Water heaters are really common in our daily lives, but do you know the difference between an electric and a gas-powered heater? It might get tricky when choosing a tankless water heater for your home.
There has long been debate about which is better among electric and propane tank-free heaters. Propane vs electric tankless water heater, it's a tough call! Choosing the type that is best suited to your needs can be difficult.
Deciding to purchase propane or electric tankless water heaters is not easy. Many factors affect the decision, including the climate, whether natural gas is readily available in your area, and how risk-averse you are.
However, there is no denying the benefits that both types of heaters provide regardless of the situation. This article will discuss the differences between using natural gas water heaters or electric water heaters and determine which one is appropriate for you.
What is a Tankless Water Heater?
Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand or instantaneous heaters, provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't store water like a traditional tank-style water heater.
Tankless water heaters use a lot of energy to heat water as it passes through the unit constantly, so they're only recommended for homes with three or more bathrooms or for people who use a lot of hot water.
As far as power consumption is concerned, there are two main types of tank-free heaters:
- Natural gas or propane tankless water heater,
- Electric power tankless water heater.
How Do Propane Tankless Water Heaters Work?
Natural gas or propane tankless heaters work by heating water through the unit. The water is heated using a natural gas burner fueled by propane.
The advantage of a gas water heater is that it doesn’t require any electricity to operate, making them a good option for areas where power outages are expected.
Since a propane or gas heater doesn't store hot water like a traditional tank-style water heater, it doesn't take much space. They can be installed almost anywhere in your home.
How Do Electric Tankless Water Heaters Work?
An electric water heater is most energy-efficient for size, space requirements, installation location, and power consumption.
The electricity creates an electrical current through a copper coil submerged in water. That heated coil provides instant heat for hot water any time you need it by a heat exchanger.
An Electric unit is designed for homes with relatively few bathrooms or people who don't use hot water since they use an average power with standard usage.
Propane vs Electric Tankless Water Heater, the Differences?
There are several differences to consider when it comes to electric or gas tankless heaters. Those differences are:
- Power Source: Propane tank-free heaters use a natural gas burner to heat the water, while electric tankless heaters use electricity.
- Installation: A gas tankless heater must be installed near a natural gas line, while electric models can be installed pretty much anywhere in your home.
- Efficiency: Electric tankless water heaters are more efficient (Up to 0.89 EF Factor) than propane tank-free heaters (Up to 0.80 EF Factor).
- Flow Rates: A Gas tankless water heater usually has a higher flow rate (8 GPM – 20 GPM) than electric tank-free heaters (Up to 10 GPM).
- Size: A Gas tankless water heater is often larger than electric tank-free heaters. This can be a downside if you are trying to save space.
- Maintenance: Propane tanks require maintenance every three years by a licensed professional, which can be expensive and inconvenient, while electric tank-free heaters require little to no maintenance.
- Outdoor Usage: While gas tankless water heaters can be used outside, most electric tank-free models are designed with indoor usage only in mind.
- Temperature: An electric tankless heater produces hotter water than gas heaters. Electric tank-free heaters will have to be turned down from their default setting because they are so hot, resulting in wasted energy and money. With gas heaters, a special thermostat can be installed to ensure the heater does not produce temperatures higher than necessary.
- Installation Costs: Electric tankless water heaters cost more to install and run, while propane tank-free heaters installation costs less.
- Environmental Impact: Electric tank-free heaters have a lower environmental impact than gas heaters.
- Venting: Gas tankless heaters require venting, while electric tank-free heaters don't. Commonly, heaters produce carbon dioxide and other hazardous fumes.
- Availability: Electric tankless heaters are available from a wider variety of manufacturers than gas heaters.
According to the differences described above, each tankless heater has its advantages and disadvantages. Let's talk about them:
Advantages of Using Propane Tankless Water Heater
There are several advantages to using a propane tank-free water heater:
- A Gas tankless heater doesn’t require any electricity to operate, making them a good option for areas where power outages are expected.
- A propane heater usually has a higher flow rate than electric tank-free heaters.
- Gas tankless heaters are often larger than electric units but take up less space than traditional tank-style heaters.
- Gas tankless water heaters are available from a wider variety of manufacturers than electric units.
Disadvantages of Using Gas Tankless Water Heaters
There are also a few disadvantages to using a propane tank-free water heater:
- A Gas tankless water heater requires regular maintenance by a professional.
- Propane is a fossil fuel and contributes to global warming.
- The gas tankless water heater can be expensive to install.
- A Gas tankless water heater can be dangerous if not installed properly.
Advantages of Using Electric Tankless Water Heater
There are several advantages to using an electric tankless water heater:
- An electric tankless heater doesn’t require any kind of professional maintenance.
