living room with fireplace

Gas Or Electric Furnace: Which One Is Right For You?

Gas furnace or electric furnace? Both are good options for a home. Comfort Air reviews each system to help you decide which solution is right for you. 

Gas Furnace – Synopsis

A gas furnace uses a forced-air heating system that relies on a thermostat to keep a home heated. When the heat drops below the thermostat setting, a signal is sent from the thermostat to the pilot light (which is always lit), which ignites the main burner of the furnace’s heat exchanger. The main burner delivers heat to the heat exchanger, which in turn heats the air that circulates in the home. A blower fan forces the heated air through the home’s ductwork, and continues doing so until the thermostat senses that the right temperature is reached. At this point, the furnace shuts down, the fan distributes any remaining heated air, and then shuts down as well.

Gas Furnace – Advantages

  • Durability: average lifetime of 10 – 20 years
  • Good heat efficiency
  • Superior in colder climates
  • Lower fuel costs

Gas Furnace – Disadvantages

  • Carbon monoxide emissions must be monitored constantly
  • Noise can be an issue
  • Requires regular maintenance from an HVAC professional serving Portland
  • Price and complexity of installation

Electric Furnace – Synopsis

An electric furnace also combines a forced-air heating system with a thermostat. However, instead of a pilot light/main burner/heat exchanger arrangement, the thermostat sends a signal to an electric ignition which then activates the electric heating elements inside the furnace. An electric furnace’s heat distribution and “shut-down” method are identical to that of a gas furnace.

Electric Furnace – Advantages

  • Safe (no carbon monoxide emissions to worry about)
  • Durability: average lifetime of 20 – 30 years
  • Ideal for warmer climates
  • Easy to maintain
  • Low-cost, relatively simple installation
  • Quiet
  • Good heat efficiency

Electric Furnace – Disadvantages

  • Higher monthly costs than a gas furnace

A Closer Look

Efficiency

High heat efficiency is attainable by both furnace types, but between the two an electric furnace has the edge. It’s possible for an electric furnace to achieve a 100 percent annual fuel-utilization-efficiency (AFUE) rating, whereas gas furnaces have an AFUE range of 55 – 97 percent, depending on the furnace’s age and model. The efficiency of a gas furnace can be enhanced if its pilot light is swapped out for an alternative like hot-surface ignition or direct spark.

Cost

In most cases, electric furnaces have a lower sticker price and are cheaper to install. However, despite their lower purchase cost and higher average efficiency, electric furnaces cost more to operate – simply because natural gas is cheaper than electric power. Even if gas prices rise in the next few years, a gas furnace’s operational cost will still be considerably less than its electric counterpart.

In sum, there are upsides and downsides to both options, with perhaps a slight edge in favor of an electric furnace. However, gas furnaces get the nod in an area of great importance: lower operational costs. Contact our furnace company serving Vancouver and let’s talk further about each system and which one best suits your home and budget.