Every furnace needs fuel. The earliest home furnace was a wood or coal burning stove that would warm the entire home. In today’s homes, the furnace likely uses either natural gas or electricity. Older homes may still have a propane heating system, but most newer homes have been converted to natural gas or electric.
Gas and electric both use large blower fans to move heated air throughout your home. However, the similarities end there. The way they generate heat, the size, cost, and efficiency of both systems are different. Each has specific advantages and disadvantages designed to meet the demands of homes across the country.
Pros and Cons of a Gas Furnace
How it works: A gas furnace kicks into action when the thermostat tells it that the room temperature has dropped below a preset comfort level. When this happens, the thermostat sends a signal to the furnace, which tells it to open a valve and deliver natural gas to the burners and turn on the blowers. This combination then creates hot air that pumps through the vents in the home and raises the temperature.
Pros of a Gas Furnace:
- Hotter: A gas furnace has the ability to heat the home to a higher temperature than electricity. An electric furnace only has so many sets of heating coils. When they are all up and running, that’s the best it can do.
- Faster: A flame is instantly hot, whereas electric coils may take time to heat up. Because it distributes heat as soon as you turn it on, it warms up the home faster than an electric furnace.
- Energy Efficient: A gas furnace will use less energy to heat the same amount of space. Natural gas also costs less than electricity, making this option more economical, particularly in areas that have freezing temperatures throughout the year.
Cons of a Gas Furnace
- Availability: If you don’t have natural gas lines in your area, it can be costly or even impossible to have them installed.
- Price: The cost of a gas furnace is higher than an equivalent electric model. This initial purchase price can be a deterrent, especially if your furnace just went out and you’re not prepared for a big home expense.
- Risk: There is an elevated risk of having a gas furnace in your home. You must have carbon monoxide detectors installed and the risk of accidental fires or explosions may increase if the furnace is not properly handled.
- Installation and Maintenance: Because of the increased risks with a gas furnace, it’s best to have it installed and maintained by a professional. This can add to the overall cost of ownership.
Where they work best: If you already have a natural gas line to your home, you’re better off installing a natural gas heating system. The elements are already there, and your month to month costs will stay low.
Pros and Cons of an Electric Furnace
How it Works: In an electrical furnace, there is no burner or combustion chamber. Instead, there are several sets of heating coils that burn hot when an electrical current runs through them. Blower fans distribute the heat throughout the home. When you turn up the thermostat, another set of coils will heat up, creating more heat in your home.
Pros of an Electric Furnace
- Safety: Because it does not give off carbon dioxide and there’s no combustible gas involved, electric furnaces tend to be a safer option.
- Size: Electric furnaces tend to be smaller in size. This gives you more placement options without taking up valuable space in your home.
- Durability: If maintained well, an electric furnace can be more durable than gas furnaces lasting up to 15 years. Because they are easy to maintain, this makes them more affordable in the long run as well.
- Price: Electric furnaces are cheaper than gas systems. There is a wide range of options on the market in the budget-friendly price range.
- Installation: An electric furnace is smaller and easier to install. There’s not a lot of prerequisites like a gas furnace requires.
Cons of an Electric Furnace
- Running Cost: While they may be more affordable over time, month to month electric costs are higher to run.
- Time: It takes time for an electric furnace to kick on, heat up the coils, and blow hot air throughout the home. This means it takes longer to heat up your house every day.
- Efficiency: If you live in a freezing part of the country, your electric furnace will have to strain to keep up with the demand for heat.
Where they work best: An electric heating system works best in areas of the country that don’t need high heating power. They are common in the northeast region and the south, where electricity is cheaper or more readily available than natural gas.
Heat pumps are growing in popularity as an alternative or addition to a typical electric or gas furnace. A heat pump can both heat or cool your home more efficiently than an electric or gas unit. This allows you to save significant money on your utility bills and can qualify you for a tax credit in the process.
How it Works: A heat pump pulls heat from the surrounding outside air to either heat or cool your home. The air handler simply moves air over a coil full of hot refrigerant. No burners. No flames. As the air passes over the coil, it gets warmer. A fan inside the air handler blows the warm air into your home. In cooling mode, it works almost exactly like an air conditioner to extract heat from inside and push it out.
Advantages of a heat pump:
- It can increase the lifespan of your furnace because it does the heavy lifting and the furnace will only kick in much colder temperatures.
- It simply moves heat instead of generating heat, giving you more energy efficiency.
- It is powered by electricity, which saves you substantially on fuel consumption.
- No gas lines, heat exchanger, or combustion.
Disadvantages of a heat pump:
Less efficient during peak winter and can’t be relied on for heat when the outdoor temperatures are below freezing.
In general, the air from a heat pump isn’t as hot as what you get from a gas furnace. It’s still warming your home, but it “blows cooler.”
Where they work best: Heat pumps are generally popular in warm climates that may experience some colder days, but do not work as efficiently in freezing areas of the country. In areas where the outdoor temperature regularly dips below 45 degrees, a supplemental furnace is necessary.
However, in other areas, a heat pump can deliver huge savings. Many times, a heat pump can deliver twice as much heat using the same amount of electricity. Combining a heat pump with your existing furnace can increase its efficiency and reduce your energy bill by 30%.
A hybrid system is made up of two parts; a gas furnace inside your home and a heat pump located on the outside of your home.
How It Works: When the outside temperature is below 50°-60° F, homeowners normally turn on their furnace to produce heat. But with a hybrid system, you can use the electric heat pump to pull heat from the outside air between 35°-60° F. Once the outside temperature drops below 35° F, the gas furnace will automatically kick on. You can set the temperature ranges for when the heat pump kicks on and off to fit your personal comfort needs. By only using the furnace when the temperature drops below a set temperature, you can save on your energy bill!
Your home is your haven, and it should be a place of refuge and comfort all year long. Deciding how to heat and cool your home should depend on the individual needs of your home.
In Louisville, KY, if you live in an area with existing natural gas lines, a conventional HVAC system is the way to go. It combines your heating, air conditioning, stove, and water heater into one energy source. Natural gas is clean, inexpensive, and efficient.
However, if you live in an area where natural gas is far more expensive or not available, an electric system can heat your home to a comfortable level all year long.
No matter what heat source you use, energy costs more than any other system in your home and makes up almost half of our utility bills. Always be sure to maintain and upgrade your equipment on time to keep running costs low.
By combining proper equipment, regular maintenance, and recommended upgrades, you can create substantial savings on your bills and create a comfortable home environment for your family.
If you are still not sure if gas or electric is the way to go, give us a call or send us an email and we will be glad to help.