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Comparing Electric Versus Gas Furnaces (2024 Guide) (2024)


When it comes time to replace an aging or faulty furnace, one of the most important decisions a homeowner will need to make is whether to purchase an electric or gas model. Both types utilize slightly different technologies to achieve the same goal: keeping our homes heated during the colder months. 

To help you choose an energy-efficient furnace that makes the most financial and practical sense for your household, we carefully weigh key factors like up-front and long-term costs, energy efficiency ratings, environmental impacts, safety, and more. 


Electric vs. Gas Furnace Basics

Before weighing specific individual pros and cons, it helps to comprehend exactly how electric and gas furnaces physically function to provide residential heating. While the central objectives remain identical, the technical methods are quite different. 

Electric furnaces utilize heating elements to generate warmth, similar to a toaster oven or electric range. As electrical current passes into each heating element, the elements can reach extremely high temperatures and warm the air within the furnace. 

Once sufficiently warm, a built-in blower fan pushes the air through the ducting and into your home. Because no actual combustion or burning takes place, electric furnaces do not rely on a direct field source, unlike gas models. This relatively simple heating process creates a durable system and helps keep initial equipment and installation costs down.

Gas furnaces rely on calculated combustion to generate usable heat. Natural gas or liquid propane flows from household supply lines to multiple dedicated burners. Heat exchangers accompany each burner, which the flames heat to extremely high temperatures. Regular indoor air then moves across the super-heated exchanger surfaces via a separate blower fan. This warm air then travels through the ducting and throughout your home. Meanwhile, the system’s exhaust system vents off any gaseous byproducts — an element that adds an extra layer of complexity that conventional electric models lack entirely. 

Overall, the combustion-based process allows gas furnaces to operate extremely efficiently while rapidly producing abundant warmth.


Gas vs. Electric Furnace Costs

One of the first major purchasing contrasts involves up-front equipment and installation cost differences between electric and gas when replacing an existing residential furnace. According to our in-house experts, electric furnaces cost anywhere from $1,800 to $7,100 installed.

Gas furnace replacements cost anywhere between $3,280 and $7,550, including professional installation fees. For extra powerful high-end gas furnace replacements, total costs often exceed $10,000 after factoring equipment expenses alongside labor.

What explains the significantly higher project costs of installing gas heating versus electric? Several important reasons play pivotal roles in cost differences.

Components

Gas systems rely on far more intricately engineered components to facilitate and properly control safe combustion. This includes elements like electronic ignition controls, combustion blowers, gas valves, safety sensors, and more. More parts equals higher equipment production costs. Electric options contain basic heating elements and little else internally.

Fuel Line Infrastructure 

Most gas furnace installations also require entirely new gas line routing. Installing the gas line, installing exterior metering equipment, plus permitting and leak testing services can add up. According to our research, the average cost to run a new gas line ranges from $1,300 to $3,500, with most homeowners spending around $2,000, or approximately $20 per linear foot.

Electric furnaces simply plug into your home’s existing and readily available electrical outlets after mounting.

Venting Requirements

Gas combustion produces harmful byproducts that must become exhausted outside through venting to ensure indoor air quality. Safely installing fresh intake and exhaust vents can add to the service fees.

Efficiency Ratings & Operational Costs Over Time

Your replacement furnace’s total long-term cost involves far more than just the initial purchase and installation prices. When weighing lifetime investments for gas versus electric heating, remember that energy consumption to power your furnace year after year typically exceeds equipment costs significantly.

By this metric, U.S.-based gas furnaces usually result in lower energy bills due to substantially lower per BTU fuel prices in most areas.

During recent years, residential natural gas prices have averaged approximately $0.55 per therm nationally, according to 2021 and 2022 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (U.S. EIA). Compare that to typical home electric rates, which are around $0.14 per kWh. Estimates for annually fueling a 2,000-square-foot house in cold climates land around $550 for modern, efficient gas furnaces. Using straight electric heat, that projected yearly expense jumps closer to $820.

Of course, energy rates vary widely across states based on aspects like infrastructure, state regulations, taxes, and credits or rebates. Carefully analyze your local utility costs rather than just national averages before finalizing decisions.


Equipment Efficiency Rating Comparisons

One performance specification favoring electric furnaces over gas involves heating efficiency percentages. This number defines what proportion of consumed energy actually gets converted into usable residential warmth by your furnace. The latest gas systems now achieve roughly 98% gross efficiency — meaning 2% lost outward as exhaust gases or dissipated heat.

Electric heating elements operate free of gaseous waste or excess heat thanks to no open combustion occurring. As current passes through an electric furnace’s heating elements, nearly 100% gets turned straight into purposeful indoor heating energy.

While seemingly small, even 1–3% annual loss in efficiency compounds over the years. Gas efficacy also slowly degrades over time as internal components wear down from repeated heating cycles.

