Electric heaters have a simple and convenient operation and have been rated as the most user-friendly heating method in both residential and commercial buildings. Electric heating in most situations has clear merits over fuel-fired heating even with its primary disadvantage of having higher running costs.
The benefits of electric heating outweigh any operating cost differences to other modes of heating. The use of heat pumps and other high-efficiency electro technologies in electric heaters provides lower operating costs. The cost of heating when using an electric resistance water heater is greater than the cost of using a gas-fired water heater under the same utility rates. However, this difference in cost is frequently overstated by not considering the efficiency of the water heaters.
Fuel-fired heaters present a safety hazard in areas or rooms (garages, storage rooms, or basements) where flammable vapors may be present. Unlike a gas heater, an electric heater is much safer since it does not have the operating problems and hazards that are associated with using combustion to create heat. Also, the draft effect of the heater pilot lights and burners drawn back the vapors into the heater cause it to ignite.
Water heating energy and demand cost are only one of the many parts of the total cost of owning and running a heating system. For other cost components such as design, installation, maintenance, service life, and effect on space conditioning loads, an electric heater typically offers cost advantages over a fuel-fired heater.
Codes and standards may impose special requirements on combustion water heating systems. A variety of codes and standards address the operation of fuel-fired heaters and Electric heaters have no such requirement. These codes and standards mainly dwell on combustion air supplies, exhaust flues, and other features which are not present in electric heating.
Electric heaters are more efficient compared to other heaters and they have lower standby loses as they are much better insulated. They have a wider range of application as electric service is available almost everywhere a water heating system would be installed. They can be readily incorporated into the building and mechanical system designs.
Lastly, an electric heater may require little maintenance with larger systems requiring periodic checks and adjustment of the burners to avoid declines in efficiency. It can also have a longer service life and run clean without producing combustion products that lead to damage of the flue and or blockages. They positively affect the indoor air quality of homes.