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Tank-Style Water Heater: Gas vs. Electric vs. Heat Pump


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The most common fuel sources for a tank-style water heater is natural gas and electricity. Although not all areas have natural gas available, but if you are lucky enough to live in an area where you can choose which fuel will power your water heater, then read on, this article is for you.

Gas water heaters function completely differently than electric heaters, and each has it's own set of pros and cons. If you're really looking for energy efficiency, you'll want to take a look at purchasing a heat pump.

Electric Water Heater

Cost Consideration - Least expensive

Method Used to Heat Water - Heating Elements (replaceable)

Size Capacity - 28 to 100+ gallons

Energy Efficiency - Many ENERGY STAR rated options are available

Gas or Propane Water Heaters

Cost Consideration - Generally higher priced than electric

Method Used to Heat Water - Gas Burner

Size Capacity - 30 to 100 gallons

Energy Efficiency - A larger selection of ENERGY STAR rated options available

Special Considerations:

  • Location where the water heater is installed must have adequate ventilation fo that air can circulate
  • Combustible materials can not be stored nearby
  • Gas and propane is not available in all areas

Heat Pump or Hybrid Water Heaters

Cost Consideration - Higher priced, but save money over time in utility bills

Method Used to Heat - Pulls the ambient air and extracts the heat

Size Capacity - 50 to 80 gallons

Energy Efficiency - Can be 2 to 3 times more energy efficient that gas or electric

Special Considerations:

  • Must be installed in an area that will stay in the 40 to 90° Fahrenheit temperature range
  • Best if installed in a furnace room, or a room with excess heat
  • Does not operate efficiencty in cold places
  • Generally larger than a standard sized electric water heater

Energy Ratings and Tank-Style Water Heaters

Energy ratings are an important factor to consider when purchasing a water heater. Here are some things to consider:

Energy Star Certified

There are many water heaters on the market today that are ENERGY STAR certified. It's not uncommon for these appliances to be more expensive, but they're also more energy efficient. This means they'll lower your monthly utility bill, saving you money over the life of the heater.

If given the choice between an Energy Star certifed water heater and a non-Energy Star water heater, you should always buy the Energy Star appliance.

Watch the Video

Energy Factor Rating

All water heaters are given an Energy Factor (EF) rating. The EF rating measures the water heater's overall efficiency. This standardize rating allows you to compare one water heater to another to determine how efficiently it operates.

Regardless if the water heater burns natural gas or electricity, or if it's a tank-style or a tankless model, you can compare EF rating an instantly know which is the more energy efficient water heater. The higher the EF rating the better.

The following are the three factors considered when determining the EF rating:

  • Recover Efficiency - How efficiently the heat from the energy source is transferred to the water.
  • Stand-by Losses - The percentage of heat lost per hour from the stored water compared to the content of the water.
  • Cycling Losses

National Appliance Energy Conservation Act

The U.S. Department of Energy made a change to the water heater regulations in order to increase the minimum energy-efficiency standards. The NAECA (National Appliance Energy Conservation Act) went into effect on April 16, 2015. The video below will give you a quick overview of what these changes are and how they may affect you.

Watch the Video

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