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Which is more efficient? Gas or electric water heater?

This spring I will be doing a lot of work on my detached garage. One of the problems I want to take care of is the electric water heater. It is nearing the end of it's useful life and it's in the detached, uninsulated garage. The winters here in South Eastern Virginia aren't very severe and I do have an insulating blanket on the water heater and foam insulation on all of the pipes.

Anyway, I do have gas service for my forced air furnace/AC unit reasonably close to the garage and several of my neighbors have gas water heaters in their detached garages. My question is, which is more efficient in all seasons, gas or electric? Thanks in advance for any advice! :D


Re: Which is more efficient? Gas or electric water heater?

It depends, what does the electric company use to generate electricity.

In my area they use natural gas, so why pay twice for something I can burn myself.

I like my natural gas hot water heater better than the electric ones I have had in the past. However, those were old and not very efficient.

I was thinking about an on demand water heater, burning gas, until I realized that in case of a power outage I could not use it. I was with out power for a week Dec 9th through 15th 2007. I loved my fireplace but I loved that hot shower more.

Re: Which is more efficient? Gas or electric water heater?
Re: Which is more efficient? Gas or electric water heater?

Jeff ..... Aside from determining the fuel costs to operate gas or electric are the pros and cons of each type.

Replacing the existing electric one with gas fired one will require some up front costs. There will be the need for the gas piping and exhaust flue piping to be installed. The conventional gas fired units are very difficult to externally insulate the outside of the tank because of the standing pilot light and the open exhaust flue for the required draft needed.

The nice thing with the conventional gas fired units is there is no electricity needed ... so as debbiesewn mentioned ... if there were a localized power outage there would still be hot water.... as long as the water supply isn't affected.
These types of water heaters are reasonably priced.

If you were to purchase the more efficient power vented HW tank there would be less issue for the exhaust venting. The problem would be they require electricity and with a power outage these wouldn't provide continuous hot water. These are expensive units ranging from $950-$1800 depending on size.

The electric one can be externally insulated like crazy and are very reasonably priced however they are at the mercy of a power outage.

Just some food for thought.:)

Re: Which is more efficient? Gas or electric water heater?

I have had both and I prefer NG . After Hurricane Katrina , my power was out for 6 days . I have a NG water heater and was able to come home to nice hot shower after a long day down in New Orleans . ;)

Re: Which is more efficient? Gas or electric water heater?

You sound like a good candidate for a gas unit. It's been my experience that a gas W/H is usually cheaper to operate and with much faster recovery than electric. There are safety issues to cosider with gas such as flammable vapors(paint thinners, gasoline, etc stored in the garage)meeting with flame, having a pedestal at least 6" above the floor for it to sit on, and having wind blow the pilot light out with the garage doors open(rare but I've seen this twice). Venting the exhaust should be easy with many thru-wall systems cheap and comely. If I were to change out an electric in my home I'd choose an efficient gas with a pilot light.

Living through an extended power outage just once will change your perspective on many things, and though better in many ways sometimes the old fashioned way really does make sense. With gas firelogs(the kind made for heat and not only for looks)or a piezo-lighting wall heater, a gas water heater, and a penchant for candles a power outage is almost something to look forward to!


A. Spruce
Re: Which is more efficient? Gas or electric water heater?

I prefer electric, however if you're in an area prone to power outages, then gas would definitely be the way to go. As has been said, when you're without power for more than a day, hot water is a wonderful thing. :)

Follow Canuk's advice and price out the difference between reinstalling an electric unit and switching to gas. For an electric, you've only got the cost of the unit, for gas you've got flue installation, gas line installation - and possibly upgrading depending where and how you tap into the existing line, and permits. Once you figure that part out, you'll be able to determine if the difference in efficiency will be able to offset the installation cost of gas.

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