For homeowners, whether to go gas or electric for domestic hot water involves balancing efficiency, costs, and environmental factors – a complex equation with no universal best answer.

When installing or replacing your home’s water heating system, determining the most affordable and sustainable long-term solution requires diving deep into the financial tradeoffs between natural gas and electric-powered operation.

This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth exploration of the variables that impact real-world expenses, helping clarify if gas or electric systems make the most economic sense based on your household’s needs. We’ll provide operating costs per unit of energy, equipment lifespans, maintenance requirements, energy efficiency ratings, and environmental footprints of gas tank, tankless, standard electric, and heat pump water heating.

With complete transparency into the advantages and disadvantages fuel choice presents in the context of your utility rates, home layout and more, you’ll have the insights to determine whether natural gas or electric works out cheaper over months and years of reliable service and custody of all the factors swaying lifetime costs.

How Gas vs Electric Water Heaters Work


Before analysing the costs of different water heating methods, it’s important to understand how the two main types function.

Gas water heaters utilise a natural gas burner to heat water, which is then stored in an insulated reservoir tank ready for use. Depending on the model, the gas flame heats the tank directly or via internal copper coils.

In contrast, electric water heaters use specialised high-resistance electric coils submerged in the tank to transform electrical energy into heat through convection. The electrically heated water remains in the storage tank at a thermostatically controlled temperature until needed on demand.

Knowing the underlying principles of fuel-fired heating and electric resistive heating allows an informed cost comparison of the inherent efficiency differences in heating water with gas burners versus electric elements. Examining how the two technologies convert their respective energy sources into hot water better informs evaluations of long-term operating costs based on local utility rates.

Weighing the pros and cons of both methods based on understanding their internal water heating mechanics in tandem with energy prices leads to the optimal system selection for a home’s needs and budget.

Let’s Compare The Two


Cost Drivers of Water Heating Systems

Deciphering the actual costs between gas and electric water heating involves assessing multiple financial factors:

When selecting a hot water system, the initial purchase price is only part of the equation. Installation costs, monthly energy bills based on local utility rates and the system’s innate efficiency rating all determine the actual long-term expense. Crunching the numbers on all these key variables provides the whole picture – a higher upfront investment on an ultra-high-efficiency model can reap long stand savings from lower energy consumption. Evaluating these cost factors allows you to determine whether gas or electric works most affordably over years of ownership based on your usage patterns and energy prices.

Upfront System and Installation Cost Differences

When evaluating upfront expenses, gas-tanked heaters tend to cost more than their electric counterparts for the units themselves. Gas-fired water heaters have more complex burner assemblies and ventilation requirements. Additionally, homes lacking pre-existing natural gas lines must pay to route new gas pipes – an unnecessary cost for electric models.

Electric heaters have more straightforward installation needs by leveraging a home’s available power outlets and wiring. Unless upgrading amperage electrical service is required, connecting electric water heating tanks is typically faster, avoiding gas line intricacies.

An electric system’s initial purchase and setup compare favourably between electricity’s lower equipment pricing and generally cheaper, faster installation not reliant on fuel gas lines. Of course, upfront cost savings on electricity must be weighed carefully against potentially higher long-term energy costs from less efficient heating.

Energy Costs and Systems Efficiency

Natural gas and electricity rates play a significant role when evaluating ongoing costs, and regional pricing differences can apply.

Some utility markets favour affordable gas rates per therm, while others see more competitive electric rates per kWh. Comparing current provider pricing is a must.

Equally important is calculating the inherent efficiency of gas units versus electric – how much of the supplied energy converts to usable heat versus waste heat loss. Gas-fired heating tends to rate higher efficiency percentages – transferring more heat per unit of gas. Electric resistance that directly converts electricity into heat suffers more passive standby losses.

However, technological improvements like tankless electric heat-on-demand models reduce electricity waste. Modern electric efficiencies can effectively compete with gas with better insulation and heat pumps leveraging compression.

