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Is an Electric Furnace Cost-Effective?

Nowadays, several options exist for heating your home during the long, icy winter months. Electric heating is one of the most popular, due to the ease of access for most homes. But is an electric furnace cost-effective?

For many people, cost is the deciding factor when it comes to deciding how their homes will be heated. After all, a heating bill can easily skyrocket if a careful choice isn’t made. Unfortunately, it’s not always a simple decision. Because the efficiency of different heating systems, including electric ones, is affected by things such as climate and location, you’ll have to do a little research if you want to save some money on your heating bill.

The Types of Furnaces

While there are many different types of furnaces, two of the most common, and the most directly comparable to each other, are gas and electric. Both utilize forced air to circulate heat throughout a home, and both are controlled via a thermostat, which in modern devices is almost always digital.

There are other types of furnaces as well, including gas-fired boilers (although, these have somewhat fallen out of style in recent years) and geothermal heat pumps. Geothermal heat pumps are extremely energy efficient, as they make use of stored heat from the sun. However, they’re often prohibitively expensive for homeowners to install.

Also gaining popularity are mini-split and standard-split heat pumps. These circulate air between the outdoor and indoor areas of your home, acting as heaters during the winter and air conditioners during the summer.

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What Makes Heating Cost-Effective?

Because there are multiple variables affecting how efficient a heating system is, it’s not as simple as ranking the different types of furnaces from best to worst. For example, a wood-burning furnace can be an extremely effective heat source, but only if you have access to a regular, inexpensive source of firewood. Even if you do, there are other variables at play too. For instance, a wood-burning furnace can pose a fire hazard, potentially rendering any cost savings irrelevant.

A gas furnace is another heat source that can potentially be a very effective way to keep your home toasty. However, that’s provided you have easy access to a gas main. If you don’t, having gas pipes connected to your home can be a source of great expense.

This, of course, leads us to one of the biggest benefits of electric furnaces: their power source is both safe and easily accessible. You won’t have to spend thousands of dollars having a gas main installed or worry about a fire spreading from your wood furnace.

The Cost of Installation

When considering gas or electric furnace cost-effectiveness, you’ll need to consider the costs of installation. There’s more to this than simply your access to the fuel source. Where will the furnace go? Is there a safe place in the home for it to be? Or will you need to have renovation work done to make room for it? Is there an adequate duct system in place to circulate your heated air?

When comparing gas and electric furnaces, at least as far as installation goes, you’ll usually find that electric is cheaper because these types of furnaces can be installed more quickly. Since gas furnaces require the use of a natural gas main, installation can prove more difficult, take longer, and cost more. Your HVAC technician will usually be able to get an electric furnace installed safely in a much faster, and therefore less costly, manner.

It should be noted that many homeowners attempt to DIY their furnace installation as a way of saving costs. However, because of the many safety considerations at play, this is not recommended unless you are a licensed HVAC specialist. Contact your local HVAC professionals at Entek HVAC to handle the installation of your furnace.

The Size of Your Home

Regardless of the type, you’ll want to make sure the heater is the right size for your home. Many HVAC technicians have been called to repair a furnace that’s struggling to heat a home effectively. Often, they discover the furnace itself is fine; it’s just too small for the house it’s in. The flip side of this is that a furnace that’s too large will drive the cost of your energy bill up needlessly. Contact your HVAC professional before you buy anything to make sure you’re getting the right-sized furnace for your home.

The Right Heater for Your Climate

When choosing what type of heating to use in your home, your decision should be influenced by the climate you live in. You might live in a part of the country where it gets extremely cold—regularly below zero. In this case, you’ll need to invest in a furnace that’s both efficient and burns very hot and can reach high temperatures quickly.

An electric furnace is one of the most effective heaters around. However, it will struggle when dealing with the frigid temperatures found in states such as Minnesota or Illinois. It can take a while, and draw a lot of power, trying to warm a home when the temperature outside is well below freezing. In cases like these, a gas furnace is liable to be a lot more efficient. It will burn very hot, heat up very quickly, and won’t struggle against even the chilliest conditions.

If you live in a warmer climate—states like Washington, Oregon, or California, where it will get cold during winter but not usually below freezing—electric heating is usually all you need.

The Life Span of Your Furnace

Another factor to take into consideration when considering the cost of heating is the life span of your furnace. All furnaces need regular maintenance and, ultimately, have to be replaced when they become worn out. While any kind of furnace—provided it’s properly cared for and regularly maintained by a licensed HVAC technician—can last you for many years, electric furnaces do seem to have the edge over other types, such as gas. A good electric furnace, properly installed and well cared for, can last up to 30 years in your home.