Water heating is one of the most energy-consuming activities we carry out in our homes. According to the Department of Energy, water heating accounts for at least 14% of our home’s utility bills and 20% of energy use.
Choosing the best type of water heater for your needs is crucial if you’re trying to monitor your energy costs closely. The less energy your heater uses, the more you save on your utility bill.
Is it cheaper to heat water with gas or electric?
There are usually two options to consider when buying a water heater—gas or electric. Before picking either of them, you need to consider some factors. Most people consider a heater’s cost over anything else, while others also consider efficiency, energy consumption, capacity, safety, and installation. Needless to say, the second approach is the go-to way.
This article will talk about gas and electric water heaters, how much energy they consume, and which is the better option.
Gas-powered water heating
Gas water heaters are very common. They exist as tanks that heat water using a natural gas or propane gas-powered burner. The burner sits at the bottom of the tank, where it heats up and boils the water at the bottom before progressing to the top. Gas heaters usually have a discharge tube at the top that draws water up.
Gas water heaters are cheaper to use than electric heaters because, on average, gas is cheaper than electricity. You’ll spend more money using an electric heater than a gas heater. Gas water heaters also heat water faster than electric units and are helpful in a power outage.
But before you choose to get a gas water heater, know that they’re less energy efficient than electric water heaters. They may be cheaper and work faster, but they waste a lot of energy. This energy waste is due to heat loss that happens during heating cycles.
During a heating cycle, gas-powered water heaters give off byproducts like carbon dioxide and release energy along with it.
Gas water heaters also lose a lot of energy for reheating. After you use hot water, your heater adds cold water to the heater tank to replace the water you’ve consumed. The gas heater has to heat the incoming cold water, which takes more energy than necessary.
Apart from the problem of energy waste, homeowners without gas lines have to install them on their own when purchasing a gas water heater. Getting a gas line installed requires a series of processes, including obtaining proper permits. So if your home doesn’t have a gas line yet, be ready for some extra costs and a slight delay.
Gas water heaters include storage water heaters and tankless water heaters. These are commonly known as hot water cylinder systems and combi boilers. The hot water cylinder stores already heated water (from a standard boiler) for when it is needed whilst a combination boiler will heat the water on demand. Larger houses with multiple showers and bathrooms may benefit from a cylinder system as it can handle higher water pressure demands.
Electric-powered water heating
An electric water heater heats water with electricity from high voltage rods fixed in its tank. Electric water heaters come in different sizes and types. There are whole-house systems, point-of-use heaters, tankless heaters, and storage water heaters.
An electric heater’s size usually determines the amount of energy it consumes. As a rule, large water heaters consume more energy. Although they may be slower, electric water heaters are more efficient than gas water heaters.
As confusing as it may sound, it’s really quite simple. Electric heaters don’t lose any of the heat they generate during the heating process, so they save more energy.
They may be more expensive than gas heaters. Still, electric water heaters are relatively safe, unlike gas heaters that pose safety risks because of the byproducts they emit and possible gas leaks.
Water heater manufacturers usually use energy factors (EF) to measure energy efficiency. Energy-efficient gas heaters typically have an EF of around 0.67, while energy-efficient electric heaters have an EF of 0.95 or higher.
In general, electric water heaters save more energy because they require less energy to operate.
These days, there are energy-efficient gas water heaters, too, for people that insist on using gas water heaters. They are designed to use significantly less energy than usual.
Tankless water heaters
This type of electric hot water system is much more energy-efficient than its tank-based counterpart. Tankless water heaters are highly recommended if you’re trying to save energy and reduce your electricity bill.
They come in both gas and electric designs. If you like the idea of an electric tankless water heater, you can read more about the best brands for single-point and whole-house models, and decide what’s best for you.
