installation, Better Technology
While gas water heaters may be more prevalent, there are good reasons to recommend electric-powered units to your customers.
As we mentioned earlier, it is much easier to switch from a gas water heater to an electric unit, simplifying the installation process. With no gas lines to contend with, these water heaters are more versatile and easily installed wherever your customer wants or needs them to be. Plus, with the advances in technology, it’s easier to have a Wi-Fi-connected electric unit that can be controlled remotely.
Some Financial Incentives
With the price of gas being unpredictable from region to region, there’s a push toward using more electric-powered appliances. Doing so means there are more incentives for consumers — such as government-offered rebates and tax incentives — to consider an electric water heater over its counterpart.
Higher Utility Bills
The price of gas can fluctuate and may be a more expensive energy source for some, but traditionally, electric water heaters cost homeowners more in utility bills each month. The systems must run more in order to make new hot water, which is a major disadvantage for families that use hot water more consistently.
What about tankless water heaters?
There has been a growing trend of installing both gas and electric tankless water heaters. These smaller units generate hot water on demand and they can be easily installed indoors or even outside the home.
These units are typically used in vacation homes or smaller homes with fewer people, but they can also be utilized as a booster for washing machines, dishwashers, and homes with longer pipe runs. The gas-powered units still require proper ventilation, and the electric models are typically better for warmer climates. While they can supply unlimited hot water on demand, tankless units are more expensive than traditional tank models.
Ultimately, the decision between gas or electric — and even tankless — water heaters comes down to necessity, preference and desired performance. Use this overview as a quick guide to help your customers determine the right unit for their homes and what they can expect from each option.
GE Appliances Air & Water offers a full range of gas, electric and tankless water heaters for any home or budget. View our products.