Water Heaters

Time To Replace Your Gas Water Heater?


Gas water heaters are usually the second largest contributors of climate change-causing greenhouse gases in your home, behind your oil or natural gas furnace. So, if you’re looking for a climate friendlier way to heat your water, here are some options.

FYI – if your current water heater is more than 10 years old you should be looking to replace it sooner rather than later. It’s always best to make these changes on your schedule rather than on the appliance’s schedule (i.e. – your water heater bites the dust and you need to replace it FAST, which means you don't have the time to make the choice you really want to live with).


Climate-Friendly Water Heater Options


  1. Electric Tank Water Heater

    Looks and works just like your old gas-powered water heater but uses electrical coils to heat the water rather than a gas burner.


    • Immediate access to hot water
    • Steady supply if unit is sized properly for your household’s needs
    • Lower upfront cost


    • You can run out of hot water during high demand periods.
    • Higher operating costs.

    NOTE – some electric tank water heaters can be fitted with a timer so that they only heat the water during the lowest electrical cost period of the day (usually overnight). This can help mitigate some of the operating costs.

  2. Heat Pump Water Heater

    This is a large water storage tank with an attached heat pump that heats your water.


    • Significantly lower operating costs because of the efficiency of the heat pump
    • Produces the fewest greenhouse gases
    • Long life span
    • May qualify for some rebates


    • Higher upfront costs
    • May be less efficient in cold, unheated basements, as they draw their heat from the surrounding air
    • May not work in smaller homes because there’s not enough air in the basement to draw from
    • May not keep up with hot water demand during peak periods
    • Can reduce room temperature in basement (some people reduce this impact by putting their heat pump water heater in a smaller enclosed room).

  3. Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater

    This is a heat pump water heater with an electric back up. During normal or low-water usage periods it uses a heat pump to heat the water. During high demand periods it switches to a built-in heating coil to keep up with demand.


    • Lower operating costs during normal-low usage
    • Produces fewer greenhouse gases
    • Can keep up with a growing family


    • Higher upfront costs
    • May not work in heat pump mode in smaller homes because there’s not enough air in the basement to draw from
    • Can reduce room temperature in basement


Other Options You May Come Across


  • Solar Water Heater

    These systems place a thermal collector panel on the roof of your home. A fluid circulates through the panel and is heated by the sun’s rays. The heat from the fluid is transferred to the water in the home’s hot water tank for distribution throughout the home.

    These systems work well in southern, sunny climates but are less effective in Toronto, especially in winter when sunlight is often at a premium.

  • Electric Tankless/On-Demand Water Heater

    These units work well when demand is low (i.e. – when asked to supply a single room or appliance) but are less effective when used in a centralized hot water system that supplies the whole house.


Which option is right for you?


That depends on a few short- and long-term factors:

  • Installation budget (short-term factor)
  • Operating budget (long-term factor)
  • Size of family/hot water demand
  • Climate concerns (long-term factor)
  • Space

If you’re looking for something that’s the least expensive to install now and you’re willing to pay more in ongoing utility costs, then an electric tank water heater is probably the way to go. Utility costs can be mitigated by using a timer and heating water at night when costs are lowest.

If you’re more interested in reducing your carbon footprint and don’t mind paying more upfront, then a heat pump water heat is likely your best choice.

If you want to do what’s right for the planet but need a lot of hot water at times, the hybrid heat pump option could be right for you.

NOTE - Some vendors will offer to lease you a hot water heater, but the lifetime cost is typically lower if you are able to purchase it outright.

Whichever of these systems you choose, moving away from a natural gas water heater means you will be reducing your home’s greenhouse gas emissions significantly, today and for years to come.