Electric VS Gas Tankless Water Heater: 7 Key Differences

Tankless water heaters can be powered by:

  • Electricity, or
  • Gas (propane or natural gas).

Which one is better?

Both electric and gas tankless water heaters are good choices. They differ, however, in several aspects. Here are the main factors we need to take into account when deciding between electric vs. gas tankless water heaters:

Factors: Electric Tankless Water Heaters Gas Tankless Water Heaters
Energy Efficiency: Up to 0.89 EF Factor Up to 0.80 EF Factor
Cost Efficiency: Less Cost-Efficient More Cost-Efficient
Unit Cost: $500 – $900 $1,000 – $2,200
Installation Cost: $450 – $1,000 $500 – $1,000
Maintainance: Lower Maintainance Levels Higher Maintainance Levels
Flow Rate Capacity: Up to 10 GPM  8 GPM – 20 GPM
Environmental Impact: Lower Higher

Here are the particular differences between electric and gas tankless hot water heaters:

  • Energy-efficiency. Electric tankless water heaters are, on average, more efficient. They can reach EF of 0.98, while gas-powered ones reach EF of 0.9.
  • Cost-efficiency. Prices of natural gas and propane are usually lower than the price of electricity.
  • Initial cost. Electric tankless heaters are more affordable; the price range you’re looking at is between $500 and $900. Gas heaters are pricier; the best ones cost more than $1,000.
  • Installation. With electric ones, you will need a 150 A grid. With gas ones, you need access to natural gas or propane. Gas tankless water heaters are more difficult to install; the installation costs are also higher.
  • Maintainance. Electric ones need very little maintenance; the only real task is cleaning the inlet screen filter from time to time. On the other hand, gas ones require a trained technician to check it on regular time intervals because the explosive gases are needed to power the heater.
  • Weight. Gas tankless heaters can be several times heavier than electric counterparts.

If you’re comfortable with both gas and electric tankless water heaters, it will make financial sense to opt for a gas one.

They do have a higher initial cost, more difficult installation, and require regular maintenance. However, the lower cost of gas makes them more cost-effective in the long run.

Why Are More People Deciding For An Electric Water Heater?

More and more people, however, opt for an electric tankless water heater. They are easier to install, more affordable, and run on electricity. On top of that, you don’t need to be anxious about dealing with explosive gases – propane or natural gas – which is a plus.

What you need to be careful of when choosing an electric tankless heater is the power supply grid. The most powerful electric heaters run on 240 V but need up to 200 A electric supply. Voltage is usually not the problem; amperage, however, is.

If you check the list of best tankless water heaters, you will notice that most of them need about 100 A. Older homes with older electric grid need to be upgraded to handle the increased amperage.

If You Decide For Gas Tankless Heater, Make Sure You Have Access To Natural Gas Or Propane

Gas tankless water heater producers offer both natural gas and propane versions of heaters with roughly the same specifications. From the viewpoint of cost optimization, natural gas is usually a better choice because the cost of propane is usually twice that of natural gas. Here is a list of the best natural gas tankless water heaters.

Before buying one, however, make sure your household has access to natural gas or propane. All households have an existing electric grid. The accessibility of natural gas or propane is limited. Not every household has natural gas access.

If you don’t have that access, it’s better to choose an electric tankless water heater.

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