Once again, we are creeping closer to another Fall in Iowa. There are many things to love about this season: crisp mornings, pumpkin-spice everything, sweater weather, beautiful autumn leaves. What we don’t love is the cold. Coming home from work and it’s already dark. It might also be time to reevaluate your home’s heating needs.

It can be difficult to decide whether or not to turn on your heating for the first time every year. There’s more to it than just arguing about the perfect temperature with your family, especially when it feels like 70°F in the afternoon and -30°F in the morning. 

Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration.

The first time you turn on your heating may also spark discussions about a new heating system. Let us make your life a little easier. Find out which is best for you and your family with our ultimate gas vs. electric heating guide.

A Quick Overview of Furnaces

No matter if your home is heated by gas or electricity, it is most likely heated by forced air. As soon as the temperature drops below your thermostat setting, your furnace kicks on and starts heating your home. The heated air is forced through the vents with the help of a blower.

With a gas furnace, your thermostat signals the pilot light to ignite the main burner. The main burner heats the air that circulates throughout your home. The main burner of an electric furnace does the same thing, but instead of using gas to ignite a pilot light, it is heated by an electrical ignition system.

This is the extent of the similarities between gas and electric heating. After that, both are very different when it comes to cost, efficiency, and overall comfort.

Gas Furnace Pros & Cons

In general, gas heating is less expensive than electric heating. Gas heating is typically powered by natural gas. Natural gas prices have decreased over the past few years, while electricity costs are generally increasing.

Gas furnaces heat a home faster. A gas furnace produces generally higher temperatures than an electric furnace. As a result, your home is warmer in a shorter amount of time, making gas heating better for colder climates.

Compared to electric heaters, gas furnaces are more efficient. It takes less energy to heat air circulating in your home with gas. Additionally, gas burns cleaner than coal, which is the fuel needed for electric furnaces.

However, gas furnaces wear out faster. It is estimated that a gas furnace will last up to 20 years with proper maintenance. Gas furnaces are also more complicated and more expensive. Gas furnaces contain combustible elements that require professional installation. In addition, if you haven’t used gas heating before, you need a professional since these furnaces require venting to the outdoors. A professional will need to install a chimney or vent to the outside if you don’t already have one. Typically, these units also cost two- to three times as much as electric furnaces.

In comparison to electric heating, gas heating is more dangerous. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced by gas heating. Most of the time, you won’t need to worry, but a build-up over time poses serious risks to you and your family. Dizziness and sleepiness are the most common side effects of CO poisoning. In the worst cases, CO poisoning can be deadly (and happens very rapidly). Keeping your CO detectors up-to-date and scheduling regular maintenance will help you avoid the unthinkable.

Electric Furnace Pros & Cons

There are fewer up-front costs associated with electric furnaces. In general, they’re easier to install and cheaper to purchase, so the up-front cost is lower. Electric heating also requires less maintenance than gas heating, so you’ll save money on maintenance costs. Furnaces powered by electricity last longer. Electric furnaces are capable of heating your home for up to 30 years if they’re kept in good condition. Generally, electric furnaces are safer. Electric furnaces still pose a fire risk, but there is no CO poisoning risk.

Electric furnaces are more expensive on a monthly basis. Electric furnaces do have lower upfront costs, but they also cost more in the long run. The lifetime cost of electric heating is higher than gas heating due to the higher cost of electricity per unit.

Electric heating also takes longer. Your furnace won’t reach the high temperatures of a gas furnace. Because of this, you’ll remain a little colder for a little longer.

Additionally, the efficiency of electric heating is lower. Heating the air in your home with electric heating uses more energy. Electric heating is “less clean” than gas heating. This furnace’s main source of electricity is coal combustion, which is worse for the environment than natural gas.

The Bottom Line

You’re probably better off investing in a gas furnace dollar for dollar. But you should also consider what fuel types you can access and what heating system you already have.

It’s probably best to stick with gas if:

  • You have access to natural gas.
  • You live in a colder climate or need your furnace for several months out of the year (and let’s be honest, we live in Iowa)
  • You already have a gas furnace.

Electric might be the way to go if:

  • You don’t have access to natural gas.
  • You already have an electric unit.

Every situation is different. Let our Indianola Mechanical HVAC experts assist you in selecting the best product for you and your family. Give us a call today at 515-961-7924.