Whether you’re building a new home or upgrading your current heating system, you have an important decision to make: Should you buy a gas furnace or shift to an electric unit? Or could a heat pump be the right choice? To help you decide, Service Experts would like to share some comparisons between gas and electric furnaces, as well as offer our thoughts about the ideal scenarios for using a heat pump.
Gas furnaces are generally more expensive to purchase and install than electric furnaces. The equipment alone has more components that are not needed in an electric system, which influences the retail price. Then, gas furnaces require more complex installation and ventilation systems to safely take out combustion gases from the home. This means you need more space to allow for the installation. Plus, if you don’t already have a gas line and appliance hookup, you’ll need to include that cost into your decision as well.
On the other hand, electric furnaces are relatively simple to install, they require less space, and don’t need a ventilation system because no combustion fuels are involved. However, they will need a connection to a 240-volt electrical circuit, which isn’t available in some older homes. As such, you may need an electrician to set up a new receptacle and upgrade your electric panel.
The higher up-front cost of a gas furnace normally pays for itself rather quickly because it’s much less expensive to operate than an electric furnace. This may surprise you, given that electric furnaces will often achieve higher annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). It all comes down to the lower per-unit cost of natural gas compared to electricity, which often overcomes even a significant difference in AFUE ratings.
Of course, energy costs change by region and change over time, making electricity less costly in some cases. It would also makes sense to buy an electric heating system if you currently have or want to install solar panels. However, heat pumps typically cost much less to operate than electric furnaces, so consider this option if you wish to save with an electric-based heating system.
Heat pumps run on the same principles as an air conditioner, utilizing refrigerant to shift heat rather than generating it from a fuel source. In fact, thanks to a reversing valve, heat pumps can double as efficient air conditioners in the summer, eliminating the need to use a separate cooling system.
While they are highly efficient in mild temperatures, heat pumps have some drawbacks. Because they extract heat from cold air, the delivery temperature is much lower than that of gas or electric furnaces. Traditional heat pumps must also depend on an inefficient electric resistance heater during cold snaps. While this ensures home comfort, it will also increase your utility bills. Cold-climate heat pumps produce better performance at low temperatures, so consider this if it regularly drops below freezing where you live.
Without question, gas and electric furnaces are effective at heating homes, but gas furnaces tend to be more powerful and faster at warming large spaces. Gas furnaces generate heat by burning natural gas, which creates hot air that circulates inside the home via ductwork. Alternatively, electric furnaces use electrical resistance heating, which takes longer to warm up.
The selection of a gas or electric furnace may come down to what fuels are obtainable in your community. Gas furnaces require access to a natural gas line, which isn’t available in some places. Even if gas is offered in your region, you may be unable to afford the cost of installing the gas line, which is understandable. In these cases, an electric furnace or heat pump may be the only viable option for keeping your home comfortable in the winter.
Both gas and electric furnaces require regular maintenance to ensure safe and efficient performance. But gas furnaces require extra maintenance, including regular inspections and cleaning of the gas burners and heat exchanger. Of course, electric furnaces still require routine filter changes and inspections of the heating elements and blower motor.
In relation to the topic of safety, gas furnaces carry a moderate risk of carbon monoxide leaks if not maintained or installed properly. This is why you should prioritize routine inspections and never attempt a DIY furnace installation. Electric furnaces can’t leak carbon monoxide, but they still require professional installation and maintenance to guarantee safe performance.
For help determining the best home heating system for you, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your unique circumstances and help you make a smart decision about which type of furnace to put in. We’re so confident you’ll be satisfied with our services that we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to set up a free furnace installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you.
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