Unless you heat your home with such old-school alternatives as a wood-burning stove or oil-burning heater, your home is heated by a conventional furnace or heat pump. This blog is going to take a look at furnaces only. The two ways that the traditional standard furnace is fueled is by natural gas or electricity. Armstrong Plumbing, Air & Electric sells, installs and services many different makes/models of both. They both use a forced air system to deliver heat to your home and both are also controlled by a thermostat. That said, let’s take a look at the differences and pros/cons of each.
An electric furnace requires high voltage and heavy-duty wiring that should be done by licensed electricians. Once the thermostat detects the temperature drop, it sends a signal to the electric ignition, which activates electric heating elements inside the furnace.
- Less expense upfront. Electric furnaces are generally less expensive to purchase than gas furnaces and cheaper to install. The total cost to purchase a new electric furnace and have it installed will run anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000, depending on make/model and install logistics, while the cost for purchase/installation of a gas furnace can range from $4,500 to $6,000.
- Easier maintenance. As there is no burner and no gaseous byproducts from electricity consumption, an electric furnace is easier to maintain.
- Energy efficiency. An electric furnace converts nearly 100 percent of its energy consumed into heat, while a gas furnace typically varies from 55 to 90 percent.
- Higher fuel cost. Electricity is considerably higher than natural gas.
- Lower heat efficiency. While electric furnaces are more energy efficient, they trail gas furnaces in heat efficiency. Gas furnaces will heat your home quicker than electric furnaces because gas heat is hotter than heat generated by electric coils.
When installing a gas furnace, special care is needed to ensure the safety concerns surrounding the combustion process. The heat exchanger and other elements must be perfectly installed and sealed to ensure no carbon monoxide (a by-product of combustion natural gas) is leaked into living areas. A gas furnace differs from electric when the thermostat sends the signal for more heat. The pilot light/electronic ignition will ignite the main burner of the heat exchanger to begin the heating process.
- Cheaper to operate. As stated above, natural gas is noticeably less expensive than electricity.
- Better for colder climates. Because gas furnaces provide quicker and more powerful heat than electric furnaces, they are much better suited for colder climates where demand for heat is greater.
- Regular maintenance required. A gas furnace should be inspected and maintained regularly by an HVAC professional.
- CO concerns. As noted before, the combustion of natural gas gives off a small amount of carbon monoxide, which can be harmful and even fatal to humans. As part of the maintenance, gas furnaces should be checked to make sure they are sealed and vented properly to avoid CO buildup.