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Changing a Gas Water Heater to Electric | What To Know

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You can switch your gas water heater to an electric one. This conversion typically involves disconnecting the gas lines that connect to the gas water heater and replacing them with electrical wires. I recommend hiring a professional for the job, as it may be a complicated process. 

The rest of this article will discuss some of the most important factors to keep in mind when changing a gas water heater to electric. These include the pros and cons of both options, the steps involved, etc. Read on to learn more. 

How To Change a Gas Water Heater to Electric

Technician working on a water heater

Whether you’re tired of your old gas heater or want to derive the benefits of shifting to an electric heater (as I will discuss later), you can rest easy knowing that this can be done. Essentially, this will involve replacing the gas lines with electrical wires. 

Because this can be a complicated process and due to safety concerns, I recommend hiring a professional to help you with this conversion. However, If you decide to make this your own fun home DIY project, below are some of the steps involved in switching from a gas heater to an electric one. 

1. Connect an Electrical Wire to the Water Heater Closet

The first step in switching from a gas water heater to an electrical alternative is to run an electrical wire from the panel to the water heater closet. 

Because of the amount of current that will need to pass this wire, I recommend getting at least a 10-gauge electrical wire. For safety reasons, you will also need a double 30-amp fuse. This electric wire (available on Amazon) is an excellent option. This electrical wire measures 50 feet (15.24 meters) in length, giving you plenty of coverage.

It is abrasion-resistant and withstands exposure to solvents, oil, and chemicals for enduring quality. Alternatively, you can get this 30 gauge silicone wire spool if you want more coverage. This stranded tinned copper electrical wire measures 100 feet (30.5 meters) long and features low impedance and premium silicone rubber construction.

During this step, it is vital to assess your electric circuit breaker panel to ensure that it can handle the electrical demands of an electric water heater. According to Mobile Home Repairs, you may have to upgrade to a larger panel if your existing board cannot handle the demands of your new heater. 

This wire should run underneath your home and link to the water heater closet. 

2. Turn Your Water and Gas Off and Drain the Tank

The next step is to turn off the water and gas. Once you have both of these turned off, drain any hot water left in the tank. To do this, you can engage the lever on the pressure relief valve and drain any remaining water using a garden hose. This step is not optional, as you can’t safely remove the gas line without doing this first.

3. Remove or Disconnect the Gas Line

After draining the water from the tank, the next step is to disconnect or remove the gas line. If you intend to use a conversion kit such as this one, found on Amazon, that allows you to switch between gas and electric, you can simply disconnect the gas line.

Alternatively, if you will not use the gas line anymore, I recommend removing it entirely. Cap the open end when doing this to prevent gas leaks. If the gas line connecting to your gas water heater runs through the vents and/or chimney, you should remove the entire gas line. 

Man removing or disconnecting a gas line

4. Replace the Water Lines and Extract the Heater

Once you have removed the gas line, the next step is to remove the heater. Remember, the old water lines will likely have cut ends and, as such, should not be reused. You will therefore have to make plans on purchasing new ones. 

This is because these old water lines will likely have corroded ends.

5. Install Shut-Off Valve Access Door and Main Water Shut-Off

You will need to cut an opening on your wall. This is where you will have your access door for the water shut-off valve. This access door will be located outside the closet. The next step is to install your main water shut-off valve

Your main water shut-off will come to the front of the access door you just created. This ensures that this main shut-off valve is easily accessible by anyone looking to use the heater. While making this opening in the wall, be careful to avoid damaging any electrical wires that may be running inside your wall. 

6. Seal Any Remaining Holes

Believe it or not, the next step is mainly carried out for pest control. Ensure that you seal any holes left after all the work you have done on the floor or walls. The main objective of this step is to prevent pests from finding their way inside the closet.

I recommend using the Gorilla Waterproof Patch & Seal Tape. This leak repair tape has the dimensions to match most all your sealing needs. It is made from a low-density polyethylene material and has a thick adhesive layer to keep out air, moisture, and critters.

7. Install the New Water Heater

After ensuring that all openings are sealed properly, the next step is to introduce the new water heater into the closet. You will have to install fittings to connect the heater to the water lines. It is easier to install these fittings before introducing your new water tank to take advantage of all the extra space.

Young man installing a new water heater

Once you have installed all the fittings, introduce the new water tank to the closet. Ensure that the shut-offs are also correctly connected. Introduce some water into the tank and turn the water on to check for any leaks.

8. Fill your Tank, and You’re Good To Go

By this stage, all the hard work is already done. Now, it’s just time to fill your storage tank and check for any leaks. Once the water tank is full, connect it to the electrical wire and turn it on. Voila! 

You’re all set. It is important to remember to fill the tank with water before turning the water on. Failure to do this may damage the heating element or rods. 

Gas vs. Electric Water Heater – A Comparison

Before switching from a gas to an electric water heater, it’s crucial first to learn how they compare. 

Functionality

In terms of functionality, both an electric and gas water heater will get the job done. After all, the objective of a water heater is just that, to heat your water. Therefore, the option you choose will largely depend on your personal preferences. 

Therefore, you can not say definitively that one is better than the other in terms of its basic functionality. This notwithstanding, both options have their own drawbacks and strong points. Thus, a case can be made for either option, as discussed below. 

A Case for a Gas Water Heater

Low Monthly Costs

If you’re looking for low monthly costs, you will be best served by a gas water heater. These heaters typically feature lower monthly costs compared to their electric counterparts. 

