July 1, 2022

Save Money on Hot Water with an Electric Water Heater


4 Min. Read

Did you know that heating water is the second-largest energy expenditure in your home? And did you know that an electric water heater can significantly impact your environmental footprint and utility bills?

Using electricity to heat water saves money and is a critical component of whole-home electrification. Conventional storage electric water heaters are much more energy-efficient than gas units. And new technology has led to new and more efficient models, including solar, tankless, and heat pump hot water heaters.

An electric water heater vs. gas

Electric water heaters are gaining popularity, and it is easy to see why. In addition to being more efficient than gas, they are less expensive to purchase and install. And, perhaps best of all, they create no greenhouse gases to pollute the air and are another step in electrifying your home.

The advantages of electric heaters over gas-fueled heaters are so evident that some states have amended new construction building codes to specify electric appliances of all types, including water heaters, and to ban the use of natural gas to power homes and appliances.

How they work

The design of a conventional storage electric water heater is deceptively simple. Water heaters consist primarily of a large water-filled cylinder equipped with a heating element. They use a heat-rising principle to deliver hot water into pipes at the top of the cylinder, directing the water to showers, faucets, or wherever it is needed.

A thermostat controls internal water temperature, maintaining it between 120 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the homeowner’s preference. Cold water enters the tank at the bottom and rises when heated to keep the system in equilibrium. The system is automated, largely silent, and reliable, with no moving parts.

Gas water heater designs share many elements but are more complex. Due to their more complicated structure, gas water heaters are typically more expensive and more prone to breakdowns than electric units.

It is an easy switch from gas to electric

Moving from a gas-fueled water heater to a cleaner, more efficient electric model requires only a simple upgrade. Few structural changes are needed to install the new water heater — just access to electricity.

While not recommended as a project for do-it-yourselfers, it is a quick and straightforward process for professionally certified installers. Unlike gas water heaters, there is no need to install a chimney, an exhaust system, or a gas line.

Electric units also cost less to purchase and install, making the transition from gas to electric even easier. One additional advantage of electric units is that they tend to be more durable and last longer.

Electric water heaters are more efficient

Electric heaters are much more efficient than gas and have an energy factor (EF) of 0.75 to 0.95 vs. 0.50 to 0.70 for gas-fueled units. EF measures the amount of water heated per unit of fuel consumed. It is measured by tracking and analyzing three key efficiency metrics:

  • Recovery efficiency. This metric measures heat transfer efficiency.
  • Standby losses. This measures the amount of heat lost per hour in storage.
  • Cycling losses. This is the amount of heat lost as water circulates throughout the system.

And since electric units do not require venting, no energy is wasted, resulting in lower operating costs.

Electric units are safer

Electric appliances, including water heaters, are inherently safer than natural gas-fueled models. For one, there are no gas lines that can break or leak, creating a fire or explosion hazard. There is also no risk of harmful carbon monoxide emissions.

Technology creates new options

As electrification technology has developed, multiple water heating options have become available, and each of these units has particular advantages over older, more conventional designs. These new electric models include solar water heaters, tankless units, and more:

  • Solar water heaters. As the name suggests, solar water heaters depend on the sun to heat water. These systems consist of solar collectors and storage tanks and are classified into two distinct types: active and passive. They are very cost-effective.
  • Tankless or demand-type water heaters. Tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand. As a result, no energy is wasted on keeping water heated and waiting in a tank, as with conventional water heaters. They can deliver significant energy savings but are more expensive than storage tank heaters. In some cases, multiple heaters are located throughout a home to provide water, specifically for a kitchen, for example, or for the upstairs bathrooms in a two-story house.
  • Tankless coil water heaters. Although similarly named, tankless coil heaters are somewhat different from tankless water heaters. They also lack a storage tank and supply hot water on demand but derive their heat from the primary heating source in a home. They are best suited to cold climates.
  • Heat pump water heaters. Heat pump water heaters operate by moving heat from one place to another. While heat pumps are more commonly used to heat or cool the air inside a home, the same principles can also heat water.

A great start to your electrification journey

Replacing a gas-fueled water heater with an electric one is often just the start of your electrification journey. Whole-home electrification can integrate electric appliances, heat pumps, and solar panels, contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle and a greener future. As a pioneer in electrification, Qmerit has been helping homeowners make the journey for over 20 years.

For more insight on ways to save money and reduce your carbon footprint, check out our Current Trends Blog. There you will find useful information ranging from key components like smart panels to a complete guide to your renewable energy transition.

And you can count on Qmerit as your trusted guide on your whole-home electrification journey. You can reach us Contact Qmerit to learn more.

Author: Lowry Stoops

Lowry Stoops

President, Qmerit Network