How Do Gas Furnaces Differ From Electric Furnaces?

Keeping your home warm this winter may require a new furnace installation. Choosing between a gas and electric furnace can cause hesitation for many homeowners. While both types of furnaces require electricity to turn them on, the gas option uses gas to create the heat that fills the home. An electric furnace uses electricity from beginning to end. Other differences need consideration as you select which furnace you want for your home.

Biggest Distinction Between Gas and Electric

The way in which each product creates heat is the biggest difference between gas and electric furnaces. Electric furnaces use the electrical system in your home to operate. Gas furnaces operate using natural gas delivered into the home from a main gas line. Because they’re powered differently, each uses a different mechanical process to heat your indoor air.

There’s also a difference in the appearance and sound of a gas furnace versus an electric furnace. Gas furnaces often include a window that lets you see the burner in operation. You can also hear the sound of gas flowing into the gas chamber. You won’t hear anything like that from an electric furnace. Plus, there’s no need for a viewing window.

Mechanical Differences

Gas furnaces use pilot lights, burners, a combustion chamber, and a gas valve in order to complete the heating process. Electric models don’t contain these parts. Instead, they use heating coils to deliver warm air into your rooms. Both types of furnaces use controllers and safety switches to ensure your furnace operates safely. Maintenance for each type of furnace requires a professional with a specific set of skills and knowledge.

Keeping Your Furnace Maintained

The cost of maintaining an electric furnace is much lower than maintaining a gas furnace. Annual maintenance visits for an electric model include an inspection of the equipment. The technician cleans and calibrates the system, tightens loose connections, and identifies safety issues. A maintenance report includes information about worn parts, leaks, and any damage that needs addressing.

On the other hand, gas furnace equipment requires regular gas inspections plus equipment maintenance in order to operate safely. Gas furnace problems can escalate quickly. Dirty gas lines and gas leaks can result in dangerous explosions that can harm you, your family, and your pets.

How a Gas Furnace Creates Heat

A gas furnace connects to your home’s gas line which connects to a main line owned by a local utility. Switch the unit on, and the unit’s gas valve opens and begins to pull gas into the combustion chamber. The gas entering the chamber gets ignited by the burner and begins to heat the air inside the chamber. The furnace’s heat exchanger pulls the heated air out of the chamber and into the home.

How an Electric Furnace Creates Heat

When you turn on your electric furnace, the unit begins to pull air into its heat exchanger. The heating coils also turn on and begin to heat the air pulled into the exchanger. Once the air reaches the designated temperature, the furnace fan begins to run. The fan blows the warmed air into the rooms of your home.

Gas and Electric Safety Issues

If you don’t request annual maintenance services for your electric furnace, you increase the risk of a fire hazard. Safety issues in electric furnaces occur due to faulty wiring or loose electrical connections. Regular maintenance visits greatly reduce the potential for safety problems. Electric heating equipment does not create hazardous substances.

Gas furnaces remain safe in most cases. However, skipping annual gas inspections and equipment maintenance can increase the risk of a dangerous situation. Dirty gas lines and faulty valves can result in gas leaks and explosions. Burning natural gas also creates carbon monoxide, a dangerous substance that’s undetectable by humans. Leaks in your furnace equipment allow this substance to enter your indoor air. You’ll want to install a carbon monoxide detector to protect yourself. Keep the detector on at all times, and make sure it’s tested often to ensure it’s working.

How Powerful Is a Furnace?

Furnace power indicates how quickly a furnace can heat your home. Gas furnaces can heat a home faster than an electric furnace. In climates where winter means extremely cold weather or where extended cold spells are normal, gas becomes an important option. Electric furnaces can take a bit longer to warm up a home. However, both types of furnaces can deliver desired temperatures in the end.

Differences in Furnace Efficiency

Sorting out the differences between a gas and electric furnace helps you make a decision about which to install. Because a gas furnace heats the air more quickly and cycles longer, it uses less fuel. Gas costs less to purchase than electricity, so operating the unit doesn’t cost as much. However, other issues can take away from its cost-effective operation.

  • Expense of a carbon monoxide detector
  • Expense of installing and maintaining a gas line
  • Gas produces dangerous byproducts
  • More parts means more repairs possible

Electric furnaces deliver heat effectively and don’t create dangerous byproducts. These units contain fewer parts than a gas furnace. Typically, this indicates fewer repair needs. Most repairs require replacing worn parts or connections. However, it takes longer for electric units to heat the home, so electric furnaces can require greater monthly power costs. Electric furnaces also produce other issues to consider.

  • Corrosion likely if not maintained annually
  • Cost more to run
  • Creates increased static electricity
  • Heating stops with power outages

Furnace Durability

A gas heating system tends to deliver less durable operation over years of use. The many parts needed to run a gas unit means more wear and tear and more opportunities for failure. Fewer moving parts inside an electric furnace indicate fewer repairs and a longer lifespan. Choosing Energy Star products can support a longer lifespan for all furnace equipment.

Which Is Better, Gas or Electric?

Both gas and electric furnaces heat indoor air and distribute the warmed air throughout the home. Where you live and how you live inside the home help determine which furnace to install. In cold climates where the heat must constantly remain on, a gas furnace offers a more cost-effective option. Using a gas furnace requires a reliable connection to a local natural gas provider. Most rural homeowners can’t connect with a gas provider, so they choose an electric furnace.

In warmer regions, an electric furnace provides a safe way to heat the home. Warmer winter climates tend to require less use of the furnace. This means operating an electric heating system can offer a more dependable choice.

Why Locals Choose Us

Dring Air Conditioning & Heating provides top-of-the-line repairs, installations, and maintenance for residential heating and cooling equipment. Homeowners can also rely on us for indoor air quality and ductwork services. We’ve served your community with timely turnarounds and trusted results since 1953. Contact us today to learn more about the furnace installation and maintenance services we offer in Carrollton and the surrounding area.

Meet the Author
Dennis Chaisson
Dennis Chaisson

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