Planning to install a heating system for your home?
You can go with either an electric heater or a gas heater.
But what exactly is the difference between the two and which one should you choose?
While an electric heating system is easier to install, a gas heating system is generally much cheaper to run. As a result, an electric heating system is ideal for moderately cold regions, whereas a gas heating system is ideal for colder regions where the operating cost overcomes high installation costs.
This article differentiates between the electric heating system and gas heating system by going through their various aspects such as cost, installation, efficiency, etc., helping you to make the right decision for your application.
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Electric Heating vs Gas Heating - How do they Differ?
Although both heating systems provide the same basic functionality, there are various aspects that set them apart.
Therefore, it is important to analyze each aspect before selecting the right heating system for your application.
|Electric Heating System
|Gas Heating System
|Does not produce harmful fumes
|Combustion produces harmful fumes of CO
|Easy, no exhaust system required
|Comparatively more complex
|Low initial costs, high operational costs
|High initial costs, low operational costs
|Easy to maintain
|Poor maintenance can cause leakage
|Mildly cold regions
|Mild to extremely cold regions
Electric Heating vs Gas Heating - Which is Safer?
The basic working principle of an electric heating system is the use of electrical coils and heating elements to convert electricity into heat.
As a result, this type of heating system does not involve making a fire.
On the other hand, a gas heating system involves burning natural gas like propane or oils to produce the required heat.
Therefore, a gas heating system involves the emission of fumes and gases that can be harmful to the environment.
These harmful fumes of Carbon Monoxide (CO) can cause nausea and dizziness, making it important to have proper ventilation and an exhaust system when using gas heating indoors.
In contrast, the elimination of fire in an electrical heating system makes it ideal for indoor use, such as small-size room heaters and radiators.
However, electric heating systems are dependent upon electricity, and losing power during a snowstorm or other natural calamity leads to no heat.
Whereas a gas-fired heating system is not dependent upon electricity and the heat is not cut off even during winter storms.
Which is Easier to Install?- Electric Heating or Gas Heating
As a gas heating system involves the burning of gas, it generates smoke and, therefore, needs a dedicated ventilation or exhaust system to dispose of the smoke.
If your house has a pre-existing exhaust system, you can integrate the gas furnace with it, or you will have to establish a complete exhaust system to dispose of the smoke safely.
Apart from that, using an indoor gas furnace produces harmful carbon monoxide gas which, when inhaled in large quantities can cause dizziness and nausea.
Therefore, it also requires a good ventilation system to recirculate the air inside the room to prevent the accumulation of harmful gases.
On the other hand, an electric heating system is comparatively easy to install. It does not require an exhaust or ventilation system to operate.
Electric heating also does not produce harmful combustion gases like carbon monoxide, making it the ideal heating system for indoor applications.
Which is Cheaper?- Electric Heating or Gas Heating
|Type of Region
|Gas Heating System
|Electric Heating System
The cost of the heating system depends upon the initial cost of buying the equipment, installation charges, and the cost of running the heating system.
Generally, electric heating systems involve less cost as they do not require sophisticated exhaust systems.
On the other hand, a gas furnace is comparatively larger and requires a dedicated exhaust system, which involves additional charges in terms of equipment and installation.
The overall costs involved in purchasing and installing an electric heating system can amount to around $4,000, whereas for a gas heating system, this amount can be over $6,000.
However, the operational cost of a gas furnace is comparatively less than an electric heat pump.
As a result, a gas-based heating system is preferred for colder regions like Alaska, Michigan, New York, etc., to significantly cut down your heating bills.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average operational cost of an electric heating system for the winter of 2022-2023 will be around $1,359 for standard regions.
Moreover, for colder regions, where a constant heat supply is required, the average electric heating cost per household can be around $1,482.
On the other hand, the average running cost for a gas-fired heating system is estimated to be around $931 for standard regions and $1,096 for colder regions.
Electric Heating vs Gas Heating - Which is Efficient?
The heating efficiency of a gas furnace is comparatively higher than that of a heat pump.
Operating a heat pump involves various energy losses in the process of converting electric energy into heat energy, and then heating the air.
On the other hand, gas furnace offers comparatively better heating efficiency, leading to lower operational costs.
Apart from that, electric heating systems are comparatively slower as they involve heating the element or coil first, which then heats the surrounding atmosphere.
Which Requires Less Maintenance?- Electric Heating or Gas Heating
A gas heating system consists of various elements such as the furnace, the exhaust system, the ducts, etc., that function in coordination to keep the system running.
Apart from that, the gas heating system involves pipelines and fittings that need regular maintenance to avoid a gas leak, which can cause serious accidents.
There can be many reasons for the gas smell coming from your furnace, and you will need to find the root cause to resolve the issue.
Therefore, gas heating systems require a professional individual to perform regular maintenance checks in order to ensure proper heating and avoid gas leaks.
On the other hand, electric heating systems are comparatively simple and do not need professional maintenance checks, unless it breaks down.
Thereby saving the maintenance cost in the long run.
Electric Heating vs Gas Heating - Which Lasts Longer?
On average, gas heating systems are estimated to last around 10 to 20 years, provided that you perform regular maintenance and follow the proper operating procedures.
On the other hand, electric heating systems can last as long as 30 years with minimal maintenance.
What is Electric Heating?
Electric heating involves using electrical energy to produce heat and increase the temperature of the surroundings.
It is comparatively a newer technology than gas heating and does not involve the combustion of fuel inside the heating furnace.
As a result, it is a safer and cleaner alternative for HVAC systems.
