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There’s rarely a clear-cut answer on whether or not to opt for a gas or electric furnace. While both warm your home efficiently, much depends on local fuel prices, your home’s size and winter temperatures. Gas furnaces usually cost more to buy and install but are usually less expensive to run than electric furnaces.
On This Page:
- What’s the Difference Between Gas and Electric Furnaces?
- Gas Furnaces vs. Electric Furnaces: Which Is Better?
- Cost to Buy
- Cost to Install
- DIY Installation
- Cost to Run
- Speed of Heating
- Environmental Friendliness
- Which is Best for Your Home?
- Furnace vs. Boiler vs. Heat Pump
What’s the Difference Between Gas and Electric Furnaces?
A furnace is part of a home’s central heating and cooling system. This forced air system generates heat to warm your home and kicks into action when the thermostat recognizes the temperature has dropped below a set level. It then blows the hot air through the ductwork heating the rooms in your home from vents.
The heating activation method depends on whether you have an electric or gas furnace. A pilot light ignites the burner in a gas furnace, and this small flame stays lit until the heating goes off. You need a gas line running into your home to facilitate this process. An electric furnace uses a similar approach, but an electric ignition activates the heating system.
Gas Furnaces vs. Electric Furnaces: Which Is Better?
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While there isn’t a clear-cut answer on which is better, the categories below will help you decide which furnace is best suited to your home.
Cost to Buy
Cost to Install
If you need to add wiring or a gas line, this will increase the installation price, but generally, electric furnaces cost less to install than gas furnaces. The average cost to install an electric furnace is $2,500 compared to $3,850 for a gas furnace.
Furnaces are challenging to install, and, in some states, it’s a legal requirement to have a licensed technician do this job. Dealing with electrical wiring and, more so, gas lines is dangerous, and it’s best to hire a local professional to install your gas or electric furnace.
Cost to Run
For running costs, gas furnaces are almost always the clear winner, especially during winter’s coldest months. However, gas prices rise and fall, while electricity costs are rising, so monthly bills will typically be considerably lower for running a gas furnace. The exception to this could be in a rural area, where gas prices can be higher than suburban or urban areas.
Of course, whichever furnace type you opt for, it pays to look for an energy-efficient model.
Speed of Heating
Another advantage of gas furnaces is that they warm your home more quickly than an electric furnace. However, it’s worth mentioning that, as technology advances, electric furnaces are closing the gap. So, for some homeowners, this won’t be a significant factor in the decision-making process.
Electric units come out top on the furnace maintenance front. They don’t have burners that require inspection or cleaning and the cost to service them is generally less than that of gas furnaces. Annual inspections are good practice for gas furnaces because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
For furnace repair costs, gas units are typically more than electric as they’re often more complicated and have higher associated labor costs. The average electric repair is often less than $300, but gas repairs can run from $300 to $1,200.
Both gas and electric furnaces can work efficiently for at least 20 years with ongoing care and maintenance. Electric furnaces have a longer lifespan, and you may get 30 years from your system. They don’t require the same cleaning and maintenance and aren’t as prone to corrosion as gas furnaces.
Electricity generation currently involves heavy use of dirty fossil fuels, so until there’s a greater shift towards renewable energy sources for its production, there isn’t much difference between gas and electric furnaces in terms of environmental impact. Currently, much depends on the energy efficiency of the individual unit you select.
Although there’s a low risk of fires with electric furnaces, they’re safer than gas types. This is because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning that comes with any gas product. Regular maintenance and CO detector installation, however, can significantly decrease any risk.
Electric furnaces operate more quietly than gas types. This is a minor issue, though, mainly related to the noise only created when the burner is igniting and not while it’s running.Ready to start your furnace installation?
Which Is Best for Your Home?
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Where you live and the type of home you own can influence whether you opt for a gas or electric furnace.
Best for Homes With Cold Winters
In cold climates, electric furnaces have to work harder to heat your home, as they take longer to get up to desired temperatures. This longer running time, combined with the overall greater electricity expense, means your bills will undoubtedly be higher than with a gas furnace.
Best for Large Homes
To heat a larger home, you’ll need to have the furnace on more, again making more sense to run a gas furnace to keep your bills down.
Best for a Home Without an Existing Gas Supply
If you don’t already have a gas line running to your home, installing one can be costly. In these instances, it makes sense to stick with an electric furnace. Sometimes it won’t even be possible to get access to natural gas.
Furnace vs. Boiler vs. Heat Pump
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Common alternative home heating systems include boilers and heat pumps. Unlike a furnace, a boiler uses hot water to distribute the heat through radiators around the home. While some people prefer this to having hot air blasted out of vents, they’re typically more expensive and complicated to install, and they take up more space in small houses.
Heat pumps are very energy efficient and versatile. They collect air from outside your home and turn it into heat in your home, and they also remove hot air from the home during warmer seasons. However, they do have more intense maintenance requirements than furnaces.Start Your Forced Heating Project Now