Gas vs. Electric Water Heaters

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.

GAS
ELECTRIC
 Recovery Rate
 Pricing
 Life Expectancy
 Operating Costs
  • Recovery RateOpen or Close

    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 90F 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 per
    hour @ 90°F
    30 US Gallons
    30,000
    31
    40 US Gallons
    40,000
    41
    50 US Gallons
    50,000
    51
    65 US Gallons
    65,000
    68
    75 US Gallons
    75,000
    78
     
    ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS
     
    Size
    WATTS
    US Gallons per
    hour @ 90°F
    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
  • PricingOpen or Close

    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:

    1. We will hire an electrician to install the breaker and run the wire to the new tank and we will also cap off the gas line and venting from the old tank. This option is an additional $379.00. (There may be an additional charge if we encounter issues such as a unique breaker or if a sub panel is required. If so, you will be advised before any work commences)

    2.  The second option is to have the breaker and wire installed yourself. We will then cap off the gas line and venting from the old water heater. This option drops the conversion fee down to an additional $99.00

  • Life ExpectancyOpen or Close

    In Winnipeg, the average life expectancy of a gas water heater is between 6-8 years while the average life expectancy of an electric water heater is between 8-10 years. Therefore, the advantage is given to electric water heaters in the category.

  • Operating CostsOpen or Close

    Currently, gas water heaters cost less to operate than electric water heaters. This information is based on an average family of four in Winnipeg and is obtained from Manitoba Hydro’s website. You can look at this information in further detail by clicking on this link: Manitoba Hydro’s operating cost comparison form Therefore, a slight edge is given to gas water heaters where operating costs are concerned.

  • Additional ConsiderationsOpen or Close

    A number of consumers are being told that when their existing furnace is replaced with a high efficiency furnace, that the water heater must 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 size electric water in order to offset the slower recovery rate inherent to electric water heaters.