When you are first starting to do your research on tankless water heaters, you’ll notice that the majority of them are either gas powered or electric powered. You will probably also notice right away that the electric units are much cheaper than their natural gas counter parts.
In this short article, we will explain the difference between the two types of tankless water heaters so you can make the right choice.
The Biggest Factor: Power
Both electric and gas can heat water, that much is obvious. What makes them difference is just how much water they can heat. The power of the unit is measured in two ways: how much of a temperature rise can it achieve, and how much is the flow rate, in gallons per minute.
Most electric water heaters cannot raise the temperature of water more than 40F, which means it’s not generally acceptable for incoming water temperatures below 50F. In winters months in northern states, this simply will not suffice for the winter.
In addition, electric water heaters have low flow rates, usually topping out around a maximum of 3.0 GPM. This is basically only enough for a shower and a sink, and not much more.
The Other Biggest Factor: Price
That is why electric water heaters are significantly cheaper, because they are significantly less powerful. That said, you can just as easily purchase 2-3 electric units for less than the price of a single natural gas unit and basically achieve the same effect (For people living in the south, or if it’s only used during the summer).
In addition, electricity is also generally more expensive than natural gas, if you measure by money required to heat a gallon of water 40F. You will spend more, if you draw energy from the grid, if you use an electric water heater versus a natural gas or propane powered one. So while you may save some money initially, you will pay a little bit more each month over time that will erode those savings.
The x Factor: Infrared
Infrared water heaters are the only type on the market that don’t require annual maintenance. Both standard electric and gas powered tankless water heaters all need routine maintenance to clean out the limescale and calcium. However, a new type of electric water heater using infrared technology is actually able to heat water without accumulating sediments on the heat exchanger. This technology is relatively new and we will post more about that next week.