- An electric tank-free heater is safer than propane tank-free heaters since they don't produce gas or burn pilot lights, which can cause explosions if not properly installed or maintained.
- Electrical tankless water heaters produce a more consistent flow of hot water than propane tank-free heaters.
- An electric tank-free heater has a lower environmental impact than propane tank-free heaters since there are no greenhouse gas emissions from them.
- Electrical power heaters are available from a wider variety of manufacturers than propane tank-free heaters.
Disadvantages of Using Electric Tankless Water Heater
There are also a few disadvantages to using an electric tank-free water heater:
- An electric water heater requires extensive wiring and plumbing, which can be expensive and time-consuming to install.
- Electrical tank-free heaters use a lot of energy, which can be expensive to operate.
- Electrical tank-free heaters often take up more space than propane tank-free water heaters.
- Tankless electric water heaters are not as widely available as propane tank-free heaters.
So, Which is Better - Propane or Electric?
Based on all of the information above, it seems that both gas tankless water heaters and electric tank-free heaters have their pros and cons. The best type of heater for you will depend upon your specific needs, preferences, budget, etc.
When Should You Use an Electric or a Gas-Powered Heater?
There is no definitive answer as to when to use an electric or natural gas-powered water heater. It depends upon your specific needs and preferences. Some factors to consider include:
- Whether you have regular access to electricity or propane
- Whether you want to contribute to global warming by using fossil fuels
- How much money do you want to spend on water heating
- How much space do you have for a water heater
- Whether you need a high flow rate of hot water
- Whether you are comfortable with DIY installation or need a professional to install your water heater.
Tips for Choosing Between the Two Options
Regardless of which option you choose, here are some tips that may assist you in finding the best option for you:
- If you're often in an area with power outages, propane tank-free heaters are a better choice.
- Electric tank-free heaters are better for areas with access to electricity but higher natural gas prices.
- The electric tank-free heater is the best choice for people who want to lower their environmental impact.
- Electrical tank-free heaters might be more expensive to buy and install than propane tank-free heaters.
- Electric tank-free heaters might take longer to warm up than propane tank-free heaters.
- Gas tankless water heaters often have higher flow rates than electric tank-free heaters.
- If you want your heater to be professionally installed, propane tank-free heaters are the way to go.
- If you're comfortable doing some basic DIY, electric tank-free heaters might be a good option.
As with most things, the answer is not black and white. It depends upon your specific needs and preferences.
In terms of propane vs electric heaters, the following questions are most frequently asked:
01. Can You DIY Install a Propane-Powered Water Heater Yourself?
Yes, you can DIY install a propane-powered heater yourself. However, it is essential to note that installing a gas heater involves working with existing natural gas and can be dangerous if not done correctly.
02. How Often Should Tankless Heaters Be Serviced?
Tankless heaters should be serviced at least once a year. However, if you live in a particularly dusty or humid environment, you might need to service your water heater more often.
03. Are There Different Types of Natural Gas and Electric Heaters Available for Purchase?
Yes, different types of gas and electric heaters are available for purchase. For example, a gas tankless water heater comes in indoor and outdoor varieties, while electric tank-free heaters are available in either whole-house or point-of-use models.
04. Is It Dangerous to Install and Use a Gas Tankless System?
It is important to remember that installing and using a gas tankless system can be dangerous if you do not do so appropriately. If you are not comfortable doing the installation yourself, it is best to hire a professional.
05. Which Would Last Longer, an Electric or Propane Tankless Water Heater?
A propane or gas heater probably lasts longer than an electric one. A gas tankless water heater does not rely on electricity to work correctly.
06. What Is the Downside of an Electric Tank-Free Water Heater?
One downside of an electric tankless water heater is the flow rates. Electric tankless water heaters often have lower flow rates than propane tankless water heaters.
07. Is an Electric Tankless Water Heater Worth It?
Whether or not an electric tank-free heater is worth it depends on your specific needs and preferences. The benefits of electric tank-free water heaters include being more environmentally friendly.
08. Do Electric Tank-Free Heaters Increase Electric Bills?
Electric tank-free heaters increase electric bills, as they use more electricity than other water heaters.
09. Can Electric Tankless Heaters Be Used Outdoors?
Electric tankless heaters can be used outdoors provided with some form of shelter. However, gas tankless units can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Gas tankless water heaters are the only option for people who want to lower their energy consumption bills. Electric tank-free water heaters are an excellent option for anyone who wants a more environmentally friendly way to provide hot water.
It is up to you to determine which one you prefer. Hopefully, this article on propane vs electric tankless water heater has helped you make the right decision based on your purpose.