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Does a Gas Water Heater Need Electricity?

do gas water heaters need electricity to work?

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Will Gas Water Heaters Work Without Electricity? Insights Into Gas Water Heater Operations

Does a gas water heater need electricity? You may think that a gas water heater only uses gas as its fuel source to heat the water in your home. However, some water heater models use or require electricity for certain functions. Due to its design and specific features, a gas water heater may need electricity to work. Below, we will cover how gas water heaters work and what models require electricity. We will also discuss how gas hot water heaters function during power outages to prepare you for an extended time without power.

What Is a Gas Water Heater?

Gas water heaters utilize natural gas or propane to heat water in a storage tank before it gets used and distributed throughout your home. Gas water heaters are known for their incomparable efficiency and reliability, since gas is a cheaper power source than electricity, leading to overall cost savings despite gas water heaters costing more upfront.

What Is a Pilot Light?

Gas water heaters use a continuously lit pilot light to heat your home’s water. Gas water heaters should work during a power outage, since electricity is only used to spark the pilot light and is unneeded for the continual operation of the unit as long as the pilot light remains lit. Sometimes, however, your pilot light may keep going out and will need to be relit.

Traditional Gas Water Heaters

Traditional gas water heaters with a standing pilot light are designed to operate without electricity, relying on mechanical and thermal processes to function. A traditional water heater will be reliable during a power outage because it will provide continuous hot water as long as hot water remains in the tank. Plus, you can feel comfortable knowing fewer parts may fail because the system isn’t as complex as others.

Here’s how traditional gas water heaters operate without electricity:

  • Pilot light ignition – ignites gas flowing to the main burner to heat water.
  • Manual lighting – pilot light is manually lit using a match or built-in button. 
  • Continuous flame – pilot light provides a flame that is always on.
  • Thermocouple operation
  • Heat sensor – generates a small electrical current when heated by the flame.
  • Safety mechanism – a current that helps to avoid gas leaks from the water heater.
  • Gas control valve and thermostat
  • Temperature sensing – the thermostat is a mechanical device that reacts to temperature fluctuations.
  • Gas regulation – gas flows to the main burner when the gas control valve opens.
  • Main burner ignition
  • Heating cycle – once water is at the desired temperature, the gas control valve closes so the gas no longer flows to the burner. 
  • Heat retention and insulation
  • Insulation – the water heater is insulated to retain heat, which helps during a power outage.

Modern Electric Ignition Gas Water Heaters

Modern gas hot water heaters usually require electricity to operate; they have electronic components for ignition, control, and safety functions. To ensure that they work during a power outage, you will want to have a backup power source that is connected to the following:

  • Backup battery
  • Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system
  • Thermopile technology 
  • Manual ignition options
  • Generators

Do Gas Water Heaters Work During Power Outages?

A traditional gas water heater will continue to provide hot water during a power outage as long as the standing pilot light remains lit. Gas water heaters with electronic ignition will not operate during a power outage unless they have a backup power source, such as a backup battery or generator. Tankless and condensing gas water heaters will not function during a power outage without a backup power source. 

Tank vs. Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless gas water heaters do not store hot water. They heat water on demand using a gas burner. Cold water flows through the system to the heat exchanger, where it is heated by the gas burner before being delivered to the faucet. Most tankless water heaters use electronic controls to manage water flow, temperature, and ignition. Traditional tank water heaters with a standing pilot light do not require electricity to operate. The pilot light is always lit and ignites the gas burner to heat the water. 

Maintaining Hot Water Supply Without Electricity

You can initiate some solutions to maintain your hot water supply in your home when a power outage occurs. You can get a battery backup system to help provide temporary power during an outage. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can be applied to tankless water heaters to maintain performance if there is an interruption in power. Generators are another solution to provide reliable power during extended outages. They can be connected to a tankless water heater to continue operation. 

It’s essential to have the right water heater for your home but you need to know the power requirements in your home. Water heaters can function with gas or electricity, but you have to pay attention to the design and type of water heater to see how they operate when there is a power outage. Tankless gas water heaters generally don’t work during a power outage, but traditional gas water heaters will work during a power outage. You can also find solutions to maintain your home’s hot water with backup power sources. Talk with the plumbing experts at Logan Services today to find the right water heater that best suits your home, needs, and power requirements. We are always happy to help!

Final Thoughts

Gas water heaters offer greater overall efficiency, reliability, and energy savings compared to electric units. The question of whether your gas hot water heater works without electricity or not depends on the type of water heater you have, but traditional gas-powered models with a standing pilot light don’t require electricity, while modern units with electronic ignitions do. Need help? Don’t let a power outage pour cold water on your home comfort. Contact Logan Services now to get your hot water heater running in top condition with our fast, friendly maintenance services today!


How to know if your water heater requires electrical power?

To find out if your water heater requires electrical power, identify the type of water heater, check the manufacturer’s specifications, and inspect the unit for electrical connections, control panels, and specific components. If you don’t know, you can always consult a professional.

Will my gas water heater work without electricity?

Knowing if your water heater will work without electricity depends on its design and components. You will want to know what type of water heater you have in your home and then check its power source. You could also check with the manufacturer or consult a Logan Services professional with your questions. The team at Logan Services would be happy to answer any questions and even inspect your system to determine how it works with/without electricity. One system that will definitely work without electricity is a traditional water heater with a standing pilot light.

Does a gas water heater need an electrical outlet?

Modern gas water heaters with electronic ignition, tankless models, condensing models, and power/direct vent models generally require an electrical outlet to power their electronic components. One model that does not use an outlet is a traditional gas water heater with a pilot light.  

Can I shower during a power outage?

To shower during a power outage, you will need to have a traditional gas hot water heater with hot water still left in the tank. If you do have to shower while the power’s out, be sure to keep it short in order to make your hot water reserve last!

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