Electric vs. Gas?...Pros and Cons of each?

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Old 12-07-08, 11:09 AM
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Question Electric vs. Gas?...Pros and Cons of each?

I am seeking a little bit of advice.

My old gas furnace/air conditioning combo unit is beyond repair (combustion chamber in the gas furnace has a crack in it and is now in "rollout", but the A/C still works fine) and I am now seeking out a new unit to replace it.

I was hoping that some of you might be able to tell me what the pros & cons of each type of unit are.

A little background for my situation first:
#1 pretty old house...constructed sometime in the neighborhood of post WWII
#2 two-story (but only looking at providing heating/cooling for the downstairs portion at this particular moment)
#3 downstairs area is approximately 1,085 square feet
#4 live within 100 miles of the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico
#5 probably don't ever see temperatures drop below 32 degrees but maybe about 25 - 27 days/nights per year
#6 oppressive humidity/heat for about 120 - 130 days per year

So that leads me to my next question: what's the appropriate type of unit for my situation?

After having gas furnaces (3 in about 32 years), then I was wondering if I should give a heat pump (or other electric) a go?

Obviously I have already identified the hazards of owning a gas furnace:
#1 limited life of combustion chamber
#2 "rollout" (and limited element of danger/explosion just because it's gas)
#3 potential introduction of carbon monoxide into the interior
#4 subject to wild & speculative swings in fossil fuel energy costs

However, gas does seem to be pretty warm & toasty and we're just not hardened enough in these parts to acclimate ourselves to harsh winter conditions like you would find in the Northeast & Midwest.

Also, what are the maintenance differences between gas & electric furnaces (especially the expense)?...

Which one requires the most maintenance (relative to time & expense)?

Thanks to all who reply!
 
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Old 12-07-08, 12:21 PM
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In your area a heat pump is the only way to go! Will be cheaper to run than the gas furnace. As far as cost to maintain they will be about the same. Two times a year would be best just like the set up you have now. Id go with at least a 15 seer. will be cheaper to run and ring out more RH.
 
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Old 12-08-08, 07:03 AM
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Considering your location, IMO, it is a cost decision. What are your electric rates and your gas rates?

Also, you'd save a bundle on winter (and possibly summer) monthly utilities if you went ahead and replaced your A/C with a nice heat pump.
 
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Old 12-08-08, 07:46 AM
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I'm thinking heat pump, but need to know your utility costs.

Please post your per therm and KWH price including taxes and I can reply with some comparison scenarios.
 
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Old 12-08-08, 08:29 AM
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Re:

Originally Posted by airman.1994 View Post
Id go with at least a 15 seer. will be cheaper to run and ring out more RH.
Thanks for the tip, 'airman.1994'!

If you will forgive my ignorance though, then what is "seer."? I'm supposing that it's some kind of rating of some sort, however I'm a bit devoid of furnace/AC terminology

Oh, and a big thank you goes to 'badtlc' as well as 'dac122'...I'll see if I can go dig up my most recent electric bill so that I can locate the rates that you are referring to.
 
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Old 12-08-08, 07:30 PM
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Seer is the efficiency of the unit. The higher the seer the more efficient the unit. They start at 13 and go to around 21.
 
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Old 12-09-08, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by DixieH View Post
Obviously I have already identified the hazards of owning a gas furnace:
#1 limited life of combustion chamber
#2 "rollout" (and limited element of danger/explosion just because it's gas)
#3 potential introduction of carbon monoxide into the interior
#4 subject to wild & speculative swings in fossil fuel energy costs

!
I would say none of those items is a real issue. Safety-wise, you are probably more likely to get electrocuted off an electrice air handler, or have a fire in the heat strip, than any of these. But actually, all this stuff is reliable and safe. So, the real issue is the cost. Heat pumps are appropriate in your area and cost less to run than electric heat. Your local utility could give you comparative costs vs. a gas heater. That is where you make the decision. A new air handler will cost similar to a gas furnace. For the air handler, you have to buy add-on heat kit, and for the gas furnace, you have to add a coil. No big differences. It all boils down to operating cost.
 
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Old 12-09-08, 11:04 PM
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Re:

Originally Posted by 594tough View Post
I would say none of those items is a real issue. Safety-wise, you are probably more likely to get electrocuted off an electrice air handler, or have a fire in the heat strip, than any of these. But actually, all this stuff is reliable and safe. So, the real issue is the cost. Heat pumps are appropriate in your area and cost less to run than electric heat. Your local utility could give you comparative costs vs. a gas heater. That is where you make the decision. A new air handler will cost similar to a gas furnace. For the air handler, you have to buy add-on heat kit, and for the gas furnace, you have to add a coil. No big differences. It all boils down to operating cost.
So no real difference in maintenance costs between gas & electric?....and what it pretty much boils down to are the energy costs themselves?

