Electric vs. Gas Furnaces

Selecting a Furnace: Gas or Electric?

 

When it comes to heating your home or rental property, you have a few options. Furnaces are the most popular heating option in the U.S., but there are a few alternatives too. Boilers utilize water, heating it and distributing through radiators, while heat pumps utilize coils and refrigerant.

Furnaces are extremely popular because they blow heat through the same ducts that work with your air conditioning. This is called an HVAC system: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Furnaces can be fueled by natural gas, electricity, or oil. The fuel is mixed with air and then burned, producing flames. These flames then heat a metal heat exchanger and the heat is transferred to air, where it’s sent out through ducts.

When it comes to choosing between an electric or gas furnace, there are multiple factors to take into account such as price, efficiency, and maintenance.

 

Heat Efficiency

hand hovering over open fire

Heat efficiency is not just something that’s estimated – it’s measured in what’s called AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). It calculates how much energy that’s utilized by the heating unit is actually converted into heat.

Gas:

Gas furnaces have a lower AFUE, usually in the range of 55 to 97%.

Electric:

Electric furnaces have a much higher efficiency, with AFUE sometimes going up to 100%.

 

Maintenance

tools on workbench

Gas:

Gas furnaces require regular maintenance, which means at least an annual inspection. An HVAC professional needs to inspect your furnace and check up on a number of things, such as:

  • Condensation (build up could cause corrosion)
  • Filter system cleanliness
  • Thermostat
  • Blower (wheel, door)
  • Ducts
  • Vents (improper ventilation can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning)
  • Fan
  • Combustion gases (85%+ is good)
  • Fresh air intake grills
  • Exchanger (check for rust)

If well maintained, gas furnaces could have a longevity of 20 years.

 

Electric: 

Electric furnaces are much easier to maintain, requiring minimal professional attention. This is because there’s no burner to clean or inspect like there is with gas furnaces. Also the system itself doesn’t generally require any cleaning or care. Occasionally you’ll want to check up on a few things, but you can do them yourself:

  • Change external air filters
  • Check all components for dirt
  • Check blower wheels and motors

Despite not needing frequent maintenance, electric furnaces could still last for up to 30 years, 10 longer than gas.

 

Cost

coins in glass with plant growing out

There are actually a few cost aspects to take into account with furnaces: cost of the unit, cost of installation, fuel costs, and maintenance costs. Let’s do a simple breakdown.

Gas:

  • Unit – More expensive
  • Installation – More expensive
  • Fuel – Cheaper
  • Maintenance – More expensive

 

Electric:

  • Unit – Cheaper
  • Installation – Cheaper
  • Fuel – More expensive
  • Maintenance – Cheaper

 

Noise

radiator

Gas:

Unfortunately, gas furnaces can be louder than electric. This usually only occurs upon ignition, when gas builds up in the combustion chamber and can cause a popping or rushing sound.

Electric:

Electric furnaces are very quiet, mainly due to their simplistic design. There are fewer parts and vents, so fewer parts to make sound.

 

Climate

person in hooded jacket walking through snowfall

Gas:

Gas furnaces are good for cooler climates. They generally heat homes faster because the heat in gas furnaces is hotter than electric coils.

 

Electric:

Electric furnaces are ideal for warmer climates, especially since some warm areas may not have gas readily available.

 

Safety

smoke

Gas:

There could be a carbon monoxide risk with gas furnaces if there is poor ventilation. Regular maintenance checks will ensure that vents are clean and working properly.

 

Electric:

Electric furnaces present no risks and are quite safe.

 

 

No matter what you choose, DI Repairs can help with installation and maintenance. Reach out today to get a quote from our HVAC team.