Almost all modern homes are equipped with electric furnaces, but for home heating, this is not always the optimal choice. A furnace supplied with natural gas can provide fast and effective heating for a home in winter. There are many types of furnaces currently available on the market, but gas and electric models are the common choices. In this article, we will take a closer look at furnaces to discover if one is automatically better than the other.
In a Nutshell
When you research this subject, there is a common answer that will be provided when you ask “which is best a gas or an electric furnace?”. This answer will typically be “it depends on your particular needs,” and this is true. There is no way to truly evaluate which type of heating your home needs without some professional advice. Every home is different, and it’s a good idea to consult a local HVAC professional for some expert advice.
Gas Furnace Pros
A gas furnace is a powerful way to heat your home; it can generate levels of heat that other heating systems simply cannot match. Even if it’s bitterly cold outside, a gas furnace can keep your home toasty warm throughout the winter. This is especially noticeable in older homes that can suffer from cold drafts due to poor levels of insulation. When you use natural gas, you will notice that it burns clean and it’s inexpensive compared to electricity. This makes it an excellent option for environmentally aware people that are looking to save money. Natural gas is a convenient option; the gas is supplied to the home via municipal pipes, unlike propane or heating oil.
Gas Furnace Cons
There are some potential health hazards when you use natural gas in your home. Leaks can be dangerous, but this risk is offset with a modern natural gas furnace that will have a host of safety features. A gas furnace is cheaper to run, but they can wear out faster than other types of furnaces, and a replacement will be needed. Finally, it should be noted that not every home will even have access to a natural gas supply.
Electric Furnace Pros
Almost every home can be equipped with an electric furnace if there is a power supply. An electric furnace will need less maintenance over its lifespan, and it will last longer than a gas furnace. The installation costs are usually cheaper up front, and there is no possibility of a gas leak.
Electric Furnace Cons
An electric furnace will not be as efficient as a gas model at heating up the home. It lacks the raw heating power that a gas furnace has to spare and yet it will cost far more to run. Electricity is a fairly expensive energy source and heating a home will use a great deal of electric power. Over a typical winter, a homeowner can expect high electricity bills when they use an electric furnace.
How to Make the Right Choice
As you can see, choosing the right furnace to heat your home may be tricky. There are a number of factors to consider before you go ahead with a new installation or replace an existing furnace. A local HVAC contractor could help you to evaluate your needs and the characteristics of your home to help you make a choice.
Some of the critical factors that you need to consider are the cost, durability, and effectiveness. There are other things to think about, but for most people, these three factors are usually the most important. In some cases, the decision will be a simple one, if there is no access to a supply of natural gas another furnace type will be required.
As we can see above, a gas furnace will cost more to install, but the heating is more effective with fuel costs that are cheaper. An electric furnace will cost less to install, but it will be far more expensive to run during the colder months. An electric furnace will need less maintenance than a gas furnace, and the homeowner may be able to troubleshoot many problems themselves. A gas furnace will require an annual service to check for any issues and ongoing maintenance.
Energy Efficiency Concerns
Heating a home with electricity is inherently inefficient according to the EPA. Most of the techniques used to generate heat using electricity are only 30% efficient. Also, it’s important to remember that a great deal of our electricity is generated using coal fired power plants. Natural gas production also results in a release of greenhouse gas and certain other pollutants, but the fuel burns far cleaner than coal. Overall, using natural gas rather than electricity for home heating is far less harmful for the environment.
Gas Furnace Safety
A gas furnace may emit low levels of carbon monoxide which pose a risk to people in the home. Modern gas furnace units have plenty of safety features to guard against a gas leak, but it’s important to be aware of the risks. It’s vitally important to get a gas furnace serviced regularly before the beginning of a heating season. This will ensure that the furnace is safe and ready to provide heating for the winter.
What About Propane and Fuel Oil?
If you don’t want to install an electric furnace and there is no access to natural gas your choices will be limited to propane or fuel oil. Both of these options require storage tanks for the fuel which are expensive to install and maintain. If you need to minimize your up front costs, an electric furnace will be cheaper than a propane or fuel oil furnace.
If you want the best heating results at a more affordable cost, a gas furnace is the smart choice. This will cost more up front, but with a lifespan of 10-20 years, you will recoup that initial investment in the medium to long term. Regularly servicing will make your gas furnace safe to use and it may even extend the lifespan.