Natural Gas Furnace vs Electric Furnace

A natural gas furnace is quite different from an electric furnace. If your home needs a new furnace, you have a choice to go with either natural gas or electric. In order to properly decide what will work best for you and your family, you should compare the efficiency of the furnaces. While the lower short term costs may be tempting, you have to look at the long run as a furnace will last you more than a decade. The dollar figure that should concern you is the sum of purchase price and monthly costs over a period of years. 

Natural Gas vs. Electric Power

Most of the electricity that is produced for home consumption is generated by burning natural gas or other hydrocarbons. Burning it heats water which produces steam. The steam turns turbines which generate electricity. Thus, an electric furnace may require natural gas as one of its initial inputs. Hydroelectric power is different, but that represents only a small portion of total electricity production. 

Comparative Efficiency 

Nearly 100% of the electricity that reaches a home is utilized to power an electric furnace compared to natural gas. Older gas furnaces are only about 65% efficient, while the minimum efficiency today is 80%. The best natural gas furnaces are upwards of 95% efficient which is nearly equivalent to electric furnaces.

Cost Effectiveness

Cost is directly related to efficiency. While electric furnaces are more efficient, they cost more over the long run due to higher monthly payments. Part of this is cost can be attributed to the cost of the inputs that go into electricity production, including the burning of natural gas. Initially, electric furnaces cost less than natural gas furnaces. While a 95% efficient, quality-made gas furnace can cost well over $2,000, some are as low as $500. The lower priced gas furnaces will be less efficient and may be prone to breakdown. In contrast, electric furnaces  range from $400 to $700 for home models.

Installation Requirements

Electric furnaces are typically smaller, so their installation is less involved than natural gas furnaces. If space in the basement or utility closet is a concern, an electric furnace provides a more convenient alternative. Both types, though, require a system of ductwork and a properly rated circuit breaker, A full system installation can be quite complex for both electric and natural gas furnaces.

Operation Differences

Natural gas furnaces combust gas that is piped in through a natural gas line. Due to the dangers of combustion, this presents certain risks that electric furnaces do not possess. Leaking gas lines can be deadly. When properly installed, there is no reason to assume that a natural gas furnace is somehow more hazardous. If, however, the presence of gas in a home is cause for alarm, an electric furnace is the choice for you. 

Electric furnaces and natural gas furnaces provide essentially the same function, only they use different sources of energy in the home. While in the short term an electric furnace will cost you less money, over a period of years it could prove to be more expensive than a natural gas furnace.