Although electric energy is considered cleaner energy, it involves burning coal to produce electricity in various states, except for a few hydro-powered or nuclear-powered states.
Furthermore, it is a comparatively slower heating system as it involves heating the element first, which then heats the medium (oil or air) around it to deliver the required heat.
Despite its low initial cost, the higher operational costs make it ideal for heating small rooms in moderately cold regions where less heat energy is required to maintain the ambient room temperature.
Types of Electric Heating Systems
Wall heaters are one of the commonly used electric heaters that are available in different sizes depending upon the size of the room and heating requirements.
These heaters are comparatively smaller than furnaces and each room requires a separate electric wall heater.
As a result, these types of heaters can be economical where you specifically require heat in some rooms, thereby eliminating the cost involved in installing the HVAC system for the entire house.
It consists of an electric element that generates the heat and a fan circulates the heat.
Forced Heat Furnace
A forced heat furnace is similar to a wall heater but significantly larger in size.
These electrical furnaces consist of multiple electrical elements arranged in a particular order and a large size fan/blower forces the air to pass over these heating elements.
This results in heat exchange, heating the air to the required temperature.
The hot air is then delivered to different rooms through ducts.
Therefore, it involves comparatively higher initial costs than a wall heater and is suitable for heating the entire house without the need for individual units.
However, the size/capacity of the furnace must be carefully selected based on your requirements.
Electric baseboard heaters use heating elements to generate heat, which is then transferred into the room.
Unlike either heating system, where a fan or blower forces the hot air, a baseboard heater uses metallic fins to transfer the heat via convection.
These are small-size heaters that are suitable for heating individual rooms and are generally installed under the windows to ensure efficient heating.
Electric baseboard heaters are comparatively less noisy and more efficient than forced air heaters but provide less precision in temperature control.
As a result, baseboard heating is ideal for heating small rooms where precise temperature control is not required.
What is Gas Heating?
Gas heating involves the combustion of natural gas to generate the heat required to keep your household warm.
It is a comparatively faster and more effective heating source than electric heating.
Unlike electric heating, gas heating does not involve heating the element, and the flame produces directly transfers the heat to the required medium.
Furthermore, natural gas is comparatively less expensive than electricity, thereby reducing the overall operational cost of the HVAC system.
However, it must be noted that installing a gas-fired HVAC requires the installation of ducts to deliver the hot air and chimneys to dispose of the smoke, making the installation process relatively expensive.
Types of Gas Heating Systems
Forced-air Gas Furnace Systems
This type of gas heating is ideal for HVAC systems for heating the entire house or office space.
In this system, natural gas such as propane is used to ignite the fire and heat the air surrounding it.
This hot air is then circulated to the rooms with the help of ducts.
However, the burning of natural gas produces water vapor and harmful carbon mono oxide (CO) as bi-products.
Therefore, proper ventilation and an exhaust system are required to safely dispose of these harmful fumes.
Radiant Water-based Gas Heating Systems
Water-based (hydronic) gas heating involves using natural gas to heat the water inside a boiler.
This hot water is then circulated throughout the house to deliver the heat.
Generally, radiators are used as heat exchangers to deliver heat inside the room. Apart from that, this system can also be incorporated with baseboard heaters.
As a result, this type of heating system provides a wide range of options to incorporate into your existing heating systems.
However, this heating system also produces harmful CO fumes which need to be disposed of properly.
Gas-fired Room Heaters
Gas-fired room heaters are small in size and are available in various shapes and models to fit your requirement.
These heaters consist of a heating panel that is heated by a flame and then radiates the heat to the room.
Due to their compact size and ease of installation, they are ideal for small-size applications where a single room is to be heated.
However, these heaters pose a risk of CO accumulation in the room, depriving oxygen and causing dizziness and nausea.
Therefore, it is strongly advised to set up good ventilation and exhaust system when using gas-fired room heaters.
What is Hybrid Heating?
A hybrid system is an advanced heating system that provides you with the best of both systems.
It consists of an electric heating system and a gas heating system combined in one.
The electric heating system provides better temperature control, making it suitable for moderately cold seasons, and shifts to gas heating during extreme cold.
This system is generally automated and the system switches between the two heating systems by sensing the temperature needs.
However, it is comparatively more costly than the electric and gas heating system, as it involves the installation of both systems.
Generally, installing a hybrid heating system can cost over $6,000.
In certain regions, a hybrid heating system is applicable for a tax credit (rebate), and you can consult your HVAC professional to get more information about it.
The gas heating system is recommended for colder regions as it will lead to efficient heating and lower heating bills than electric heating.
However, the state's Climate Action Council is planning to implement Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which proposes to stop using gas-based furnaces by the year 2030.
Therefore, if you are planning to install a heating system in your household, it is advised to check on the future plans of the state's authority before making a decision.
On the other hand, electric heaters are ideal for room heaters as they do not produce any harmful fumes, making them safe to use without the need to install complex ventilation systems.
The selection between the two is governed by the region you live in, your heating requirements, and overall cost, making it important to consider all the factors before making a decision.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Which is the cheapest way to heat your home?
Currently, the cheapest heat source to heat your home is natural gas. In certain cases, natural gas has proved to be 3 times cheaper than electric heating systems.
How to improve heating to reduce bills?
You can improve heating to reduce bills by sealing the gaps along the doors and windows. Although it might not sound too effective, a 2 mm gap under a window panel can produce the same amount of draft produced by a 50 mm hole.
Is solar heating suitable for HVAC?
No, solar heating is not suitable for HVAC systems because of their comparatively poor efficiency. However, they can be integrated with boiler-based heating systems to reduce heating bills.