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Gas Vs. Electric Water Heaters: Which One is Right for You?

Technological innovations along with consumers’ heightened sense of environmental impact and economic efficiency have driven many people to reconsider the basics of household water heating. Gas and electric water heaters are the primary choices when considering heating technology, and each comes with its benefits and negatives. But of these two options, is one better than the other? And which is the right choice for you and your family? 

Att WM Buffington, we have got you covered with an unbiased analysis of these types of heating systems, so that you can make an informed decision if a new water heater installation is in your future.

Making the Right Decision

Choosing between two water heating solutions may seem insignificant when compared with everything else you’re faced with in daily life, but it is far more important than you may expect. Selecting the correct heating system for your needs will help you save money so that your finances are better directed to things that matter most, while also helping to reduce your carbon footprint and even increase the comfort and safety of your living environment. 

Choosing a less-than-ideal water heating system can lead to higher costs or less safety and comfort. To make the best decision possible, it’s important to consider your personal situation and measure it against the pros and cons of each heating system. Is your priority safety? Do you live in a region where quick heat is important? How much does potential carbon emission matter to you? 

Consider some of these personal requirements while reading our breakdown below. 

Gas Water Heaters 

A gas water heater consists of a water tank that utilizes a gas-fired burner located at the bottom of the tank in order to heat water. Hot water starts at the bottom of the tank (closest to the gas-fired burner) and rises upward, where it is drawn off the top by a discharge tube.


  • Quick heating 
  • Economically efficient; affordable 
  • Energy efficient 
  • Does not rely on electricity and therefore still works during power outage
  • Simple maintenance 


  • Utilizes non-renewable energy source
  • Pilot light can go out, requiring human input
  • Expensive to upgrade or replace if damaged
  • Requires a gas line 
  • Can emit carbon monoxide

Electric Water Heaters

An electric water heater is a water tank that utilizes high-voltage electric heating rods that run vertically through the tank. Water is heated starting at the center of the tank, radiating outward.


  • Safe operation
  • More efficient than gas
  • More affordable initial entry 
  • All homes have electric service 
  • Clean; no exhaust


  • Higher operating expense
  • Slower heating
  • Completely non-functional in a power outage; requires a strong, reliable electric connection
  • More difficult to maintain with a high power and water demand

Detailed Differences 

Installation Process

Due to the fact that not all houses have gas lines, it can be more complicated and costly to integrate a gas water heater into a home that doesn’t already have the required infrastructure. Additionally, by needing to tap into gas lines and deal with fewer options for sizing, the installation process can be more expensive. Electric heaters, on the other hand, can be more easily installed - all you need to do is connect the electric water heater and tank to your home’s electrical system. 

Energy Source

As mentioned above, you’ll need to consider your energy source. If you don’t have any gas lines, the obvious (and perhaps only) choice is to go electric. But if you have gas and electricity, you have more flexibility in your decision-making. While gas heaters have a higher initial expense, the cost of using gas is relatively low and stable in comparison to electric. Of course, with gas, you don’t need to worry about heating your home during a blackout caused by a blizzard either. 


While gas water heaters are not dangerous in their own right, there are some small risks with gas that make using electricity the superior choice for complete safety. 

First, the operation of a gas water heater uses both gas and fire in order to create heat. Gas in general has the potential to be a health risk because if it leaks from its containment, there is a chance of explosion. An open fire, similarly, has the risk of causing a larger fire and property damage. Finally, gas water heaters can emit carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) so they require proper ventilation. It’s important to note that all modern heaters incorporate a lot of safety features as precautions against these risks. 

Now, that isn’t meant to scare you from buying a gas water heater. They are extremely common types of technology and just like gas stoves, they pose an exceedingly small safety risk. If you’re looking for a heater that poses practically zero threat, then electric water heating is the way to go. Do keep in mind the danger of not being able to heat your home during an outage, though! 


Gas heaters are generally faster and more efficient at heating water than electric heaters, and they can heat water to a higher temperature. Gas water heaters also tend to have shorter recovery times than electric models. The recovery time is the amount of time it takes for a water heater to heat a given amount of water. This means gas water heaters can heat water faster after it’s been used. Additionally, gas heaters will have a lower cost of operation and they use a source of power that is often less expensive. 


Electric water heaters tend to last longer than gas heaters. On average, they have a lifespan of 10-15 years while gas heaters usually only last 8-12 years. Getting the most years possible out of your system will depend on several factors including frequency of maintenance, the quality of installation, model and brand of the heater, and external factors like water quality. Electric water heaters generally require less maintenance since they are less complex than gas models, which could potentially contribute to their slightly longer lifespan. Regardless, both systems have quite similar longevity making it a less significant factor in the decision-making process.

The Bottom Line

If you’re trying to decide between a gas and an electric water heater, the unfortunate truth is that there is no one right answer regarding which is best. However, taking careful consideration of your family’s situation, needs, and preferences and running them against the positives and downsides of each heater, can help you reach a confident decision. 

Looking to upgrade or replace your current water heating system this winter season? If you need a trustworthy and experienced plumber to perform your water heater installation, contact WM Buffington. We’ll be happy to discuss your options, answer any questions you may have, and schedule a time to have your new water heater installed.

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