Compare Gas, Electric, and Oil Water Heaters – Pros and Cons

This article compares gas, electric and oil water heaters and shows the main pros and cons, so you can decide which type will be the best for water heating in your home. The review covers the tank-type water heaters.

Electric water heaters

Electric water heaterWestinghouse


  • Electric water heaters are cheap to buy
  • Constructed simple
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Easy to troubleshoot
  • Components are easy to replace and maintain
  • Can be installed almost anywhere inside the home, such as table-top in the kitchen
  • Do not require venting
  • Do not require surrounding indoor air to operate
  • High efficient and Energy Star models available such as the heat pumps
  • Low direct energy loss as the heating elements are fully immersed, so almost all the energy is transferred to the water
  • Very little interaction with the space heating and cooling system
  • Used in the solar water heating systems as the backup
  • Many sizes and several types available


  • Depend on the electricity, so there is no hot water during the power outages
  • It takes longer for hot water recovery
  • Some older houses might require a change of the electric panel and wiring to accommodate the high amps
  • In some regions, electricity rates are more expensive than other fuel types

Natural gas water heaters

AO Smith gas water heaterAO Smith


  • Natural gas water heaters heat water fast
  • Cheap fuel when compared to propane, oil and, electricity
  • High energy efficiency
  • Energy Star models
  • Flexible venting; some models vent the products of combustion through the chimney, other through the roof, sidewall, horizontally or vertically, with or without the electric blower. Some do require the combustion air from inside some don’t, such as a direct sealed vent.
  • Some gas water heaters operate without the electricity, while most with
  • Condensing technology available
  • Can use advanced electronics and smart technology for easy troubleshooting and monitoring
  • Many sizes and efficiencies available

emergency plumber


  • Complex
  • The location depends on the venting option and location of the gas line
  • Equipped with more elements so prone to failure more frequently
  • Some power vent models are, due to the built-in electric blower, noisy
  • Some models require openings on the wall or door for combustion air intake
  • Gas spillages can occur
  • Carbon monoxide can leak inside the house
  • Power vent models need electricity to operate

Propane gas water heaters


Propane water heaters have almost the same characteristics as natural gas models, which includes fast recovery, energy efficiency, venting, and installation. The only difference is that the propane is coming not from the utility pipeline but storage tanks delivered by propane trucks.


  • Essentially what it applies on water heaters powered by natural gas, applies here
  • Propane is more expensive than natural gas
  • Propane storage tank required to store gas
  • Delivery of propane gas must be planned
  • Gas spillages can occur
  • The danger of carbon monoxide emission
  • Power vent models cannot operate during the power outages

Oil-powered water heaters


  • The fastest recovery in water heating
  • High input rates
  • Flexible venting
  • Sealed combustion models do not require inside air for combustion


  • An oil storage tank required
  • Delivery of oil must be planned on time
  • Fewer models available than gas or electric
  • Requires electricity to operate
> > Comparing gas vs. electric vs. oil water heaters

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