Gas v electric water heater operating cost
With the rising cost of fuel, a propane water heater is expensive to operate.
Figuring out the annual operating cost of a water heater involves consideration of the heater's efficiency and the cost of the fuel needed to run it. When you try to compare two water heaters that use different fuel sources, the math gets tricky in a hurry. When you throw in the escalating cost of propane, a direct comparison between a propane water heater and an electric one becomes even more difficult to sort out.
A water heater's Energy Factor is a measure you can use to directly compare one heater's energy efficiency with another's - the higher the Energy Factor number, the more efficient the heater - and a heater's Energy Factor rating is a significant indicator of the unit's relative overall operating cost. The number, which is derived from a test specified by the Department of Energy, takes into account heat losses within the heater and its piping, and the heater's ability to transfer heat to the water in its tank. Propane water heaters typically have Energy Factors between .5 and .65, while electric heaters have Energy Factors around .9. The Energy Factor doesn't take into account the cost of fuel or electricity, so although it's a good first step in determining a heater's operating cost, it can't be used by itself to compare the operating cost of propane and electric heaters.
Recovery efficiency, which is accounted for in the Energy Factor, measures the heater's ability to heat water quickly. Propane water heaters generally offer much higher recovery efficiency than electric water heaters. That means that a propane heater needs to store less hot water in order to keep up with demand, which means that you may need a smaller tank than you would with an electric heater. A smaller tank means less energy devoted to keeping a large volume of water hot, which translates into lower operating costs.
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