Make sure you have a safe and reliable supply of hot water throughout your day – to wash your hands, clothes and dishes, or soak in the tub.

Natural gas water heaters outperform electric models:

  • Cost about one-third as much to operate
  • Recover twice as fast
  • Cut carbon emissions in half

Explore our money-saving tips about buying, sizing, maintaining and safely using a natural gas water heater.

Shopping for Home Water Heaters

When buying a new water heater for your home, we recommend shopping for an energy efficient water heater. A high-efficiency natural gas water heater not only provides enough hot water to meet your family's needs, but it will save you energy and money throughout its lifetime.

Save Money in the Long Run

Even though the purchase price of an energy-efficient water heater may be higher than less-efficient models, they cost less to operate and save you money over time.

  • Energy efficient models have lower operating costs. They typically cancel out price differences from low-efficiency models over the life of the gas water heater.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label to assure you’re buying an energy-efficient water heater that meets rigorous efficiency standards.
Performance Recovery Rate

A natural gas water heater's burner is sized to completely recover in about one hour, regardless of the tank size.

  • A 40- or 75-gallon natural gas water heater recovers in about one hour.
  • An 80-gallon electric tank recovers in about four hours.
Costs & Environmental Impact

Whether you’re most motivated by budget or environmental impact, gas water heaters are a win-win purchase.

  • Operating costs of gas water heaters are typically about 50 percent lower than electric models.
  • Natural gas has half the carbon footprint of electricity, making it a significantly cleaner energy.
A Little Homework is a Big Help

Be a smart shopper with just a little research on water heaters. After reading this page, check out a few more water-heater resources you can rely on:

Sizing Your Water Heater

A properly-sized water heater will deliver the hot water you want when you need it. Water-heater sizing considerations include:

  • Number of bathrooms in home
  • Number of family members & their ages
  • How your family washes dishes and clothes
  • Whether you prefer showers or a soak in the tub
Family Size Demand Gallon Capacity
1-2 people Regular/Low
30 gallons
40-50 gallons
2-3 people Regular/Low
40 gallons
40-50 gallons
3-4 people Regular/Low
40 gallons
50-75 gallons
5+ people Regular/Low
50 gallons
75 gallons

In the water-heater sizing chart above, you can see that the needs of a family of four – with two bathrooms and a clothes washer – is typically met with a 40-gallon gas water heater.

  • If you prefer to bathe instead of shower, you may want to go to a 50 gallon tank.
  • For every additional bathroom in your home, add another 3-1/2 gallons to the tank capacity calculation.
  • If you use an automatic dishwasher, consider adding another five gallons to this total.
  • If you have an extra-large soaker/spa type tub, consider a 75 gallon tank.

These are general guidelines since no two families' hot water use is exactly alike. Keep in mind your family's lifestyle and habits when estimating your household hot water needs.

Maintaining Your Water Heater

Natural gas water heaters are so reliable and easy to maintain that most people never think about their water heater, despite relying on it several times each day. However, if you to extend your water heater’s operating life and keep it at peak energy efficiency, periodic care is important.

General water-heater-maintenance guidelines (follow the manufacturer's recommendations):

  • Keep the burner area clean, free of dust & dirt.
  • Prevent scale – a buildup of minerals – in your water heater by drawing a pail or two of water from the drain valve as often as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Have an older water heater that hasn't been regularly drained? You may want a plumber to perform the maintenance, as your water heater may already have scale deposits that make it impossible to completely close the drain valve after draining water from the tank.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to relight the pilot light (when necessary).
  • Wrap insulation on the hot water delivery pipe between your water heater and the point of use, as well as all pipes running through unheated areas.
Signs of Hot Water Heater Problems
  • You hear a gurgling noise when the water-heater burner is on. This may be a sign of sediment/scale buildup, which can damage your water heater.
  • Water is leaking from your water heater. This may indicate your water heater is failing and presents the risk of flooding and water damage.
  • You frequently run out of hot water, but your household’s usage hasn’t changed. Insufficient hot water is commonly caused by mineral building in the tank. Ensure your water heater is maintained according to manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Your hot water becomes cloudy. If your cold water is clear but your hot water is cloudy it’s a sign of mineral buildup in your water heater tank.

If you’re having water heater trouble, contact a qualified water-heater technician as soon as you can.

Energy Saving Tips

The best way to reduce energy use for water heating is to use less hot water.

  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead to substantially reduce the amount of hot water used per shower.
  • 120 F is a sufficient and safe water temperature for most households. Turn your water heater thermostat to the lowest setting comfortable for you and your family.
  • Clothes washers (laundry) – use the shortest wash cycle and coolest water temperature possible. Make sure your rinse cycle uses cold water.
  • Automatic dishwashers – scrape dishes before placing in the dishwasher. Use cold water for rinsing.
  • Hand-washing dishes – turn rinse water on and off as needed. Consider a dishwasher, which uses less water and energy than washing dishes by hand.
  • Promptly repair leaky faucets. A leak that fills a coffee cup in 10 minutes wastes 3,280 gallons of water a year!
  • Never let water run while brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • When you only need a little water from the tap, use cold water. Hot water drawn into the pipes may never reach the tap and the heat is wasted!
  • Wrap insulation on the hot water delivery pipe to reduce heat loss and energy waste.

Safely Use Natural Gas Water Heaters

Natural gas water heaters are a safe way to heat your household water. As with all home appliances, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and code requirements.

  • Never use or store flammable products near a water heater or any other natural gas or electric appliance. Vapors from appliances can ignite flammable substances like gasoline, solvents or adhesives.
  • A technician should replace chimney or vent connectors containing rust holes or corrosion.
  • Inspect the "cold end' of the flue for ice build-up that could restrict exhaust.
  • Ensure that the fresh-air intake is free of debris, including snow and ice.

NOTE: Manufacturers adopted a technology standard for 30- to 50-gallon water heaters that helps prevent flammable liquids from igniting. Since older water heaters are not equipped with this resistant technology, they are more susceptible to flammable vapors. To minimize the risk of accidents, elevate the water heater at least eighteen inches above the floor. Keep all flammable products in tightly closed, approved containers, stored far away from all appliances and out of the reach of children.

Setting Water Temperature

Turn your water heater to 120 F to save energy and avoid scalding.

  • Some manufacturers set thermostats at 140 F, but most households only need 120 F.
  • Water heated at 140 F also poses a safety hazard of scalding. However, if your dishwasher doesn’t have a booster heater it may require 130 F to 140 F for optimum cleaning.
  • Slow mineral buildup and corrosion in your appliances and pipes by reducing the water heater temp to 120 F. Help your water heater last longer!
  • Save between three to five percent in energy costs for each 10-degree reduction on your water-heater thermostat’s temperature setting.