Gas vs. Electric Furnaces

Wondering if you should go with a gas or electric furnace? Not sure what each one offers, or which one is better? Need help identifying the pros and cons? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

There are many different ways to heat your home. But there are a few things to consider when deciding if you should go with an electric furnace or a gas furnace for your home. You need to factor in the cost, durability, effectiveness, and safety.

If you’re installing a new furnace or buying a new home and trying to learn the difference between a gas furnace versus an electric furnace, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will break down what each of them means and compare the two to help you gain clarity on which furnace will work best for you and your family!

What is a Gas Furnace?

A gas furnace uses natural gas to emit heat into your home. Gas combusts inside the heat exchanger, to create heat. A good furnace efficiently emits that heat throughout your home. When homeowners choose a gas furnace over an electric furnace, it’s often because of how fast they work to heat your home.

Gas furnaces typically last for two decades with good use and are better for colder climates, as they tend to heat up fast. This type of furnace is difficult to install because there is a major safety factor. It deals with natural gas, which is a highly combustive element.

If you choose to install a gas furnace, we recommend you call in HVAC experts to install and seal properly.

man is adjusting room temperature using thermostat for electric furnace

What is an Electric Furnace?

An electric furnace pulls air into the system and routes it through a heat exchanger. It has to create its original heat and does not use natural gas. Homeowners appreciate electric furnaces because they’re easier to maintain and require less professional attention.

Electric furnaces usually last for about 30 years with good use and are better for mild climates. They are easier to install than their counterparts and tend to be a much cheaper initial purchase.

You can find a myriad of DIY instructions on how to install an electric furnace, but because these furnaces require high voltage and heavy-duty wiring, it’s best to get a professional to install it for you.

Gas vs. Electric Furnace

Both gas and electric furnaces use a forced-air heating system. They work when the temperature in a room falls under the heat set point on your thermostat. When this occurs, the thermostat sends an electric signal to your furnace unit.

In a gas furnace, the signal will produce the pilot light – which is a small flame that is always aflame – to ignite the main burner of the heat exchanger inside the furnace. The heat exchanger will draw its heat from the main burner and consequently heat the air that circulates into your house.

An electric furnace receives the signal from the thermostat. This activates the electric heating components inside the electric furnace, which will slowly distribute heat into your home.

Both types of furnaces allow for heated air to be forced by a blower fan through the ductwork and into your home. Cool air from your home is taken through an intake vent and brought back to the furnace. When your set temperature is sensed by the thermostat, the furnace will turn off its heating emission.

Gas furnaces are sought out because they provide fast results, are more efficient in cold temperatures, and are less expensive to operate over the years because they use natural gas.

Electric furnaces are sought out because they last longer, don’t pose carbon monoxide threats, don’t require regular maintenance, and are much quieter than a gas furnace.

But which one is truly better? Let’s examine some pros and cons of each furnace to establish the answer to that very question!

Which is Better – Gas vs Electric Furnace

Gas Furnace – Pros:

  • Less expensive to operate (fuel costs less than electricity)
  • Works very fast to heat your home
  • Best for cold weather
  • Lasts up to 20 years

Electric Furnace – Pros:

  • Less expensive to purchase than a gas furnace
  • Easier and cheaper to install into your home
  • Lasts up to 30 years
  • Best in dry climates with mixed temperatures
  • Doesn’t pose any toxic gas risks
  • Doesn’t require frequent maintenance
  • Quieter than gas furnaces

Gas Furnace – Cons:

  • Emits low levels of carbon monoxide (if it’s not working properly, it can be dangerous to the residents in your home)
  • Needs constant maintenance and checkup
  • Expensive to purchase and difficult to install
  • Doesn’t last as long as an electric furnace
  • Makes more noise than an electric furnace

Electric Furnace – Cons:

  • Not as heat efficient as a gas furnace
  • Expensive to maintain over time, as it uses a lot of electricity
  • May not be able to reach the heat you demand if your country has cold winters
man adjusting digital central heating thermostat for gas home furnace

Cost Comparison – Gas vs. Electric Furnace

If you are worried about paying electricity bills in the long run, need efficient heat, don’t mind installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home, and are OK with regular furnace maintenance, then opt for a gas furnace.

If you don’t live in a cold country and don’t want to deal with carbon monoxide risks and frequent maintenance, then an electric furnace will be the perfect choice for your home.

Most people tend to go for electric furnaces because they’re inexpensive to buy, easy to install, and don’t pose any toxic gas threats. The only pitfall of an electric furnace that homeowners complain about is it racking up the electricity bill, especially if you live in a colder region.

The problem with electric furnaces in very cold regions is that they draw on a lot of electricity to produce their heat and match the level of heat you’ve requested. This can result in a very hefty electricity bill at the end of every winter month. While if you live in a climate where the temperatures are moderate and it doesn’t get too cold, it won’t require a whole lot of electricity to heat your home.

When it comes to gas versus electric furnaces, gas furnaces are the best choice for those that live in colder climates because of their need for rapid heat and cost-efficiency while electric furnaces are acceptable for those who live in mild climates that don’t require a lot of heat.

FAQs about Gas and Electric Furnaces

Q: Is it cheaper to heat your house with gas or electricity?

Although electric furnaces cost less initially to buy, they’re not cost-efficient to heat your home. Gas furnaces are less expensive to operate for the simple reason that natural gas is significantly cheaper than electricity. If you live in a cold climate, gas furnaces will save you money during the cold winter months.

Q: Can you replace a gas furnace with an electric furnace?

You can replace a gas furnace with an electrical one, but we recommend you first seek help from an HVAC professional. If you have a gas furnace, this means you likely have gas lines running underneath your home. An HVAC professional can recommend the best electric furnace and how to properly switch from gas to electric lines.

Q: Should I replace my gas furnace with electric?

If you have a gas furnace right now and are looking into electric because it doesn’t require much maintenance, doesn’t have carbon monoxide risks, or it’s quieter – you are not wrong. But keep in mind that gas furnaces don’t require a lot of fuel while electric furnaces require a lot of energy and electricity to provide heat. If you are comfortable with paying a pricier electric bill every month, you should consider replacing your gas furnace with an electric furnace.

The Verdict – Final Thoughts

Your home can be heated in various ways, but it’s important to make an informed decision. Whether you’re buying a new home and want to know about a certain furnace or you’re thinking of replacing your home’s furnace, knowing about gas and electric furnaces will greatly benefit you and your family.

If you live in a cold climate, a gas furnace is your best bet, despite it emitting low levels of carbon monoxide. It will heat your home more efficiently and will cost you less money than if you go for an electric furnace.

The choice is up to you. Weigh the pros and cons and make the best-informed decision for you and your family! Good luck and stay warm!

About the author

Jessica Nickson

Jessica Nickson is a keen home and garden innovator with over 25 years of hands-on experience in, home improvement, landscape gardening and all things appliance related to making life easier and more interesting. You can contact her via e-mail - jessica@thehomedweller.com.

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