It is estimated that a gas water heater will cost up to 33 percent less to operate when compared to an electric water heater. Not convinced? Let’s do the math. 

A gas water heater will cost, on average, 30 dollars per month to operate. In contrast, an electric water heater typically costs approximately 42 dollars per month to run. Thus, you can save up to 12 dollars per month on average by opting for the gas option. 

Additionally, gas is much cheaper to use than electricity, at least in most areas. 

Faster Heating Rate

Additionally, as aptly summarized by Forbes, gas water heaters have a higher initial heating rate compared to electric heaters. Therefore, a gas water heater will bring your water to a boil faster than an electric option. 

This is because an electric water heater utilizes heating rods that spread from top to bottom. Thus, heat has to travel along the height of these rods for your heater to heat up. Because heat travels along these rods at a much slower rate, the initial capability of these electric options is much lower. 

On the other hand, a gas water heater utilizes an open flame located at the bottom of the tank. It is thus able to heat up your water much faster than an electric option. 

It Can Be Used When There Is a Power Outage

If you live in an area that is notorious for power outages, a gas water heater will be the better choice for you. Remember, an electric heater will have you relying on electricity. Therefore, you may have to brave bathing with cold water if there is a power outage in your area. 

A Case for an Electric Water Heating System

Low Upfront Costs

An electric water system has significantly lower upfront costs. This means that buying a new gas water heater is more expensive than buying a new electric water system. Granted, the price will fluctuate depending on the brand or model you elect to purchase, whether gas or electric. 

This notwithstanding, if you want a less expensive option, an electric water heater is your best bet. Most electric water heaters will cost around 500 and 600 dollars. In comparison, most gas water heaters cost between 600 and 800 dollars. 

Lower Maintenance

An electric water heater system generally requires less maintenance when compared to an electric water heater. Thus, you will have greater peace of mind when you select an electric heater when compared to a gas heater. 

This is because, for gas water heaters, the gas is prone to collecting gas particles inside the tank. Therefore, you will need to clean the vents regularly. Additionally, you will also need to periodically check all the gas pipes for any leaks as a safety precaution.

You will not have to deal with these concerns when using an electric water heater.

Safety

When you think of gas, one of the main concerns that arise is the risk of gas leaks. Because an electric water heater neither has a gas line nor does it have a pilot light or burner, it is much safer to use. 

Remember, once you install an electric water heater and connect it to the proper voltage, it does not need to be relit for use. You only need to turn it on. In contrast, whenever you turn on a gas water heater, an open flame is relit to heat the water.

Energy Efficiency

While gas water heaters have a higher initial heating rate, they are less energy-efficient. The science is pretty simple. 

For an electric water heater, the water is in contact with the heating rods or elements. In fact, the heating rod is immersed in the water. Consequently, there is minimal heat loss. In contrast, gas water heaters use an open flame to heat the tank. 

For this reason, some of the energy generated escapes through the vent located on the top of the heater. There is, however, no way around this because this vent is indispensable for getting rid of potentially poisonous gasses.

Longevity

In addition to requiring fewer maintenance needs, an electric water heater will serve you longer compared to a gas alternative. I’m talking about an additional two to three years, which definitely comes in handy. 

The expected lifespan for an electric water heater is anywhere from ten to fifteen years. In contrast, most gas water heaters will give you between eight and twelve years of service before they need to be replaced. 

Easier Installation

It is easier to install an electric water heater than a gas water heater. This is because most homes have electricity installed. The same cannot be said for gas, as some homes do not have gas, and you may have to install a gas line.

However, as we are talking about switching from a gas water heater to an electric water heater, I assume you already have gas in your home. In that case, it is easier to switch to electric from gas than from gas to electric if you have already removed the gas line. 

Size Flexibility

Electric water heaters provide more flexibility in terms of size compared to their gas counterparts. You, therefore, have more flexibility depending on the size of space you have in your home to install your closet. 

Gas and electric heaters typically range from 20 to 100 liters in capacity. However, electric water heaters edge the gas water heaters because they can be used as point-of-origin heaters. 

The implication is that electric heaters can be used in small spaces such as laundry rooms or basements. On the other hand, gas heaters tend to be much larger because they must have a vent to eliminate toxic gasses. They also have a network of pipes, so they need much larger spaces. 

What Is the Cost of Switching From a Gas to an Electric Water Heater?

One of the most common questions among those looking to make the switch includes the costs involved. 

As previously stated, a new electric water heater costs between 500 to 600 dollars. Of course, you can get cheaper options for as low as 300 dollars. Installing an electric heater, on the other hand, can cost between 700 to 1,000 dollars. 

The total cost of switching from a gas to an electric water heater is somewhere between $1,000 to $2,000 (rounded figure). Alternatively, you can use an electric water heater conversion kit. 

Such a kit lets you easily switch between gas and electric heating, which can come in handy when there is either no power or if there is a fault in the gas supply. 

Final Thoughts

In closing, changing from a gas to an electric water heater has its own intricacies that you ought to know before making the switch. The process can be either costly and arduous or quick and simple, depending on your understanding of these details. 

As a general rule of thumb, always hire a professional handyman to help you in this conversion. Additionally, it is crucial to assess your unique situation and determine if making the switch suits your current situation. 

Hopefully, these guidelines provide helpful insight to guide your decision.

For more, check out My Generator Breaker Keeps Tripping | Causes and Fixes.

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