Unlike other storage water heaters, tankless water heaters don’t do any pre-heating. They’re also called instantaneous water heaters because they provide hot water only when there’s a need for it. They operate by heating the water through the tap with a gas burner or electric current. With tankless water heaters, there’s no need to store hot water and risk having to reheat the water when it gets cold. Tankless water heaters are the most energy-efficient because they provide just the amount of hot water needed at a time.
Also, against common misbelief, you can use tankless water heaters for large appliances, in the shower, and in the kitchen. Although they may require a substantial cost initially, they last much longer than traditional water heaters. They come in different sizes, and their price varies based on the technology used. Some may be relatively expensive, but you’re likely to find a tankless water heater that suits your preferences and budget needs.
Is it cheaper to use immersion heater or gas 2022?
As mention above gas is the cheaper option compared to using an immersion heater, simply because the price of gas is cheaper than electric. There is however a way to help reduce this with a solar panel array and a product called Immersun. Immersun can redirect unused electricity generated by your solar panels to power your immersion heater.
You might have a hot water cylinder installed that is pre-heated with a gas boiler, but has an immersion bypass that not only keeps the water hot, it also has the ability to heat the water without the gas boiler. This is a very handy system as it can work with either gas or electric. Better still, you can link up an Immersun and heat water from your solar panel energy, completely bypassing the gas heating and providing you with free water heating. If the weather is poor and there isn’t enough solar energy to heat an entire cylinder then it automatically switches you back to gas heating.
How to save money on your energy bills
Selecting the right heating source is going to be paramount in the future savings of your energy bills. Gas and electric and the main sources out there but let’s not forget, there are cheaper ways to heat your home. Firstly I’d like to talk about the alternative heating systems available:
- Log burning stoves and open fires. We don’t need to burn fossil fuels to keep warm. Wood is a natural, renewable source of heat and it can work out cheaper than gas and electric. Installation can start from as little as £1000 and you can even link up your radiators to some stove models. Find free wood or buy from wood fuel companies who are offering the best deals.
- Biomass boilers. Swap your gas, oil or electric boiler for a biomass boiler that runs on bio fuels such as wood pellets, logs and wood chippings. This is a far more eco-friendly approach to heating and can save you money when sourcing the fuels from the right places.
- Air source heat pump. A reasonable up front investment cost but great overall savings on your heating bills. Worth considering if you are staying in your current house long term.
- Ground source heat pump. Similar in functionality to the air source heat pump but draws warmth from the ground. Slightly more expensive to install but again, a great long term saving on heating bills.
- Solar thermal panels or normal solar panels. A solar thermal panel draws heat from the suns energy to heat up your hot water. If you have a hot water cylinder then you can install a system directly onto your normal solar panels that uses the electricity generated to heat your water. Free hot water, what’s better than that!
How to save money with your existing water heating system
Try these top tips to save money on your energy bills without investing in the primary heating system.
- Turn down your thermostat. Just one degree will make a big difference over time.
- Only heat rooms that you are using. There’s no point in heating the spare room if no one is using it. Simply turn off the radiators in rooms that you’re not using.
- Setup timers and schedules for your heating and hot water heating.
- Invest in a smart system like Hive or Nest to help you monitor and control your heating from anywhere in the world.
- Stop draughts through windows and doors with draught excluder strips. This is a small cost for a big return.
- Wear more warm clothing and snuggle up in blankets and throws to keep warm.
- Unplug energy vampires that drain electricity whilst on standby. TV’s, radios, routers and other similar appliances can use a reasonable amount of energy over the course of a year.
- Keep windows and doors closed during the winter. Use air vents to help circulate clean air in your home.
- Close fridges and freezers quickly as not to release cold air into a room. The same applies to the oven. The longer you have the door open the more energy you lose.
- When cooking on the stove, add lids to your pans as this will help food cook quicker and on a lower heat.
- Make sure your house has suitable insulation, especially in the loft which can be a cheap DIY job.
- If you have a log burning stove, stock up on as much free wood as you possibly can.