Is a Gas or Electric Furnace Best for You?

Man removes the furnace filter cover to inspect

When the winter months and cold days roll around, it’s important that you have a properly functioning furnace. Before you can settle on a brand, you should first decide which type of furnace best suits your needs. Gas and electric furnaces are two of the more popular options. Each one has its own unique set of advantages and ways of operating.

What is a Gas Furnace, and How Does It Operate?

In simple terms, a gas furnace is a heating unit that uses natural gas to operate and distribute warm air throughout your home. The process includes several important steps:

  • Thermostat communicates with the furnace
  • Natural gas ignites
  • The burner ignites
  • Air filtering takes place
  • The warm air is circulated throughout your home

There are several components needed in order for a gas furnace to work properly. The thermostat is used to communicate with the furnace and regulate the temperature inside the space. The draft hood draws in and warms the air before redistribution. In the burner, the air is mixed with fuel in order to create heat. The heat exchanger is used to transfer heat and prevent toxic air from entering your home. As its name suggests, the blower’s sole purpose is to blow heated air through the ducts. Much like the heat exchanger, the flue is needed to help keep your indoor breathing air safe. The flue collects and removes harmful gas waste.

What Is an Electric Furnace and How Does It Operate?

Unlike a gas furnace, an electric furnace runs on electricity. Electric furnaces typically fall into three categories: arc, induction, and resistance.

Electric arc furnaces use high-voltage electricity to generate heat. An induction furnace creates heat through the process of heating metals and other highly conductive materials, such as graphite. Although resistance furnaces are not typically used in homes, they are still being used to create chemical compounds such as silicon carbide. In some ways, the electric resistance furnace functions like a gas furnace. A blower draws air in and pushes it back out through the heat exchanger.

Benefits of a Gas Furnace

Along with providing heat to your home, a gas furnace offers a variety of benefits and advantages:

  • A reduction in heating costs
  • Efficiency
  • Reliability
  • Protects your home
  • Protects the environment

Because natural gas typically costs less than electricity, you could see a significant reduction in your heating costs. Savings could range anywhere from 50% to upwards of 70%. Natural gas furnaces are also known to produce heat at a faster rate than electric furnaces. Fewer resources are also used during the process, causing an increase in energy efficiency.

Gas furnaces tend to be more reliable over time. This is especially true during power outages. For the most part, gas appliances can continue to function even when the electricity is no longer working. So, whether there’s been an unexpected weather-related outage or a system failure, you can still expect to stay warm and cozy during the wintertime.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that has caused countless poisonings. Fortunately, well-maintained gas furnaces typically don’t generate much, if any, carbon monoxide. However, keep in mind that poorly maintained gas furnaces do run the risk of producing and emitting carbon monoxide and other toxins.

Not only can a well-kept gas furnace help to protect your home from harmful chemicals, but it can also help to protect the environment. Because natural gas is a natural fossil fuel, it is known to be less harmful to the environment. It’s said to be healthier than electricity, propane, oil, and wood.

Benefits of an Electric Furnace

Although gas furnaces are known to provide a wide range of benefits. Electric furnaces come with their own set of noteworthy advantages:

  • Up-front costs
  • Availability
  • Solar convertibility
  • Safety
  • Longer lifespan

Because electric furnaces are usually cheaper than gas furnaces, you are able to save on up-front costs. Along with being more cost-effective at the onset, electric furnaces may also be easier to come by. Depending on where you live in the United States, it can sometimes be difficult to access the necessary amount of gas, oil, or propane. Electricity, on the other hand, is available in just about every part of the country.

If you’re interested in using solar power in your home, electric furnaces are the way to go. Your furnace can easily be connected to solar panels, creating a more eco-friendly system. Because electric furnaces do not use gas or oil, you won’t have to worry about dangerous gas leaks. There is also very little, if any, risk of starting a fire.

The average lifespan of a gas furnace is 10 to 15 years whereas an electric furnace can last upwards of 20 years. This potentially gives you an extra five or even 10 years to mentally and financially prepare for a replacement.

How to Choose the Right Furnace

When considering the benefits of both gas and electric furnaces, it may seem difficult to choose between the two. The first thing you should do is to examine your finances. Would you be more comfortable paying more at the onset? Or would it be better for you to pay a little more on your monthly bill? If you purchase an electric furnace, you could save thousands of dollars in up-front costs. However, if you choose a gas furnace, you could save anywhere from $75 to $100 on your monthly bills.

Next, consider the location of your home and your own personal comfort levels. If you live in a place that has harsh winters or you cringe at the thought of outdoor temperatures hitting anywhere below 50 or 60 degrees, you may want to try a gas furnace. Gas furnaces typically heat up faster and can reach higher temperatures than their electric counterparts. If you don’t live in a cold climate or colder temperatures don’t bother you, an electric furnace may suit you just fine.

Lastly, you should examine your access to utilities. Do you have access to a gas main? If not, you would have to have one installed, which would further increase costs. However, if you already have access, the installation process would be simple. The same goes for electricity. If your home already has electricity, installing an electric furnace wouldn’t pose much of an issue.

Maintenance Is Key

No matter which option you choose, keep in mind that proper maintenance is key. Without routine maintenance, you will likely have to replace your furnace sooner than expected, setting you back thousands of dollars in premature replacement fees. Along with preventing unnecessary spending, there are several other reasons to keep your system well-maintained.

  • Fewer repairs
  • More effective heating
  • Improved air quality
  • A longer life expectancy

At The Lee Thompson Co., we are dedicated to helping you choose the furnace that works best for you. We’re the go-to company for reliable air conditioning and heating service, heater installs, and maintenance in the Houston area. Give us a call today to inquire about our services as well as our gas and electric furnace options.