Personal Finance

Is it cheaper to boil water for tea with a gas hob or an electric kettle?

We were just asked this question, and it's a great one, so the team at NimbleFins ran an experiment to find out. One method is definitely cheaper, but there are reasons why you might still opt for the more expensive method despite astronomical energy prices. Here's what we found.

Note: we've rerun the figures with the current per kWh price caps of £0.10 for gas and £0.36 for electricity.

Gas is a lot cheaper (roughly 1/3 the price of electricity per kWh) but is it really cheaper to run appliances on gas? While gas is definitely cheaper per kWh, electric appliances can work faster, reducing the amount of time you're using energy. Since energy costs are top of mind and every pound counts, we investigated to find out if switching from electric to gas can save you money.

If you have the option of using gas or electricity for a certain function, like boiling water for your cuppa on a gas hob vs. using an electric kettle, which is the cheaper option?

The gas vs. electricity tea experiment

To find out if it costs more to boil water for tea with an electric kettle or a gas hob, we carried out an experiment. We timed how long it takes to boil water in an electric kettle and on a gas hob, then calculated the cost of the electricity or gas that was used over each time period.

We ran the experiment twice—once with enough water for one standard cup of tea and once with enough water for three cups of tea.

For the gas hob test, we used a small 1kW burner and a small stainless steel pot with a lid. It took 5 minutes to boil water for one cup of tea and 11 minutes 40 seconds to boil water for 3 cups of tea.

For the electric kettle test, we used a 3kW electric kettle (which is standard energy consumption for a kettle). It took 1 minute to boil water for one cup of tea and 2 minutes 14 seconds to boil water for 3 cups of tea.

When you take into account the cost of gas and electricity, we found that it's cheaper to boil water on a gas hob than in an electric kettle.

For one cup of tea, the cost was 0.8p/cup on the gas hob and 1.8p/cup with the electric kettle.

However, for larger volumes of water, there was less of a difference between the two methods—but the gas hob method was still cheaper. When boiling three cups worth of water, the cost was 0.6p/cup with the hob and 1.3p/cup with the electric hob. This showed that the electric kettle became more efficient with larger volumes of water, perhaps because once the heating rod is hot is works more efficiently.

Gas Hob or Electric Kettle: Which is Cheaper for a Cuppa?For 1 cup of teaFor 3 cups of tea
Gas hobElectric kettleGas hobElectric kettle
kW of heating source1kW3kW1kW3kW
Time to boil water5 minutes1 minute11 minutes 40 seconds2 minutes 14 seconds
kWh used0.08kWh (1kW * 5 minutes / 60 minutes)0.05kWh (3kW * 1 minute / 60 minutes)0.19kWh (1kW * 11.67 minutes / 60 minutes)0.11kWh (3kW * 2.23 minutes / 60 minutes)
Energy cost by source10p/kWh (gas)36p/kWh (electric)10p/kWh (gas)36p/kWh (electric)
Cost to boil all the water0.8p1.8p1.9p4p
Cost per cup of tea0.8p1.8p0.6p1.3p

Note: these figures use estimated costs of energy of 10p/kWh for gas and 36p/kWh for electricity.

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Why an electric kettle may still be better

Gas may be cheaper, but you may still want to use an electric kettle to boil water for your tea or coffee. Here are a few of the reasons:

  • There is a risk of leaving a pot of water on the hob for longer than necessary (e.g. not turning the hob off as soon as it starts to boil), thereby reducing the economic benefit (because the gas hob doesn't click off like kettle when the water has boiled).
  • There is a risk of forgetting the pot on the hob, boiling the water away and ruining the pot (or worse).
  • Using an electric kettle only saves 1-2p per cup, so the savings amount to pence not pounds.

In the case of a cup of tea, it may not be worth losing the convenience of an electric kettle to save a few pence. But the experiment is still really useful because it does show that the electric option costs 2X-3X the cost of the gas option. While we're talking pence per use here, there could be other circumstances where the savings could amount to pounds and where households can save significantly by switching from electric to gas. For instance, if you have an electric shower and a gas-powered shower, you're likely to save money by leaving the electric shower high and dry for now.

Other gas vs. electric studies? Feedback?

Hi readers! Does this answer your questions? Please let us know in the comments section below. And if you are curious about other 'gas vs. electric' situations, please let us know in the comments section below as well and we will try to run an analysis of those if we can. It will take a group effort to get through the energy crisis and we will contribute with our data work in any way we can. Thank you.

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Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the CEO, Co-founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.

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