Electric vs. Gas Boilers

Posted by James Memije on Dec 1, 2015 4:07:00 AM
James Memije




Which is a better boiler: gas or electric? Unfortunately, when choosing a boiler, there is no objective answer to this question. However, for certain needs, criteria, or circumstances, one is often superior to the other. You should inform yourself on the differences between these two types of boilers so as to make the best decision. The main three concerns for most homeowners are price, efficiency, and space.


Price is typically the first concern of a homeowner looking for a new boiler. Luckily, in Toronto, the answer to which type of boiler is cheaper is an easy one: gas is much cheaper than electricity here in Ontario. An electric boiler can cost you up to four times what a gas boiler would cost you, simply due to the energy costs.[1][2] This heightened cost is somewhat offset by the characteristically inexpensiveness of the electronic boiler system.


In essence, if you opt for the cheaper electric boiler unit, you will end up paying more in the long run. Conversely, the lower energy fees of a gas boiler will allow you to recoup some of the extra cash paid upfront when you buy a gas boiler. Thus, the question is whether you want to save in the long-run or save in the short-term.


Moreover, realize that if you plan on selling your house or if you are a landlord installing a boiler for a potential home buyer, a gas boiler is generally a better investment, as it can help the (next) homeowner save money on his or her energy bill. That is, a gas boiler can add value to your home. This is something an electric boiler cannot do, so ensure you weigh both the short-term and long-term costs before you go with the (initially) cheaper option.



In terms of pure efficiency, electric boilers beat gas boilers. Electric boilers operate at close to 100% efficiency, while gas boilers operate under 90% efficiency, with that efficiency dropping during its lifetime as a result of wear and tear.[3] Nevertheless, the extra efficiency of an electric boiler does not equate to savings; despite its higher efficiency, the electric boiler is still more expensive to operate than the gas boiler simply because of the cost of electricity.


So why bother mentioning efficiency? If you’re concerned about the environment and energy conservation, your believe system might predispose you to the electric boiler. An electric boiler does not directly contribute to climate change or wasted resources.


Of course, when you think deeply enough, you will consider the origin of that electricity. If it is from a power plant, your electric boiler is indirectly running on fossil fuels. But if your electricity source is from solar or wind power, you can rest easy knowing you are not harming the planet.


When it comes down to it, natural gas exhaust is not that harmful of a chemical. Though it is a fossil fuel, it is relatively clean. Environmentally conscious homeowners should not fret too much over using a gas boiler.



Installation might be a concern for you. Some homeowners simply do not have the option of installing a gas boiler because of the lack of access to gas mains or the inability to vent flue gasses. Put simply, a gas boiler has two requirements an electric boiler does not: You must have a gas main grid near your home, and you must install piping to vent flue gasses from your basement to outdoor.


If you lack access to the gas mains, you can use propane, storing your own gas at home. In this case, you will rely on a propane delivery service for your gas supply, requiring you to carefully monitor your gas use so as not to order too much or too little. Propane is slightly more expensive than natural gas but still cheaper than electricity.


Finally, if space is a concern, the electric boiler can be enticing, as it is more compact. Even smaller, a combi boiler, which doubles as a water heater, can save you both space and money. But if you are already satisfied with your current water heater, just looking for a boiler, and care greatly about freeing up space, the electric boiler just might be the best choice.


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[1] http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/Consumers/Electricity/Electricity+Prices

[2] http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/Consumers/Natural+Gas/Natural+Gas+Rates/Natural+Gas+Rates+-+Historical

[3] http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dleg/EO_03-09_271516_7.pdf

Topics: boiler install

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