Gas vs. Electric Furnaces

By avery_dietzen on 03/04/2021

Photo by Francesca Tosolini

Furnaces function as a vital part of a central or forced air heating system. A few types of furnaces exist, including natural gas, propane, and electric furnaces. Each type offers their own benefits and knowing what those benefits are can help you make an informed decision when choosing your next furnace.

Gas Furnace

Furnaces that generate heat using gas typically use either natural gas or propane. A home may use natural gas hookups to provide gas or require propane stored in specific tanks.

Both natural gas furnaces and propane furnaces can pose safety risks in the form of carbon monoxide and fire hazards. For these reasons, it’s important to have them professionally installed and routinely serviced.

Natural Gas Furnace

Natural gas furnaces offer a cleaner heat than electricity. Burning coal, which generates electricity, releases harmful greenhouse gases. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, burning natural gas to produce energy “results in fewer emissions of nearly all types of air pollutants” compared to burning coal to produce the same amount of energy.

Pros

Cons

  • Cheaper long-term operating cost
  • Cleaner heat than electricity
  • Can last 15-20 years with regular maintenance
  • Works well in cold climates
  • Produces carbon monoxide
  • High initial costs

 

Propane Furnace

Propane furnaces often see use in areas that lack sufficient natural gas lines. They utilize propane to heat a home and require regular propane deliveries for long-term operating. Because of this, propane requires a place to store it. This could include a propane tank located either above or below ground.

Additionally, propane offers the cleanest heat compared to the other furnace options we’re discussing. While propane produces some emissions, it produces fewer than natural gas or coal.

Pros

Cons

  • Cleanest form of heat compared to natural gas and electric furnaces
  • Cheaper operating cost than electric furnaces
  • Can last 15-20 years with regular maintenance
  • Produces carbon monoxide
  • High initial costs
  • Requires regular propane deliveries

 

Fun fact: An AFUE rating, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating, measures how efficiently an appliance converts fuel energy into heat over the course of a year. A 90% AFUE rating means the appliance converts 90% of the energy into heat.

 

Electric Furnace

Not every home comes equipped with natural gas hookups or suitable storage for propane. Instead of relying on gas, electric furnaces generate heat using electric resistance heat.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electric resistance heat functions with 100% efficiency, meaning “all incoming electric energy is converted to heat.” However, this does not always mean a cheaper operation. In fact, electric furnaces offer a more expensive operating cost compared to gas furnaces.

Pros

Cons

  • Lower initial costs than gas furnaces
  • Quieter operation
  • Can last 20-30 years with regular maintenance
  • High energy efficiency
  • Works well in warmer climates
  • Does not produce carbon monoxide
  • More expensive to heat
  • Not as clean of heat as gas furnaces
  • Slower heating than gas furnaces
  • May not heat well in all climates

 

Fun fact: To reduce operating costs, you can pair an electric furnace with a heat pump. Heat pumps use less electricity than electric furnaces and can also cool.

 

If you’re in the market for a new furnace, HomElectrical offers both gas and electric furnaces as well as other HVAC equipment and accessories!

 


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