Crunching the numbers on a region’s residential energy rates alongside the rated efficiency of a particular model determines the ultimate operating cost differences. While gas heating enjoys a reputation for lower overall costs, the efficiency gains of newer electric systems are balancing the affordability equation more than ever based on location-specific utility prices.

Energy Efficiency and Environmental Impact

When choosing between electric and gas hot water systems for Aussie homes, both energy efficiency ratings and environmental impacts should be weighed. Gas hot water units in Australia typically range from 2 to 4 stars in energy efficiency, indicating the percentage of gas energy converted into usable heat.

Electric heat pumps and solar systems can reach upwards of 5 to 5.5 stars thanks to advanced heat transfer tech and renewable energy use. So, modern electric options available in Australia now hold efficiency advantages over conventional gas units.

As for power sources, most of Australia’s electricity comes from burning coal, which produces heavy emissions. So, while electric hot water accesses Australia’s major grid infrastructure, the upstream environmental costs of coal-fired electricity should give pause. Gas units utilise Australia’s increasing natural gas supply from domestic fields and liquefied imports. So, both conventional electricity and gas come with environmental trade-offs.

Ultimately, the highest efficiency ratings and managing environmental footprints point many Aussie homeowners towards solar or heat pump electric systems. However, upfront system costs and home compatibility also weigh the gas versus electric decision. There’s no universally ideal option between the two.

Ongoing Maintenance Requirements and System Lifespan

Maintenance commitments shouldn’t be overlooked when evaluating long-term costs. Gas systems generally necessitate more regular upkeep than electric units. Gas burners and ventilation components need periodic inspection, cleaning and calibration to preserve efficiency and safety. These maintenance costs add up over time.

Electric models feature simpler internal mechanics with less servicing demands. Additionally, the operational lifespan of gas units trails electric — 10-15 years for gas tanks versus 15-20 years on many electric heaters before requiring replacement.

Electric water heaters feature lower recurring maintenance charges, and their extended equipment longevity spreads total costs over more years of reliable hot water delivery.

Factoring in both regular upkeep commitments and the total serviceable lifespan of each system provides the full picture of ownership costs beyond just upfront pricing. Appliances requiring less long-term servicing and replacement generally offer consumers better lifetime value despite potentially higher initial purchase expenses.


The Verdict: Which is Cheaper?

The answer to whether it’s cheaper to heat water with gas or electricity is not straightforward. It depends on the current prices of gas and electricity in your area, the efficiency of your selected heater, the installation costs, maintenance costs, and your personal usage patterns.

Tips for Reducing Water Heating Costs

Regardless of the type of water heater you choose, there are ways to reduce your water heating costs:

  • Reduce Hot Water Usage: Install low-flow showerheads and faucets to minimise water usage.
  • Insulate Your Water Heater: Adding insulation can reduce standby heat losses.
  • Regular Maintenance: Keep your water heater in optimal condition through regular check-ups.

Make The Right Choice For Your Home

There’s no universal champion in the intricate dance of cost and efficiency between gas and electric water heating. The most economical choice for your home in Brisbane hinges on a blend of local energy tariffs, the efficiency of the heater model you select, the specifics of installation in your residence, and the pattern of your household’s water use.

For Brisbane residents, where the climate and energy market may favour one option over the other, getting personalised advice becomes even more critical. That’s where The Brisbane Plumbers come into play. With years of experience and a deep understanding of local conditions, The Brisbane Plumbers can help you navigate through the complexities of choosing the best water heating system for your home.

Don’t let the decision overheat your mind. Reach out to The Brisbane Plumbers for expert guidance and installation services that ensure you’re making the most cost-effective and energy-efficient decision for your home. We’re here to help you save money, enjoy reliable hot water, and reduce your environmental footprint, all at the same time.

Contact The Brisbane Plumbers today and take a confident step towards optimising your home’s water heating system. Our friendly team is ready to provide you with the insights you need and the quality service you deserve.