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Gas Furnace VS. Electric Furnace

electric furnace vs gas

How do you decide between a gas furnace vs. electric furnace? Both offer varying qualities regarding their heat efficiency, safety, and overall costs. Unfortunately, the list of differences and their respective pros and cons can make choosing one a bit difficult. You can rest assured that neither choice is a bad option. It’s just about picking the one best for you. 

The ultimate deciding factor will depend on your personal preferences and the climate of your city. For Canadians, a gas furnace is the best option in most cases because of the extremely low temperatures in our winters. Generally, electric furnaces are better in warmer climates whereas gas furnaces are preferred in the colder parts of the world. 

gas furnace vs. electric furnace
Electric Furnace | Image source: HomeGuide.com

Price comparison: Upfront vs. longterm

The cheaper sticker price of the two furnaces will be electric, time and time again. They are also cheaper to buy and replace but are NOT cheaper to run. Electricity generally costs more than burning gas for your furnace. Another factor to consider is that an electric furnace will outlast a gas furnace by 5-10 years.

In 2021, the average price to replace or install electric furnaces was between $1,000-$3,000. The unit price and installation costs were generally lower than that of a gas furnace. According to HomeGuide.com, the operating costs were reported to be between $130-$180 per month.

Gas furnaces sold for $5,000-$7,000. Even the cheapest gas furnace will be more expensive than the high-range electric ones, which may make the decision for a lot of homeowners. 

However, time flips the narrative in this case. 

As the years go on, you’ll notice electric furnaces cost much more to use and maintain due to the rising costs of electricity. Gas furnaces use natural gas, a much cheaper fuel source that will reflect those savings in your bills. 

Image source: Enercare.ca

Heating efficiency is different than being cost-effective

When we refer to efficiency, technically, the electric furnace is rated 100% efficient. The reason is that 100% of the energy used to heat the coils is converted into heat. That doesn’t mean it’s more cost-efficient. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

There can sometimes be issues with an electric furnace being able to heat the furthest areas and rooms in a large home. Regardless if this is a problem in every home, one thing that remains true is that it takes MUCH longer to heat the same area using an electric furnace than it does a gas furnace.

The winner in this battle for being more cost-effective is the gas furnace. Despite costing less to operate, their immediate source of heat is able to warm a standard-sized home much faster than even the most modern and efficient electric furnaces can. 

Gas powered furnace explanation
Gas Furnace | Image source: FamilyHandyMan.com

Once the flame lights and the gas begins to burn, heat storage and distribution can begin almost immediately in a gas furnace. Electric furnaces, meanwhile, need some time to get the electric coils within them to heat to the proper temperature before heat distribution can begin. 

This comparison of efficiency is important to note, perhaps the most important comparative factor between the two. If you live somewhere warm that only experiences a few months where you’d need your furnace, power, and efficiency won’t be quite as important. For northerners who must endure five or more months with the heat running, power and efficiency are important for both cost reasons and comfortability. 

Thus, it stands to reason that a Texan could own an electric furnace and reap all of the benefits, while a Canadian would end up chilled and paying through the nose each time their electric bill came through. 

Installation and operation comparison

The installation process is faster and less complicated for electric furnaces. They can generally be installed with little impact on your home life while gas furnaces take some time to install their various parts in a safe manner. This is one of the reasons some opt for electric, as it is usually a quick and hardly noticeable process. 

While operating, gas furnaces do emit a bit of noise. This is normal, and because of their usual basement location, the noise often isn’t noticeable. 

Electric furnaces, however, operate with even less noise-arguably, none. 

They also heat without the use of natural gas, meaning you wouldn’t have to worry about gas leaks occurring in your home. With that said, the potential for gas leaks in gas furnaces is slim, especially with modern safety practices within the machine. But electric furnaces will completely mitigate this safety concern.

One last thing to note is that a gas furnace does emit a low level of carbon monoxide. In large qualities that can cause health issues to the resident of the home. This is cause for additional maintenance and safety checks periodically that are not necessary with an electrical power source.

Lifespan And Maintenance 

Electric furnaces take the trophy in the lifespan competition. They generally run for twenty to thirty years, while gas furnaces typically can only manage to get to their twentieth birthdays. 

Electric furnaces typically require less maintenance than gas furnaces. A yearly checkup will keep them going stronger for longer, whether they use gas or electricity. Generally speaking, you will need more gas furnace repair services than electric.

Take a look at the complete list of pros and cons between gas and electric furnaces.

Gas Furnaces

Pros:

  • Cheaper in the long run. Natural gas prices generally stay low with little fluctuation. 
  • Heats fast and strong. 
  • Good for cold climates where heat is needed 5+ months per year. 
  • Can heat an entire house without issues or “cold spots”

Cons:

  • Health risks due to potential gas leaks.
  • Shorter lifespan. 
  • Noisier.
  • Longer installment time.
  • Natural gas contains more damaging emissions than electric power, making electric furnaces better for the environment

Electric Furnaces

Pros:

  • Cheaper upfront.
  • Uses heat coils instead of gas.
  • Long life. 
  • Speedy installation, minimal disruption. 
  • Great for warmer climates.

Cons:

  • Spending more on electricity each month. Operating costs increase as electricity costs increase. 
  • Not good for cold climates.
  • Less efficient in the time it takes to heat.
  • May not keep up with heating demands.

Wrapping up…

For the most part, most Canadian homes are built with a gas furnace heating system. If after reading this article you’re still not sure what is right for you, call us. Speak to our experienced HVAC professionals and get an experienced opinion on your heating needs.

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