Comparing Heat Pumps vs. Gas Water Heaters for the Most Efficient Water Heating

One of the hardest decisions you will face when it comes to water heating projects is the choice between heat pumps and gas water heaters. Okay, maybe that might be an exaggeration, but it is pretty important decision when you're shopping for a new water heater. Water heaters are necessary for our daily life. They make shower time more pleasurable and other household chores as well.

Heat pumps vs. gas water heaters: Things to consider

However, heating water can consume a lot of energy and might account for a large percent of your energy bills. According to the US Department of Energy, water heating accounts for 14-18% of your utility bills. So, it makes sense that you would want to choose an energy-efficient water heater and save.

Now, that's the problem. Gas water heaters (particularly the tankless variety) usually use less energy than electric water heaters, meaning that they're energy-efficient and often Energy Star approved, which brings more savings.

Naturally, you might want to gravitate towards gas heaters for your home. Before you purchase your next water heater, you should also consider heat pump water heaters or hybrids. These hybrids are often 2-3 times more efficient than the most efficient gas or electric unit.

Yes, we understand how confusing it can get, which is why we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of each type of water heaters. By the time you're done reading this, you should be able to make an informed decision.

5 benefits of heat pump water heaters

Rheem Prestige heat pumpRheem Prestige heat pump

Basically, heat pump water heaters are hybrids because they use two methods to heat water. The way a hybrid operates is that it takes the heat from the air and makes use of it. The chief benefit of this is energy saving. But, if there is an increase in hot water demand, the hybrid heater can switch to electricity and operate simultaneously. 

As such, more people are becoming aware of the benefits of heat pump water heaters. For example, the Voltex hybrid water heater, has an energy factor (EF/UEF) rating of 3.24. This makes it ultra-efficient, and Energy Star qualified. You can often find utility companies, sellers, or even the government offer discounts and tax breaks.

Actually, by switching from an electric heater to a heat pump water heater, you can make up to 60% savings annually.

Here are the top 5 benefits of heat pumps.

  • Heat pumps are ultra-efficient, so they use less energy and save more money.
  • They heat water quickly.
  • They heat, cool, and dehumidify the area.
  • Modern hybrids use advanced electronics and several operating modes.
  • Easy installation and low maintenance.

5 benefits of gas water heaters

AO Smith water heaterAO Smith Vertex water heater

Of course, this does not mean that gas water heaters are not without benefits. Depending on where you live, a gas water heater could help you save on energy costs. Again, the fact that it works without electricity means that you're not stranded when there's a power outage.

Here are the top 5 benefits of gas water heaters:

  • Gas water heaters can heat water two times faster than electric heaters.
  • Variety of types available.
  • Energy cost savings, especially with condensing and tankless type.
  • The rapid recovery rate for enhanced comfort level.
  • Performance and efficiency do not change with the climate or weather conditions.

So, it's easy to see that both kinds of water heaters have their benefits. At this stage, you might be a little confused about which is best for you. This is why we are outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each kind below.

Advantages of choosing a heat pump water heater

Energy efficiency

Interestingly, heat pump water heaters have higher energy efficiency. Because they move heat from the warmer body (air, water, ground) to water, it means that they use less electricity and less energy than electric water heaters.

Dual heating source

Again, having two technologies working together or separately is a huge advantage. It means that you can easily engage or disengage heating elements to heat pump operation when the need arises. Actually, the Rheem Professional Prestige series hybrid water heaters (with 3.55 - 3.70 UEF) have four operating modes allowing users to choose one which fits the present situation the most:

  • Energy saver
  • High demand
  • Heat pump
  • Electric 

Space cooling

And, if you live in temperate climes, having a heat pump water heater is an advantage because it maximizes heating while cooling your space, which could help save on air conditioning costs.

Low maintenance costs

Also, hybridss are built to last. The Rheem Professional Prestige Series, for instance, have a 10-year limited warranty. This means, in the long run, you spend less on maintenance.

Disadvantages of choosing a heat pump water heater

Initial upfront cost

Basically, if you decide on a heat pump water heater, you should be ready to shell out a bit more. That's because they cost a lot more than the regular electric water heater. Also, while these might be easy to install, it's not something you should DIY unless you have lots of plumbing experience.


Then, there's also the fact that these hybrid water heaters are rather noisy because of the running fan. Of course, you can always install yours in the basement or in your garage to avoid this.

Advantages of selecting a gas water heater

Can work without electricity

For instance, if there's a power outage, having a gas water heater will be an advantage because it works without electricity.

High recovery rate

Now, this is very important if you have a large household or a heavy demand for hot water. Gas water heaters have a rapid recovery rate that ensures you are kept in hot water as long as it’s needed.

For example, the Vertex 100 can generate a flow of 4 gallons per minute and provide an efficiency of over 90%. That's almost like a never-ending supply of hot water.

Energy efficiency

Importantly, gas water heaters are energy efficient. Naturally, since they don't heat using electricity, you save on energy costs. It's a good idea to get one that qualifies for Energy Star and has ultra-low emissions.

Disadvantages of selecting a gas water heater

Expensive to Install

It's a fact that though gas water heaters are cheap to run, they are not so affordable to install. This is because you will need to install a ventilation system and gas piping as well. So, you could do it yourself, but we won't advise that. You probably should get a professional plumber or gas technician (licensed) for this one.

Access to gas

Naturally, if you live in a place where gas is piped to your home, this is not a problem. However, if natural gas is not available in your area and you still want to use a gas water heater, you should be getting a propane tank, pipes installed, and gas delivered regularly.

Safety issues

Okay, we don't like to think about this, but where you're using gas for anything, safety will be an issue. There's always the concern about a gas explosion, mainly if regular maintenance isn't carried out.

Features to look for

Energy efficiency

First, it is important to consider the energy factor of the water heater you intend to purchase. Whether a heat pump water heater or a gas water heater, energy efficiency is crucial to your overall energy costs. To determine the energy efficiency of a water heater, you can use the Energy Factor - EF, or Universal Energy Factor - UEF. Generally, the higher the energy factor, the higher the energy efficiency.

Generally speaking, hybrid water heaters tend to have a higher energy factor than gas heaters.

Storage capacity

Second, you need to determine just how much hot water is enough. The size of your household and the demand for hot water will also affect your choice.

A gas water heater like the Vertex 100 Power Direct Vent might be best for a constant flow of hot water. However, a heat pump water heater works just fine for smaller and large households. It depends on your needs.

Length of warranty

Because the maintenance cost also figures in the long-term costs of a water heater, the warranty length is important. The Rheem Professional Prestige series hybrid water heaters, for instance, have a 10-year limited warranty, while the Vertex 100, on the other hand, has a 6-year limited warranty.

Heat pumps vs. gas water heaters: Which is better?

Well, we can't tell you which to go for because your decision should be based on your needs. But after going through the advantages and disadvantages of each type of water heater, we hope the decision is easier.

If you need to contact a water heater expert, you can do it here.

Most importantly, you need to take quick stock of your circumstances. Where you live, if you have access to fuel, the size of your household, and so on. But first, learn how to size a water heater. Once you have a good idea of your needs, it's easier to know which water heater best suits those needs. You could always go through our site for more information.

Get Help from a Local Plumber. FREE Estimates!

You might like these articles about different water heater types