Whether it’s time to replace your furnace or you just want to see if there’s a better fit for you, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether you want an electric or a gas furnace. While there are some key similarities between these two options, there are several key differences that you should consider before moving forward with either type of furnace. As an accredited HVAC contractor, T the T Plumbing and Heating is well-versed in these two options. Here is a breakdown of which will best suit your needs. 

What Do Electric and Gas Furnaces Have in Common? 

At their core, both electric and gas furnaces serve the same purpose: to heat your home. They both utilize a system called forced-air heating. Essentially, a forced-air system will pull in air from your home, move it past a heat source found in your furnace, and distribute it throughout the home. The heating process is triggered by a drop in temperature that signals your furnace to kick on and the forced-air system to blow the heated air through the vents. 

What happens after your furnace is triggered to turn on is where the differences between a gas and electric unit start to differ. An electric furnace will signal an electrical ignition system to turn on and air will heat up by passing through this heat source. When a gas furnace receives this signal, a pilot light will ignite the main burner to create a heat source to warm up the air.     

Cost Comparison 

Cost is a major differentiating factor between an electric and gas furnace – both up-front and ongoing. This can be a major deciding factor for those looking to buy a new furnace. Installation costs are also a factor to remember. Let’s take a look at the key differences in pricing. 

Electric furnaces are going to run you less money in the beginning. On average, they cost around $500 - $1,500 to install. While this is typically cheaper than a gas unit installation, the price of operation can be steep. The amount of electricity that this type of furnace takes to function typically costs more than the natural gas needed to operate a gas furnace. 

The initial cost of a gas furnace is more of an up-front investment than an electric furnace. This type of furnace will usually cost anywhere from $1,795 to $6,290 to install. Once the furnace is in place, it is a lot less expensive to operate than an electric furnace on a monthly basis. 

Keep in mind that if you need to adjust your home to accommodate a new type of furnace, this will cost you additional money. The ultimate price of the unit itself will vary by price and size as well.

Should I Choose an Electric Furnace?

An electric furnace is a great option for those that don’t want to make a lofty up-front payment when replacing an old furnace. But as we mentioned above, monthly payments are usually more expensive. If you have the hookups for an electric furnace, this will be the easiest option. Gas furnaces require special ventilation and hookups to function properly. 

Electric furnaces tend to do best in mild climates in smaller homes. They take a lot longer to heat a space up than their gas counterparts. It can be difficult and expensive to use an electric furnace in a large home or colder climate.  

Pros of an Electric Furnace

  • They’re cheaper and easier to install 
  • They don’t make as much noise as a gas furnace
  • Maintenance is cheaper and needed less frequently 
  • No danger of CO poisoning 
  • Last up to 30 years 

Cons of an Electric Furnace

  • The electricity necessary to function is expensive on a monthly basis
  • Can cause electrical fires in some cases
  • Takes a lot longer to heat up 
  • Can actually be worse for the environment if your power grid runs primarily on coal

Should I Choose a Gas Furnace?

Although gas furnaces are a large investment at the onset, they offer benefits across their lifespan that can make the initial price tag worth it for some people. With natural gas prices on the decline in the last few years, gas furnaces are growing even more affordable to operate. Not only are they cheaper to operate on a monthly basis, but they also heat homes big and small more efficiently. 

Natural gas isn’t available in all regions. States up north tend to lean on gas furnaces a lot more than those in hottest climates such as the south. While they do heat up a home a lot faster, they do tend to require frequent maintenance and repairs to operate safely. For instance, controls and igniters will likely need to be replaced several times throughout the years. 

Pros of a Gas Furnace 

  • Cheaper to operate than an electric furnace
  • Natural gas burns cleaner than coal so they’re the more eco-friendly option
  • Uses less energy to heat and circulate air through a home
  • Generally heats a home faster than an electric furnace

Cons of a Gas Furnace

  • Wears out faster than the electric furnace, typically only last 20 years
  • Requires frequent, complex maintenance 
  • Can produce carbon monoxide (CO) which can cause dizziness, drowsiness, or even death 
  • Can cost two to three times more than an electric furnace to install

So Electric or Furnace? Which is Best? 

There isn’t a straightforward answer to this question. There are some key, fundamental differences between these two options that you should consider before making a decision. A lot will hinge on which option your home is already compatible with. Changing the type of furnace your home already has hookups for can be a difficult, expensive undertaking. You’ll also need to take into account how big the space that houses your furnace is.

Picking out the right type of furnace for you can be a difficult process. There are a lot of moving parts to keep in mind. Reference this brief guide to get a general idea of which will be best for your situation.

Pick an Electric Furnace if…

  • You already have the connections for an electric furnace
  • You live in a more mild climate 
  • Your home is small enough to heat up efficiently using an electric furnace
  • You don’t have access to natural gas 

Pick a Gas Furnace if…

  • You already have the connections for a gas furnace
  • You live in a colder climate
  • You have a larger space to heat 
  • You do have access to natural gas  

TLDR: Electric and Gas Furnaces Are Both Great Choices   

At the end of the day, both of these types of furnaces will keep you warm when temperatures start to dip. Which will be the ideal fit for you will hinge on a lot of layered factors. You’ll need to juggle decisions around sizing, cost, energy use, and so much more. Even some homes with similar square footage can require a different type of unit if it’s in a different location or has a different space for the furnace. 

Don’t put all the pressure on yourself to figure out what the best fit for you is. Call on the professionals to help you sort through all the different choices you have. To the T Plumbing would be happy to walk you through the process from start to finish. Our NATE-certified team has over 15-years of experience in the industry so you can count on us to help point you in the right direction! 

Contact Us Today