Whether powered by gas or electricity, a furnace performs an essential service in your home. But just because they do the same thing, doesn’t mean they do it in the same way. Depending on certain variables, such as cost, maintenance, home size, and local fuel price, one may better suit your home than the other. When determining which furnace is right for you, consider these fundamental differences between gas and electric furnaces and you’ll quickly see which one best meets both your needs and your budget. In this article, we will compare gas furnace and electric furance from 6 views: initial cost, long-term cost, eco-friendliness, maintenance cost and Geo market share.
Initial Cost Comparision
As the most common type of furnace in the U.S., gas furnaces tend to range in price depending on brand. Upfront costs average around $1,200 for the furnace alone, but can cost up to $3,500 to $4000 with installation included.
If natural gas is not available in your area, however, electric furnaces are a popular alternative. Whether or not you’re limited to the use of an electric furnace, one of the advantages to purchasing one is the relatively low initial cost. Estimated upfront costs for common brand name electric furnaces can range from $400 to $1000, though the average hovers around $650. Even at their most expensive with installation, they’re still a fraction of the cost of a gas furnace.
Long-Term Cost Difference
Though the fixed price for a gas furnace may be a bit steeper than that of an electric unit, typically, their operating costs are one of the lowest. The cost of an electric furnace long-term is, in fact, nearly 2.5 times higher (based on average power price $0.12 per kilowatt-hour and average gas price $2.2 per gallon) in the U.S. than that of the average gas furnace. What’s more, the long-term cost of electric furnace will be magnified when you have a bigger house. Of course, this can vary depending on where you live (gas price will increase expecially in rural area), but in most cases, gas is hands-down the cost-effective option compared to an electric furnace operating in the same location.
Obviously, if you’re in an area that does not offer natural gas, your choices become limited. If you live in a smaller home in a warmer region, for example, an electric furnace may sufficiently meet your heating requirements and budget as it won’t be running nearly as much as if you lived in a larger house in a cold climate. If you’re heating a large home in a cold climate, however, you’ll likely see that the cost of operating an electric furnace will compound significantly over time.
Like the initial and long-term costs of a gas or electric furnace, life expectancy should be factored in when considering your budget. A high-efficiency gas furnace can last up to 20 to 25 years, so it’s certainly not an investment to take lightly. Over the course of its lifespan, not only will you continue to pay operating costs, but also regular maintenance and services.
An electric furnace, on the other hand, will likely last longer than its gas-fueled counterpart. Though it may have slightly higher operating costs, it requires little-to-no service throughout that time which can help to lower them long-term. In any case, a gas or electric furnace will endure for quite some time, so determining which one is right for you will have a lasting effect.
Like anything that requires electricity or natural fuel, no furnace is perfect in reducing emissions, though there are certainly favorable options, depending on how often you’ll be running your unit.
An electric furnace will eliminate the emissions from a high-efficiency gas furnace, but the environmental impact of requiring large-scale hydro dams for its use essentially negates these benefits. When deciding which furnace is best for the environment, it’s really a question of which is more efficient.
If you’re upgrading to a high-efficiency unit, odds are you’ll greatly reduce emission and pollutants from your older one. Used correctly in your region, a high-efficiency furnace, whether gas or electric, will run for considerably less time and, in turn, drastically reduce your carbon footprint.
Though a gas furnace can last up to 25 years, it will more than likely require maintenance or service before that time. Similarly, it also has many controls and igniters that may need to be replaced over the years to ensure your safety.
An electric furnace, on the other hand, not only has a longer life expectancy than a gas furnace, but it also requires less maintenance. With no burner to clean or inspect, maintenance costs for electric furnaces are greatly reduced and should be factored in to long-term costs when deciding which unit falls within your budget. The reduced cost of service, cleaning and maintenance can effectively offset its higher operating costs over time.
Geo Market Share
Gas furnaces reign supreme when it comes to large homes in cold climates, especially those in the north. Because of the lower long-term operating costs, heating a big house with gas will be much more economical than with the higher costs of an electric furnace. Even in smaller homes, a gas furnace can run efficiently and effectively.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for electric, though. Unfortunately, for some, natural gas may not be readily available where they live, requiring the use of an electric furnace instead. Even if natural gas is available, if it’s a small enough home in a warm climate, an electric furnace can adequately meet heating needs while still being relatively affordable. Due to the fact that an electric furnace won’t need to run nearly as long to heat a small space in an already warm region, costs will stay low and likely within budget.
Which One Is Right For You?
Without first considering your house size and regional climate, it’s nearly impossible to determine which furnace is best equipped to heat your home. Even houses with the same square footage will require different units depending on where they’re located geographically. If you’re looking to save money and heat your home comfortably, it’s worth considering these above factors before making a purchase.
That being said, there are some clear conclusions we can draw from the available data. If you live in a large house in a cold climate, a high-efficiency gas furnace will be the cost-effective and eco-friendly choice for heating your home. Because it will be running longer due to the larger space and low temperature, a gas furnace will ensure you keep operating costs as low as possible.
If you happen to live in a small house in a warm climate or one without access to natural gas, an electric furnace or heat pump (if the air conditioner is not installed) can easily meet your heating needs without breaking the bank. While it may have higher operating costs, your furnace won’t need to run nearly as long in order to heat a small space with an already warm regional climate.
As you can see, though they both serve the same purpose, gas and electric furnaces are two very different units. If you take stock of each of the above variables, however, and consult a professional, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect furnace to fit your lifestyle as well as your budget.