Coke vs. Pepsi; Marvel vs. DC; Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier; there have been some epic rivalries throughout the years, but none are more relevant to households than gas vs electric hot water.
The hot water heater forms the backbone of everyone’s daily routine. But when it’s time to upgrade, do you go with the same reliable system that’s currently in use or seek installation for a different kind of service, one that’s more suited to the needs of a growing family or a household focused on energy efficiency?
Solar hot water systems are usually the best energy efficient solution for those looking to reduce running costs and help save the planet. However, solar carries a high installation price and isn’t suited to all areas. That’s why gas or electric hot water models make for such a great plumbing debate.
Before purchasing a new service, here’s what you need to know about gas vs electric hot water systems.
Gas Hot Water Systems
As an energy source, natural gas provides many benefits for homeowners and tenants alike. Gas burning hot water heaters come in many shapes and sizes but are available in two main types. First up, we have the gas storage tank. These options are similar to electric storage systems but rely on an efficient gas burner for heating.
The other key variety provides instant hot water. Also known as continuous flow, instant hot water models are compact wall mounted units that take up little space. Instant hot water uses a simple process that heats water as it passes through a gas burner, only heating what’s required before delivering the water to your taps and showerhead. Gas continuous systems are appealing because they never run out of hot water.
So long as you have access to natural gas or refillable LPG tanks, there’s a gas hot water system to suit everyone’s plumbing needs. Below, we’ll sum up the pros and cons of relying on a gas burning system.
Gas Hot Water System Benefits
Longevity: Any plumbing professional will tell you that gas hot water systems can last for 15 to 20 years and heat water longer if treated well and serviced regularly. This is considered a long lifespan compared to an electric hot water system, as they are expected to last for around ten years. Instant hot water can last a few years longer as no water or sediment sits in a tank, slowly corroding the quality of metal components.
Affordable Rates: In Australia, natural gas prices are more affordable than electrical energy prices, so you can expect to pay lower rates if relying on gas. Gas is measured in megajoules (MJ), and the prices do vary from state to state. Finder reveals that you will pay just 4 – 8 cents per MJ in Australia. This is why instant gas models carry high energy star ratings.
Electricity, however, carries more significant prices. Electricity is measured in Kilowatts (kW), and you can expect to pay between 28 – 42 cents per kW depending on the state or territory. Around three units of gas are required to match one unit of energy, but you will still save money using a gas hot water system.
Sustainability: Both natural gas and coal are fossil fuels, and both are detrimental to the environment. The optimal solution is switching to solar, but this is not always achievable. The Guardian reports that gas burning energy emits around 50% less carbon dioxide than coal. So you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint by relying on a gas burning water heater.
Purchase Cost: Gas hot water systems carry higher purchase costs than the electric alternatives, and the installation can also be more expensive. This is especially true if upgrading from electricity to gas. The trade off is the lower running costs which should help make back the initial investment over the coming years.
Limited Performance: The flow rate of Instant hot water systems may not be powerful enough to service multiple sources simultaneously. So, someone running a faucet in the kitchen could affect the water flowing to the showerhead. Also, if the instant hot water system is a fair distance from the shower, water flow may take a while to reach the desired temperature.
Access: Without an existing natural gas or LPG connection, converting electric to gas would be costly and is often impractical as major works would be involved to connect a home to the gas grid.
Electric Hot Water Heating System
The electric hot water system is the most common form of water heater found in Australia. These systems are affordable and reliable, with most tanks constructed locally and designed to withstand harsh Australian conditions.
Available in sizes to suit individuals, couples, families and workplaces, you’re looking at hundreds of litres worth of hot water to use on demand. Upgrade to an electric hot water system boosted by solar or a heat pump to make it more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Here’s what you need to know:
Electric Hot Water System Benefits
Purchase cost: Electric hot water systems carry lower price tags when compared to gas units. Electric water heaters can also be cheaper to install depending on the scope of the work required.
Performance: Large capacity electric water heaters can provide ample amounts of hot water to multiple faucets simultaneously with fewer fluctuations. The water also reaches the faucets or showerhead at a swift speed.
Boosting: Upgrade an electric hot water storage tank with solar capabilities for it to become more energy efficient than instant gas water heaters. The Australian Government’s Energy Rating authority estimates that well implemented solar could cover 50 to 90 per cent of your hot water needs.
Modern systems that utilise heat pumps can achieve similar results without the need for solar. Heat pumps absorb warmth from the air to become three times more efficient than conventional electric systems. So, boost an electric hot water system with solar or a heat pump to save money and help the environment without switching to gas.
Running Costs: Without solar or a heat pump, the energy costs of an electric hot water system will be higher than a gas burning alternative – as mentioned previously, between 28 – 42 cents per kW depending on the state or territory.
Supply: Unlike continuous flow systems, electric storage tanks have limited capacity. Once the hot water runs out, you must wait for it to refill before the family can enjoy hot showers. This can be problematic during periods of heavy use.
Size: Electric hot water systems feature large, bulky storage tanks, which take up a lot of space. Nothing can be done to avoid the bulk of a system other than positioning it out of sight.
What About Electric Instant Hot Water?
The electric instant hot water system does exist, although it doesn’t provide much hot water. Each unit is small and not suited for heavy use. Electric models are designed for an office or workplace and only for kitchen use – tea, coffee, washing, etc. Electric instant systems cannot heat water fast enough for it to be used in a shower.
Gas vs Electric Hot Water: Who Wins?
Unlike Highlander, there can be ‘more than one’ correct answer in this electric or gas debate. Storage hot water is suitable for some, while continuous flow is right for others.
It depends on what you’re looking for from a new hot water unit – low running costs, lower purchase price, large capacity or low environmental impact. Gas and electric are both suitable selections, so weigh up the potential benefits and drawbacks to find what’s right for you.
And when you need a plumbing professional for the installation, Book a Plumber Online is available with 24/7 service. Fill out a web form, and we’ll call you back in no time at all.