One of the key decisions you’ll need to make when building your own home, or moving into a new one, is whether to opt for a gas or electric hot water system. 

Both options have advantages and considerations, so it’s important to understand the differences and determine the best fit for your needs. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of gas and electric hot water systems, discuss their energy efficiency, installation costs, and environmental impact, and provide guidance on making the right choice for your home.

Electric Hot Water Systems

Electric hot water systems come in three types: 

  1. conventional resistive
  2. heat pump, and 
  3. instantaneous electric systems. 

Each type has its own set of advantages and considerations, so let’s explore them in more depth.

Conventional Resistive Electric Hot Water Systems

Conventional resistive electric hot water systems use electricity to heat an element in the water tank, similar to an electric kettle. 

While these systems are generally cheaper to install, they are not very energy-efficient and can be expensive to run, especially if you don’t have access to cheap electricity or need to time your hot water usage wisely. 

However, they can be powered by electricity from renewable sources, such as solar panels or green power, making them a greener option.

Heat Pump Hot Water Systems

Heat pump hot water systems are a more efficient form of electric storage tank systems. They work on the same principle as a fridge or air conditioner, extracting heat from the air and using it to heat the water tank. Heat pump systems are very energy-efficient and suitable for many homes. 

They can be powered by electricity from renewable sources and are eligible for government rebates and incentives. However, they have higher upfront costs compared to conventional electric systems.

Instantaneous Electric Hot Water Systems

Instantaneous electric hot water systems heat water only when the electric hot water heater tap is turned on. They can require a high current draw and the electricity usage will be charged at whatever tariff applies at that time of day.

While they are less common than storage tank systems, they can be suitable for some households. However, they may require a significant amount of power and must be installed at each hot water outlet.

Gas Hot Water Systems

Gas hot water systems also come in two types: storage tank systems and the instantaneous gas systems. Each type has its own set of advantages and considerations.

Storage Tank Gas Hot Water Systems

Gas hot water systems store hot water in a tank and reheat it as needed. They are effective and efficient for small households or as a stand-alone system in a remote part of the house.

They tend to use more gas while actually heating, but less overall than a tank because they only use the supply when needed. However, natural gas is a non-renewable resource, and prices are expected to remain high. Gas storage tank systems also require regular maintenance and must be vented to the outside to remove toxic fumes.

Looking to make the change from gas appliances to electric? We can help with that.

Instantaneous Gas Systems

Instantaneous gas systems, also known as continuous flow systems, heat water only when the hot tap is turned on. 

They offer flexibility in timing hot water usage and have smaller storage tanks compared to gas storage systems. 

However, they require a licensed gas plumber for installation and have similar considerations regarding gas availability and maintenance as gas storage tank systems.

Solar Hot Water Systems

Solar hot water systems use rooftop panels to collect heat from the sun and use it to heat water. The water is stored in a tank, either at the rooftop next to the panels or elsewhere in the home. 

Solar hot water systems are usually very cheap to run and can be a sustainable option. However, they may require a booster element, either electric or gas, for sunless days or high hot water usage. It’s important to keep the system well maintained and monitor it to ensure optimal performance.

Energy Efficiency and Running Costs

When considering the energy efficiency and running costs of gas vs electric heat pump systems and hot water systems, several factors come into play. 

  1. Electric heat pump and solar hot water systems generally offer the best overall savings, despite higher upfront purchase costs. 
  2. A conventional electric hot water system can be cheap to run if powered by your own solar panels. 
  3. Gas hot water systems, on the other hand, can be an effective solution if electric and solar options are not available for your home. However, these systems have health and environmental aspects to consider, as well as long-term running costs.

Installation Costs and Considerations

Installation costs for gas and electric hot water systems vary depending on the type of system and the specific requirements of your home. 

Electric systems, particularly conventional resistive electric systems, are generally cheaper to install compared to gas systems. 

Gas systems require the expertise of a licensed gas plumber for installation, which can increase the overall cost. 

Additionally, switching from a gas system to electric or vice versa may require additional installation work and disconnection costs, such as new wiring and gas pipes.

Gas vs. Electric Hot Water – So Who Wins?

Choosing between a gas and electric hot water system requires careful consideration of factors such as energy efficiency, installation costs, running costs, and environmental impact. 

Electric heat pump and solar hot water systems offer the best overall savings and are more environmentally friendly, but they have higher upfront costs. 

Gas hot water systems can be effective if electric and solar options are not available, but they have health and environmental considerations. Ultimately, the right hot water system for your home depends on your specific needs, budget, and environmental values. Consider consulting with a professional plumber to determine the best option for you.

If you need professional assistance in choosing and installing the right hot water system for your home, contact Canberra Plumbing & Drains now.