Energy sources—water heaters

Considering the pros and cons

Consumers often choose to use the same energy source for water heaters that we use for space heating. This is a preference, not a requirement. It pays to compare water heaters by the fuel types available in your area.

Electric
Models come in a wide array of sizes; need no venting; and are easy to install. They cannot supply hot water during a power failure and take quite a bit of time to reheat.

Natural gas
Models come in a variety of sizes, types and efficiencies; can be vented through a chimney or wall; and can provide hot water during power failures if they have continuous pilot lights. They require adequate airflow for combustion.

Propane
Models have the same pros and cons as natural gas units but propane is a more expensive fuel. Units require a dedicated storage tank and scheduled fuel delivery.

Oil
Models come in limited types and sizes, can be vented through a wall and sealed. They require adequate airflow for combustion, a dedicated storage tank and scheduled fuel delivery; and cannot supply hot water during power outages.

See a handy, detailed comparison chart in Chapter 2 of our Water Heat Guide [PDF - 2.8 MB].