Do Gas Water Heaters Use Electricity?

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Electricity powers many appliances in our homes.

Using a water heater that is fueled by natural gas is a popular choice for many homeowners. Not only are modern models extremely efficient, but these appliances are also very safe. (The alternative is to use an electric water heater.) Even though the water heater uses natural gas as its primary fuel, some models do indeed use electricity to get the pilot light burning. This piezoelectric starter makes a spark, which ignites the natural gas to start heating the water you'll use to take your nice warm shower.


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The Pilot Light

The pilot light burns constantly, ensuring that your water heater is always ready to kick into action. Standard pilot lights must be started the old-fashioned way: you light a match, start the gas and light the flame yourself. Even though this procedure is pretty safe, using an electric starter is safer and easier.


To light the pilot of a particular Kenmore water heater, all you have to do is make sure that the igniter button, electrode and wire are in place, and then depress the button. If the pilot leaps to life, you know that the igniter worked. While gas water heaters use electricity to activate the igniter, they are not plugged into the wall like other appliances.


Electric Starter

The electric starter works because of the properties of piezoelectric materials. According to Piezomaterials, these are substances that, when placed under physical stress, produce electrical voltage. If you squeeze certain ceramics or crystals, you can produce enough electricity to produce a spark big enough to turn natural gas into a calm blue pilot light flame.

Cost Considerations

Depending on the tank size and other options, an electric water heater will usually cost less than a gas water heater of comparable size. As with any decision, you shouldn't make your conclusion based upon this initial cost alone, since the cost of operating the water heater also needs to be considered.


Lower Long-Term Costs for Gas

According to Consumer Reports, running a gas water heater costs approximately half as much as an electric water heater. Further, this cost difference can be overcome in less than a year. To keep the operation costs as low as possible, be sure to insulate all the hot water pipes and the cold water pipe leaving the water heater.


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Ethan Pendleton

Ethan Pendleton is a teacher and writer in Columbus, Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Ohio State University at Marion and teaches writing in various capacities in his community.