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Which is Best? Electric Furnace or Gas Furnace

There are many factors you should take into account when deciding on electric furnace vs. gas furnace. There’s cost, effectiveness, durability and more. Also, there’s safety, how long the unit will last and the effect that installation will have on your home and the inhabitants.

In many cases, furnace selection is largely dependent on fuel availability. Natural gas is the most popular fuel, but the required piping infrastructure is not available in all areas of the country. In these instances, homeowners are limited to propane, fuel oil or electric furnaces. Both oil and propane require fuel storage tanks that are expensive to install and maintain. For those looking to minimize upfront costs, an electric furnace may be an attractive alternative.

Generally, the cost of an electric furnace is lower than the cost of a gas furnace. While your initial investment will be lower at time of purchase, the cost to operate the furnace will be longer for an electrical furnace in the long run.

Another argument for the electrical gas furnace is that they’re usually more quiet and durable than gas counterparts. The lifespan of an electrical unit usually ranges from 20-30 years, and installation is generally quicker than gas as well. Those that choose electric often do so because it’s a minimum disruption to the home environment.

Electric Furnace or Gas FurnaceMaintaining an electrical unit is generally not tedious and doesn’t require much effort. Many times, if homeowners have issues, they can troubleshoot without calling an expert. Of course, if unsure, checking with an expert is always the recommended option.

Also, electric furnaces pose less of a risk to those living in the home. Gas furnaces emit a low level of carbon monoxide and the homeowner must be sure the unit is working properly at all times. Electrical units, on the other hand, do not require the same level of attention.

For those who choose a gas unit in the conversation of electric furnace vs. gas furnace, cost could certainly be a reason. A gas system is less expensive to operate, and that’s because natural gas is cheaper than electricity. During the past few years, electricity has increased in cost, while natural gas charges have actually decreased, which make the gas units more appealing to homeowners.

If you want fast results, gas is your choice. Generally, the gas units heat up the home faster than electric, and they tend to be more efficient in really cold temperatures because gas systems will achieve a higher temperature than electric units in extreme temperatures.

For those against gas, one reason is because the lifespan is only 10-20 years, and the installation could be quite a complicated process. Again, these units need to be closely monitored due to the emission of carbon monoxide, which often scares people off and moves them towards electric furnaces.

Despite the relatively high efficiency of most electric heaters, electric heating is inherently inefficient. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, most electricity is produced using techniques that are only 30 percent efficient. In addition, coal represents one of the primary fuels used to produce electricity. While natural gas production does release greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, this fuel burns much cleaner than coal and poses much less damage to the environment, according to the EPA.

When you consider the cost saving benefits, gas furnaces are a much better option for homeowners. Electric furnaces are typically only better in dry climates with hot or mixed temperatures.

There is, however, a third option when it comes to electric vs. gas heating: an electric heat pump. Electric heat pumps are more energy efficient than gas furnaces and require much less electricity to operate than electric furnaces. When you take into account the cost of fuel and the efficiency of the heating appliance, either a gas furnace or an electric heat pump could be more cost effective.

So, let’s once again break down the pros and cons of an electric furnace vs. a gas furnace.

Electric Furnace

Pros:

  • Don’t have to use natural gas
  • Can be all you need to heat/cool your home year round (in some areas)

Cons:

  • Creates original heat (doesn’t transfer heat)
  • Can raise electric bills
  • May have to strain to reach heating demand (in some areas), particularly if you are pairing an air handler with an air conditioner

Gas Furnace

Pros:

  • Provides powerful heat
  • Natural gas is often the less expensive utility
  • Pairs nicely with both an air conditioner and a heat pump to provide year-round heating and cooling

Cons:

  • Uses natural gas lines (if you don’t have them, it can be costly and infeasible to have them installed)
  • Must have a carbon monoxide detector running in your home
  • Will generally have to purchase an additional indoor coil

One tool that can provide useful is the Residential Energy Calculator, where you can plug in your figures to generate potential costs. This can be useful to figure out what might be the most energy-efficient choice for both you and your loved ones. You can access it by clicking here.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s all a matter of preference. What are your priorities? Do you want to keep costs down? If efficiency your number one concern? No matter what, you need to know all of the pros and cons with each option to make an educated decision. One thing’s for sure: things will definitely be heating up.