The seasons have changed and colder weather has arrived. If your heater is nearing the end of its service life, you may be considering whether to go gas or electric. Gas furnaces are still popular, although many homeowners prefer the conveniences of an electric furnace or space heater. From cost to efficiency to convenience, each option has its pros and cons, depending on your home.
A gas furnace provides a powerful heating appliance, and natural gas is typically less expensive than electricity (in most parts of the U.S.). You can get year-round heating and cooling if you have both an air conditioner and a gas furnace, especially if you live in a cold winter climate. Or, a heat pump can serve your heating needs as well.
Gas furnaces get going quickly. Once the burners start running, heat output is maximized. On the downside, gas furnaces are more costly to purchase; installation costs also include the need for proper ventilation. In addition to the larger upfront investment, gas furnaces last half as long as electric ones (about 10 to 20 years). Also, more maintenance is required to maintain efficiency and safety.
If you use a space heater, gas models are available. However, unvented heaters should only be used outside. There are vented gas space heaters designed for indoor use. Space heaters can be run on propane (for outdoor use) or natural gas, which is highly effective but toxic if there’s a leak, which is undetectable unless an odorant has been added to the gas.
With an electric furnace, you don’t need to rely on natural gas. Electric furnaces are less expensive to install, while the cost of ownership is worth it if the demand on the furnace is low. You’ll, therefore, see better long-term savings if you live in a warm climate. Installing an electric system is less disruptive because ventilation systems aren’t needed, while malfunctions are less likely, making maintenance simpler. Still, it’s important to have your furnace inspected annually.
There’s no risk using an electric heater in an enclosed area, and it’s usually less noisy. It is also much safer than a portable gas heater. An electric heating unit creates original heat and doesn’t transfer heat, which can be a downside, but a heat pump is capable of heat transfer and more efficient electric heating.
Electric devices such as furnaces, space heaters, and back-up heat strips rely on heat creation, which consumes more electricity. The greatest con to an electric furnace is the higher lifetime cost despite their efficiency. A longer lifespan and similar operating conditions, compared to a gas furnace, are factors in overall cost. Electric furnaces also take more time to heat up, meaning you’ll wait longer for indoor air temperature to match thermostat settings.
What Should I Choose?
It all depends on where you live. Gas heat is more efficient in colder climates, while electric heat is more suitable for warmer climates or where gas isn’t available to meet your heating needs. And, when electricity is the only option, an electric heat pump can meet your heating and cooling requirements. But then again, if you run your heater frequently during cold months, a gas furnace can be operated at a lower cost than an electric unit.