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How to Tell If My Heater Is Gas or Electric

In the wintertime, the main goal throughout the Pacific Northwest is to stay warm. This is often done by retreating from the outdoors and spending more time in your well-heated home. Many homeowners have heating systems but don’t understand the logistics of how they’re staying warm. They just care that the heat is working properly during the times they need it most. But knowing how your home is heated could help you to save money on energy costs, increase your heater’s efficiency, and take necessary safety measures.

The two most popular options for home-heating systems are gas and electric. Our team here at Entek wants to help you figure out which one you have installed.

Here are a few ways to tell if your heater is gas or electric.

What is the difference?

Electric heaters and gas heaters are both capable of heating your home, but they do so in different ways. Electric heaters work by producing heat with electricity, which then blows air into a cabinet, and then it’s pushed through a heat exchanger. The warm air is released into the rooms in your house through ductwork. And, voila, you’re warmer than that cool autumn night outside.

Gas heaters, on the other hand, are heated by burning gas. When you turn on your thermostat, your furnace generates heat using a flame that burns gas. Similarly to the electric heater, that heat is pushed through a heat exchanger that warms it. Then the air can be distributed to your rooms through the ductwork.

As you can see, the main difference between the two systems is how the heat is generated.

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Ask yourself: “Does my heater have a flame?”

A simple visual inspection can easily tell you if your heater is gas or electric. If you’re inspecting your heating unit and you see a flame, you have a gas heater. The flame is usually blue, and you will be able to see it clearly through the small window on your heating unit. The window itself is another sign that you have a gas heater, as this is the only type of HVAC system that has windows to cover the flame. Electric heaters don’t need this window because they aren’t guarding a flame as a heat source. Their heat is created through electricity.

Get inspected

Of course, another easy way to tell if your heater is gas or electric is to have it inspected by a professional. A professional HVAC technician here at Entek can inspect your unit and let you know exactly what it uses to run. It’s a quick way to get an answer to your question, but it also can alert you to any issues your unit may be experiencing.

Your home heating unit should be inspected by a professional every year, regardless of which type of heater you have. After all, your heating unit is one of the most relied-on components of your home, and having it malfunction during the wrong time of year could be a big problem. A professional can maintain your unit by checking the coils, filters, and fans of both gas and electric heaters. A well-maintained heating unit can significantly increase your unit’s efficiency while decreasing energy consumption. This can lead to a longer life for your unit, more effective heating, and even lower utility bills.

Take safety precautions

One of the most important reasons why it’s a good idea to know if your heater is gas or electric is so that you can take the proper safety precautions. This is especially important when it comes to gas heaters. Gas heaters have an open flame running inside of them, and it’s typically well under control. This flame, however, can cause more problems for homeowners when the unit isn’t inspected regularly and is the cause of a large number of house fires each year. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in US homes. Having equipment like smoke detectors in the home is recommended for everyone, no matter your heat source.

Another reason to find out what kind of heater is in your home is so you can have a functional carbon monoxide detector if needed. Gas heaters usually vent poisonous gasses to the outside of your home, but they can leak inside of your home as well. The symptoms of a carbon monoxide leak can be hard to catch early, and when they aren’t caught in time, can lead to serious health consequences, if not death. A carbon monoxide detector will alert your family if carbon monoxide is present inside the home and provide you with time to reach fresh air before you suffer any symptoms.

Know that you have the option to change

After you find out whether your heater runs on gas or electricity, you may be tempted to try the other out. Figuring out the best way to heat your home is about more than just choosing one option or another. Having more information will be beneficial to your decision. For instance, the life span on electric heaters is said to be much longer than gas heaters, and they have the capability of lasting for up to 30 years.

They are also less noisy than gas heaters and can provide a safer option by avoiding the use of a flame. This could be a selling point if you’re thinking about switching to an electric heater. On the other hand, electric heaters tend to have higher running costs and they can be less energy-efficient, and if you frequently experience below-freezing weather in the winter, gas is definitely a warmer heat source.

To make the best decision about choosing a new heating system, figure out what you want from it. Efficiency, initial costs, and running cost are just a few things to take into consideration. If you need more information about what is best for you and your home, enlisting the help of a professional is a good step to take. A professional HVAC technician can assess your home and introduce you to a unit that best meets your heating needs.


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