Also, I was under the impression that a heat pump is considered "electric heat"...is this not the case?

Finally,...I've been trying to dig through files to find my previous gas & electric bills for last winter and for this past summer with no luck finding them so far...it looks as if I will have to make a trip to the gas company and to the city utilities dept. and have them dig up some previous invoices for me in order to do my energy consumption comparison..

Hopefully, I can swing by there in the next couple of days or so (as if I didn't have enough to do already! )
 
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Old 12-10-08, 06:46 AM
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Do your utilities have websites? You should be able to find rates and old bills on there.

Yes, a heat pump heats by utilizing electricity but it does not work the same as electric heating strips. Typically, electric heat or heating strips are just filament based heating elements that work like a small space heater. The resistance of the element is what creates the heat source.

A heat pump actually uses electricity to transfer heat from outside to inside the home. The electricity is not used to "create" any heat, just transport it. This is how it can be 300% efficient around 40 degrees. Typically, at that temp, it takes 1 Watt of energy to move 3 watts of heat from outside to inside.
 
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Old 12-10-08, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by DixieH View Post
So no real difference in maintenance costs between gas & electric?....and what it pretty much boils down to are the energy costs themselves?

Also, I was under the impression that a heat pump is considered "electric heat"...is this not the case?

Finally,...I've been trying to dig through files to find my previous gas & electric bills for last winter and for this past summer with no luck finding them so far...it looks as if I will have to make a trip to the gas company and to the city utilities dept. and have them dig up some previous invoices for me in order to do my energy consumption comparison..

Hopefully, I can swing by there in the next couple of days or so (as if I didn't have enough to do already! )
Start by posting your utility costs including taxes. Since we are after the lowest BTU cost and operating costs over many years can sometimes swamp initial equipment purchase, knowing these numbers goes a long way toward setting you on the right path.

A heat pump is considered electric in the sense you use electricity to run the air handler and compressor and you often have internal resistive electric heat strips as backup/emergency heat. In places where electrics costs are high relative to NG/oil/propane, the backup heat might be a furnace. Baseboard heaters (also resistive electric heat) are obviously electric. But that's where the similarities end...

The amount of electricity that is used to generate heat is where a heat pump shines. Electric resistive heat, which is 100% efficient can only produce 3413 BTUs per KW. A heat pump on the other hand, depending on the outdoor/indoor temps, can produce 2 to 3 or even 4 times that amount of heat per KW. A heat pump is a heat transfer engine as opposed to other heat sources that are converting one form of energy to another.
 
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Old 12-10-08, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by DixieH View Post
I am seeking a little bit of advice.

My old gas furnace/air conditioning combo unit is beyond repair (combustion chamber in the gas furnace has a crack in it and is now in "rollout", but the A/C still works fine) and I am now seeking out a new unit to replace it.

I was hoping that some of you might be able to tell me what the pros & cons of each type of unit are.

A little background for my situation first:
#1 pretty old house...constructed sometime in the neighborhood of post WWII
#2 two-story (but only looking at providing heating/cooling for the downstairs portion at this particular moment)
#3 downstairs area is approximately 1,085 square feet
#4 live within 100 miles of the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico
#5 probably don't ever see temperatures drop below 32 degrees but maybe about 25 - 27 days/nights per year
#6 oppressive humidity/heat for about 120 - 130 days per year

So that leads me to my next question: what's the appropriate type of unit for my situation?

After having gas furnaces (3 in about 32 years), then I was wondering if I should give a heat pump (or other electric) a go?

Obviously I have already identified the hazards of owning a gas furnace:
#1 limited life of combustion chamber
#2 "rollout" (and limited element of danger/explosion just because it's gas)
#3 potential introduction of carbon monoxide into the interior
#4 subject to wild & speculative swings in fossil fuel energy costs

However, gas does seem to be pretty warm & toasty and we're just not hardened enough in these parts to acclimate ourselves to harsh winter conditions like you would find in the Northeast & Midwest.

Also, what are the maintenance differences between gas & electric furnaces (especially the expense)?...

Which one requires the most maintenance (relative to time & expense)?

Thanks to all who reply!
I had a gas unit, two in fact(gasheat and gas air). The gas price here in Tenn. was so high that when the second unit went bad, I went with a heat pump(American standard-same as Trane). I would have saved enough to pay for the new unit had I replaced the gas with heat pump after the first one. Only thing I miss is the warmth of the gas. The heat pump doesn't heat up as fast as the gas but works great. You have received all the right answers already. Just a matter if preference depending on the operating costs. In your area, you won't be using the heat as much as the air.
 
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