Conversely, all-electric heating elements maintain nearly 100% efficiency for the duration of their useful life and require minimal servicing. 

Contrasting Equipment Maintenance & Repair Requirements

In addition to fuel consumption costs, homeowners should also weigh long-term furnace maintenance requirements before purchasing, as neglecting this responsibility carries steep financial penalties and premature system failures. When compared to electric systems, gas heating systems typically demand more annual maintenance.

Due to its relatively straightforward design, an electric furnace needs little more than a yearly inspection of the heating elements and blower fan.

On the other hand, a gas system requires regular and relatively intensive maintenance, such as:

  • Replacing igniters and flame sensors
  • Professionally cleaning burners and heat exchangers 
  • Monitoring and calibrating gas valve performance 
  • Evaluating exhaust vent connections
  • Replacing various combustion chamber gaskets and seals 

The cost to service and maintain an electric unit is, on average, significantly less than that required by a gas unit — especially as the unit ages. 

As such, it’s important to consider up-front costs, energy savings, and lifetime repair potential when choosing a furnace.


Gas vs. Electric Furnace Lifespans

According to our in-house HVAC experts, most new furnaces should last at least 15–20 years with proper maintenance, regardless of whether they’re electric or gas. That said, electric units frequently last well beyond the 20-year mark due to their simpler, less failure-prone components.

Without extreme cold weather fatigue and with regular maintenance, some electric units are capable of operating beyond the 20-year mark. By contrast, gas-fueled setups rarely last beyond the average 15–20-year span due to the nature of combustion systems.


Environmental Impact Differences

Homeowners who are in the market for eco-conscious features often lean toward modern electric models rather than conventional gas alternatives. The U.S. EIA tracks electric generation emissions from all fuel sources nationally. Per BTU of energy demand fulfilled, electricity pollutes notably less than constantly burning natural gas directly within homes.


Safety & Risk Considerations

Comparing home electric and gas systems overall, electrical systems carry fewer direct safety hazards than gas systems.

According to a 2022 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report, the U.S. experiences an average of 125,000 residential gas leaks annually, with around 4,200 gas leaks resulting in home fires.

In addition to open combustion risks, gas furnaces also vent exhaust outside through wall or ceiling ductwork. Failures within exhaust piping can allow dangerous gases like carbon monoxide to flood living spaces. 

As for electric furnace safety concerns, a separate home heating fire study by the NFPA reported that from 2016–2020, fire departments responded to an estimated 44,210 fires involving heating equipment. It’s worth noting that the report data includes fires related to various types of heating equipment, but it does not specify the number of fires caused by electric furnaces alone.


So, Should Which Type of Furnace Should You Choose?

After substantial comparisons, both electric and gas furnaces utilize slightly differing technologies toward identical ends — comfortably heating your living spaces affordably over long periods. Your choice should be one that best meets your priorities.

  • Lower equipment costs and installation fees
  • Highest efficiency ratings minimizing waste
  • Lower lifetime emissions supporting sustainability
  • Improved home safety benefits over gas
  • Less frequent repairs and maintenance
  • The lowest heating energy costs per BTU regionally
  • Very effective at rapidly heating larger spaces
  • Lower calibration requirements
  • Preexisting infrastructure allows for speedier installation

Since no universally “perfect” furnace technology exists, we recommend carefully weighing your budget, utility rate variables, usage goals, and personal preferences before deciding. Rather than considering only the initial purchase price, calculate how much the unit will cost over the course of its useful life. 


FAQs About Electric vs. Gas Furnaces

Which usually costs less to operate yearly, electric or gas?

In general, the cost of natural gas is often lower than the cost of electricity on a per-unit basis. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, high-efficiency gas furnaces and low BTU fuel rates cost an average of 30–50% less than electric units.

However, furnace efficiency, climate, and the type of resources abundant near your home can also impact the overall cost.


Do electric replacements require fewer lifetime repairs?

On average, electric furnaces require fewer repairs and less regular maintenance. Because of vastly simpler internal workings, far fewer movable components, and no exhaust requirements, electric furnaces generally need fewer major part repairs overall. Complex gas combustion systems like gas furnaces are more prone to failure earlier on.


What are the notable benefits of switching my gas furnace to electric?

Beyond eliminating pressurized combustion gas piping risks, key gains in electrifying home heating include substantially reduced environmental impacts, improved efficiency, improved control over your energy mix through renewable plans, and no costly exhaust venting infrastructure.


Should I upgrade from my gas system to a new electric furnace?

Whether you upgrade your existing gas furnace to an electric model depends on your needs and priorities. Carefully balance considerations like efficiency goals, utilizing more renewables, budgeting for regional electricity rates, avoiding combustion venting risks, and more. For some homeowners, switching to an electric furnace makes reasonable physical and financial sense.




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