Gas vs electric heat is a widely debated topic as they are two of the primary sources of home heating used globally today.
The two fuel sources come in handy during cold seasons in heating our homes to offer the needed comfort. However, it’s essential to think about the cost of running, level of efficiency, and impact on the environment when choosing a heating source.
Whether you’re gearing up to replace your current heating equipment or building a new home, getting an efficient and affordable fuel type should be your ultimate goal.
This article is a side-by-side comparison of gas vs electric heat, their advantages and disadvantages, and finally a comparison of the prices.
Read on for inspiration and insight for a better choice for your home.
Gas vs Electric Heat Comparison
To understand which heating source is best for your home, we’ll compare gas and electric heat based on energy efficiency, installation cost, service life, noise level, maintenance, impact on the environment, comfort and safety, and initial acquisition cost.
Most users report a 100 percent energy efficiency on electric heating. However, natural gas offers greater overall efficiency. Energy efficiency is measured in terms of the energy that the furnace can convert into heat, not the rate at which it can heat a home.
Electric furnaces will convert nearly all the energy produced to heat. Gas heaters vary. For instance, gas heaters with intermittent or hot surface ignition are more efficient than electric heaters.
Additionally, gas heaters have low monthly bills and produce more heat than electric heaters within a relatively short time.
You need a connection to a natural gas network before installing a gas furnace. Besides, you’ll also need a chimney or flue pipe to let out combustion gases from the house. All these components cost money, making gas heat comparatively more expensive to install than electricity.
With proper maintenance, a gas heater lasts between 10 and 20 years. That service life is shorter than electric heaters that will go for 20 to 30 years.
The shorter gas heater lifespan results from many components, such as the gas burner, which requires regular maintenance. The burner produces tiny gaseous particles that may cause the gas heater to fail if left uncleaned.
Such working parts are also prone to corrosion when left unattended for a long time.
The electric heaters don’t have such issues, hence the extended service life.
Electric heating produces less noise than gas, thanks to its simple design. On the other hand, gas heating has a rushing sound when you ignite the burner, but the noise isn’t too loud to cause any worry.
Electric heaters are generally easier to maintain than gas heaters, and you may not need the services of a professional technician unless there is a breakdown. Otherwise, most of the maintenance on an electric heater is DIY projects.
On the other hand, the gas-powered heater may need annual maintenance by a qualified HVAC technician. The burner requires cleaning and inspection from time to time to ensure no condensation build-up beneath, which may cause corrosion after some time.
Note that combustion heating emits tiny carbon monoxide particles requiring an HVAC professional with proper knowledge and equipment to ensure the system’s proper functioning.
Important: Improper diagnosis may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Equip your home with carbon monoxide detectors if you install gas appliances in your home.
Comfort and Safety
Gas heaters produce more powerful heat at high speed, making them suitable for warming up more prominent spaces and for use in freezing climates. In contrast, electric heating, cooling, and ventilation will suffice in dry and hot temperatures.
One major safety concern about gas heaters is potential carbon monoxide gas leakage, which can be poisonous and fatal when ingested in high doses. In this case, electric heat is safer since it doesn’t combust any fuel onsite.
However, note that high-voltage equipment risks starting a fire in case of a malfunction. Therefore, experts recommend occasional maintenance and proper use that adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines to minimize fire risks.
Natural gas heaters produce minimal greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide for heating your home compared to electric heaters.
While it’s true that natural gas pipelines can break, leading to leakages and environmental pollution, electric heating is potentially dangerous too in case of a fire break-out in high voltage connections.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) in 2018 reported that about 83 percent of electricity generated across the US came from fossil fuels, including natural gas, petroleum, coal, and nuclear.
In addition, 30 percent of that energy came from coal—the most dangerous fossil fuel to the environment.
So, the best way to evaluate whether gas or electric heating is safe is to pay attention to the source. Otherwise, electric heating without any fossil fuel is the safest, although natural gas heating has the lowest environmental impact than all other fossil fuels.
Types of Heaters
There are two types of gas heaters:
- Flued heaters: Such heaters require permanent installation. The flue is installed at a suitable height to absorb all the gas emitted.
- Non-flued heaters: These are flueless or vent-free heaters. They are suitable for use in a room with enough ventilation. Keep in mind that too much ventilation will cool the room.
There are two main types of electric heaters:
- Convection heaters: A heating element emits hot air via convection. As hot air goes up, cold air refills the gap very fast for heating to ensure a constant hot airflow. Convection heating is suitable for enclosed spaces.
Examples of convection heaters include oil-filled and ceramic heaters.
- Radiation heaters: Here, a heating element enclosed in a glass envelope heats up to high temperatures that are then emitted as infrared radiation. Heat is directed away from the heater by the reflector.
The radiation then moves through the air to reach a heat-absorbing body to provide spot heating. An example of such a heater type is an infrared heater.
- Radiation heating has a focused heat that requires precision during ignition.
- Heating extracts moisture from the air that may trigger skin conditions such as eczema. Use a humidifier to improve your indoor air.
- Install ventless gas heaters in areas with proper ventilation. Turn them off before sleeping since partial combustion of gas can emit poisonous nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide.
Pros and Cons of Gas Heat
- Produces more heat, usually between 3-5 kW
- Up to 20 years of service life
- Ideal for heating in freezing climates
- Highly efficient with low monthly fuel costs
- Complex and costly to install
- Has severe environmental and human safety concerns in case of carbon monoxide leakage
- Expensive to maintain as it requires professional attention to service
- Noisy compared to electric heat
Pros and Cons of Electric Heat
- Cheap to acquire and install
- Safe and operates quietly
- Longer lifespan of up to 30 years
- Ideal for warmer climates
- Expensive to operate due to high monthly bills
- Produces less heat than a gas heater and takes longer to heat up
- Dangerous to the environment when fossil fuel is used to generate electricity
Gas vs Electric Heat Prices
The price factor is an important consideration when choosing between gas and electric heat. While the initial cost of electric heat is lower than acquiring a gas heating system, long-term monthly usage is more costly since the cost per unit of electricity is very high.
On the other hand, purchasing and installing a gas heater is more expensive than an electric alternative. Gas heaters are also costly to maintain. You’ll need a professional technician to carry out regular maintenance and repairs in case of a breakdown.
Additionally, you’ll also need to construct chimneys or flue pipes and get carbon monoxide detectors for timely detection in case of a leakage.
However, the gas heater has low monthly bills making it a better utility choice than electric heat.
Below is a breakdown of the initial acquisition and installation prices of gas vs electric heat.
Electric Heat System Price
- Cost of new electric furnace £710 – £1,766
- Installation: £710 – £1,060
Gas Heat System Price
- A new gas heater cost:£2,119 – £2,825
- Installation cost: £1,060 – £1,413
Note that operational costs are still high despite the high average electric heater efficiency and lower initial acquisition costs.
Our gas vs electric heat comparison shows that a gas heater has more utility benefits than electric heat. However, you may need to check on the heater size, available fuel type, or if your area has a reliable gas connection, and your current heating system.
So, what should you go for between gas and electric heat? Each unit has its unique strengths and weaknesses. For instance, a simple electric heating system is cheap and easy to install but more costly to run.
On the other hand, heating pump systems cost less to run and are more efficient. However, they are expensive to acquire and install.
Besides the cost factor, you may need to pay attention to environmental impact too. For example, fossil fuels release more carbon dioxide into the environment; pay close attention to the source of your heating energy when choosing a heater type.