What Are the Differences Between Gas and Electric Furnaces?

Choosing the right heating system is paramount to your home’s comfort. Gas and electric furnaces stand as two pillars in this domain, each with its own set of characteristics. However, many homeowners don’t know the difference between gas and electric furnace systems.

Advantage Heating and Air explores the differences between these two forced air heating systems to help you make the choice between a gas or electric furnace.

1. Operation

Gas Furnace:

Gas furnaces operate on the principle of combustion. Natural gas or propane is ignited in the burner, generating heat. This heat energy is then transferred to the air through the heat exchanger before being distributed throughout the home via the ductwork. The combustion process requires a flue to expel combustion byproducts, ensuring safety and efficiency.

Electric Furnace:

In contrast, electric furnaces rely on electrical resistance to generate heat. When electricity flows through heating elements, they produce warmth, which is then circulated by a blower. Unlike gas furnaces, electric counterparts do not involve combustion, eliminating the need for a flue system.

2. Efficiency

Gas Furnaces:

Gas furnaces have long been praised for their efficiency in converting fuel to heat. High-efficiency models boast Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings of 90% or higher. AFUE is a measure of heating efficiency that represents the percentage of energy from the fuel source that is converted into usable heat. The combustion process in gas furnaces allows for quick and efficient heating, making them well-suited for colder climates.

Electric Furnaces:

Electric furnaces, while inherently simpler in design, often have higher energy efficiency ratings compared to gas furnaces. Most electric furnaces range between 95% and 100% efficiency, meaning nearly all the electricity is converted to heat.

3. Cost

Gas Furnace:

One notable advantage of a gas furnace system is its cost-effectiveness in regions with lower natural gas prices. Natural gas is often more economical than electricity, resulting in lower operational costs for gas furnaces. 

Additionally, gas furnaces tend to provide a higher heat output, making them more efficient in extremely cold climates. However, installation costs for gas furnaces can be higher due to the need for a gas line and flue system. Regular maintenance is also crucial to ensure safety and efficiency.

Electric Furnace:

Electric furnaces are generally less expensive to install compared to their gas counterparts. They don’t require a gas line or flue, simplifying the installation process. Moreover, electric furnaces have a longer lifespan and typically require less maintenance.

On the flip side, electricity costs can be higher than gas in some regions, making electric furnaces less cost-effective for heating purposes. Their efficiency may also be lower, especially in extremely cold climates.

4. Heating Speed and Consistency

Gas Furnaces:

Gas furnaces are known for their rapid heating capabilities. They can quickly raise the temperature of a home, providing comfort in a short amount of time. The heat produced is also typically more consistent throughout the living space.

Electric Furnaces:

Electric furnaces may take a bit longer to reach the desired temperature since the heating elements need time to generate warmth. However, once they reach the set temperature, they can maintain a consistent level of heat.

5. Environmental Impact

Gas Furnace:

While natural gas is a fossil fuel, modern gas furnaces are designed to be more environmentally friendly. High-efficiency gas furnace models produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a reduced carbon footprint. However, they still release some carbon dioxide during the combustion process that will need to be safely pumped away from the home.

Electric Furnace:

Electric furnaces are often considered more environmentally friendly since they do not burn fossil fuels directly. However, the environmental impact depends on the electricity source. If the electricity is generated from renewable sources, such as solar or wind power, the environmental impact is significantly reduced.

6. Safety

Gas Furnaces:

Gas furnaces require specific safety measures to ensure the well-being of residents. Proper ventilation is crucial to expel combustion byproducts, such as carbon monoxide, outside the home. As a result, a flue system is essential to safely channel these gasses away. Regular maintenance, including inspections of the heat exchanger and the flue, is vital to identify and address potential safety issues.

While modern gas furnaces incorporate safety features like flame sensors and automatic shut-off valves, there is an inherent risk associated with the combustion process. Homeowners must install carbon monoxide detectors to provide an additional layer of protection and ensure early detection of carbon monoxide leaks in case of any malfunctions.

Electric Furnaces:

Electric furnaces, being devoid of combustion, eliminate the risks associated with carbon monoxide emissions. This inherently reduces the safety concerns related to ventilation and flue systems. Electric furnaces also lack an open flame, minimizing the risk of fire hazards.

Should I Choose a Gas or Electric Furnace?

In the debate between gas and electric furnaces, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Advantage Heating and Air encourages homeowners to consider factors such as local utility costs, climate, and environmental priorities when making this crucial decision. Both heating systems have their merits and drawbacks, and selecting the right one depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

Whether you ultimately choose a gas furnace or an electric furnace, we’re here to help. Contact us today to receive a personalized quote for furnace installation in your home.

Start typing and press Enter to search