Propane vs. Electric Water Heaters

programming a propane water heater

Water heaters are the second-largest energy user in homes. In addition, they are one of the most important considerations for a home’s comfort and functionality. When it’s time to replace your aging water heater or if you’re shopping for a new construction home, consider upgrading to the performance and savings of propane. Propane water heating systems offer many advantages over electric water heating options.

Advantages of Propane Tankless vs. Electric Storage Tank Water Heaters

Propane tankless water heaters deliver endless hot water, and save on energy, too. Propane tankless water heaters use less energy, cost less to operate, and have fewer emissions compared with electric storage tank models. Propane tankless water heaters provide comfort, versatility, convenience, and efficiency by supplying high volumes of hot water on demand with compact and highly innovative technology. In addition, propane tankless water heaters only submit half the carbon dioxide emissions compared to electric storage tank systems.

Propane tankless water heaters not only provide a continuous supply of hot water for your daily shower or bath, but they do it more efficiently. They supply hot water on demand rather than exerting unnecessary energy to store gallons of hot water in reserve. This saves the average homeowner hundreds of dollars per year in utility costs.

Propane tankless water heating systems, also known as “demand” systems, eliminate standby losses. Standby losses occur in typical electric water heaters as the heated water in the storage tank is constantly re-heated while the tank loses energy to the surrounding environment, even if the hot water isn’t being used in the home. Propane tankless systems do not suffer standby losses, and only heat water when it’s actually needed and being used in your home.

Tankless water heaters are also compact in size, saving approximately 12 square feet of floor space compared to electric storage water heater units. This is a huge benefit in tighter floor plans. Their compact size and direct-vent design (meaning the air for combustion is ducted directly to the unit from outdoors) also allow flexible installation locations in closets, tight spaces, and even outdoors.

Benefits of Propane vs. Electric for Storage Tank Water Heaters

Propane storage tank water heaters also offer a great value to comfort-seeking homeowners over their electric counterparts. Energy Star propane units save an average of 13 to 16 percent in annual energy costs over standard electric storage tank water heating units. Equipped with features like electronic ignition and highly insulated and corrosion-resistant tanks, Energy Star qualified propane storage tank water heaters offer many benefits to homeowners.

In addition to energy savings, a 40-gallon propane storage tank water heating unit delivers the same amount of hot water as a 50-gallon electric storage tank unit, so they can be placed in smaller spaces or provide more room for storage in utility rooms. In addition, the larger electric tank will experience greater standby losses, thermal losses to the surrounding area, due to its greater surface area. In addition to saving space, propane storage tank water heaters reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 1,700 pounds per year, compared with standard electric storage tank units.

Propane storage tank water heaters also provide more versatility in the installation process compared to electric storage tank water heaters. First, power-vent designs fan-force the exhaust gasses outdoors through a horizontal plastic duct routed out through a wall or at the edge of the basement ceiling. Direct-vent models also fan-force the exhaust gasses outdoors, as well as draw the external combustion air directly in via a separate duct. In both cases, the plastic sidewall venting makes the installation simpler, allowing for flexible water heater location, and avoiding the need to run a vertical flue chase up through the home. The sidewall venting options, some of which allow for vent runs up to 40 feet, are especially useful in electric-to-propane water heater replacements where a new vent is added.

Propane storage tank water heaters are available in a wide variety of designs, capacities, and efficiency levels. Flexible corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) gas lines can supply propane to the water heater in both new construction and replacement applications. CSST lines are bendable and easily routed to the water heater location, expediting the installation.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that approximately 20% of a home’s energy costs are spent heating water. That’s why selecting an efficient water heater is critical. Propane fuels some of the most efficient water heating technologies available and offers many benefits over electric water heating units.

Visit with your local propane supplier to see how a propane water heater could be incorporated into your home, and learn more about rebates available that could save you hundreds of dollars on your first-time purchase and safe installation of a propane water heater.