If you’re updating your home’s heating and air conditioning system, the choice between a gas and electric furnace is a crucial decision. Here’s what you need to know before calling your HVAC service provider to make the change.
Electric furnaces operate by converting electric energy into heat. It’s the same mechanism that you use to cook, heat your water, and more. Every electric heater has a heating element called a resistive heater element. An electric current passes through the heating element to heat your entire home.
Pros of Electric Furnaces
- Better indoor air quality. Electric furnaces don’t burn fuel to heat your home, letting you enjoy better air quality.
- More environmentally-friendly (in some areas). If you live in 1 of the 15 states that rely on electric power generated by hydro plants, nuclear power, or wind turbines, then your electric energy will be greener than the alternatives.
- Safe. Electric furnaces don’t use flammable oils or gases, so you don’t run the risk of gas leaks or breathing in the flue fumes.
- Lower up-front cost. Electric furnaces generally cost less up-front than gas furnaces do.
Cons of Electric Furnaces
- Higher long-term cost. Electricity costs more than natural gas in a lot of parts of the country.
- Longer start-up time. Electric heat takes a little longer to heat your home, so if you like to adjust your thermostat a lot, you might notice a delay.
- Power outage issues. If you lose power during a winter storm, your electric heater will shut off, since it relies on the same mechanisms as your lights.
Gas furnaces run by burning natural gas, propane, or oil as fuel to generate heat. They’re reliable and, for the most part, accessible. The gas burner warms cool air, then the warm air is circulated through your home’s ductwork. Fumes from the fuel-burning exhaust are released outside your home through a flue pipe.
Pros of Gas Furnaces
- Low operating cost.
- Faster-working. If you ever come home to a cold house, you won’t have to wait long to get warm again.
Cons of Gas Furnaces
- Increased health risks. Burning fuel produces pollutants that can exacerbate allergies and lead to other health issues if the flue system isn’t working properly.
- Fire hazards. Gas heaters can potentially become a fire hazard if there’s a leak or if the system is damaged, meaning regular maintenance and upkeep is extremely important.
- Higher up-front cost. Installation costs more, and the lifespan of the equipment will be shorter than that of an electric unit.
Hybrid furnaces give you the best of both worlds by combining a gas furnace with an electric heat pump. During the mild seasons, your home relies on the electric heat pump. The hybrid system automatically switches to the gas furnace during the colder months (though you can also switch it manually if you need to). Hybrid furnaces are efficient and can save you money and energy long-term. However, they’re also the most expensive opti