Being a homeowner is about more than having a private space to call your own. It’s also about taking an active role in the maintenance and improvement of your property. That’s why renovation projects are so popular — but as you consider what’s best for your home, your efforts should extend beyond a fancy kitchen makeover. For example, is your home’s heating and cooling infrastructure as effective and efficient as possible? If you have an older furnace system that’s frequently the source of problems during winter, you might wonder if the switch to an electric heating system is the right choice to make.
This is the type of decision that can have a lasting impact on your home, not only regarding comfort levels but also in the size of your electricity bill. Do you replace a gas furnace with an electric unit, or seek out another heater with more modern construction? A careful look at the facts can help you decide. Let’s consider how the electric heaters of today stack up by starting with a look at the different options you might encounter.
Understanding electric heater system types
The most common type of electric heater can look, from the outside, somewhat similar to a traditional furnace. Installed indoors, they do not use oil or natural gas a means of generating heat. Instead, they use a series of coils that exhibit a very high-level electrical resistance. When the electricity turns on and passes through these resistors, they naturally heat up to very high temperatures. An electric fan then pulls air from inside the house through an intake and passes it over these hot coils. The heated air then returns to your home.
Electric space heaters installed directly into the walls of individual rooms (such as bathrooms) operate on a similar but smaller principle. These are sometimes an option for older homes with little or no accessible ducting. Naturally, the nature of this setup requires a considerable amount of electricity to work properly. Efficiency has increased with the development of newer and better resistors. Heat pumps also use electricity, but primarily to drive the motor that passes refrigerant to the outdoors to gather heat which is then brought indoors.
Opting for electric heat over gas or other fuel types
So how does an electric heating system like one described above measure up to a gas furnace? Let’s get one fact out of the way first: a gas furnace will often be the better choice in areas where electricity costs are high, and you tend to run the heat frequently in the winter. This is because gas furnaces instantly output at their maximum heat level and the fuel is typically inexpensive compared to electric power. However, what if you don’t continually need a whole lot of hot air pumping out of your vents? If you don’t intend to run the unit all the time, the higher cost of electricity may not be a factor in your decision.
Though electric heaters are slower to heat up in comparison to gas furnaces, they can still provide an adequate and efficiently generated level of heat for all but expansive spaces. In areas where temperatures rarely plunge below freezing, electric resistance heaters and heat pumps both deliver performance that is as satisfactory as a gas furnace. You may also find that waiting a few more minutes for a warm living space is worth reducing your environmental impact by avoiding reliance on natural gas, too.
Perhaps more importantly to some homeowners, though, are the maintenance requirements. Furnaces require regular service, often at least once a year, and may sometimes encounter more problems in operation. Electric heaters are generally regarded as very low maintenance, and with a more straightforward installation process and fewer components that can fail, they can offer less hassle than a gas furnace.
In summary: gas furnaces offer heat faster and at lower cost, but can come with higher maintenance burdens and more troublesome installation efforts. Meanwhile, electric heaters have a lower upfront cost but require spending more due to higher long-term energy costs. Both can adequately heat homes, though gas may yield better performance in larger homes.
Exploring your options with professional help
So, is an electric heating system the right choice for you? It should be plain to see that the answer is often “it depends,” and what’s right for one home in a neighborhood may not be best for another. However, electric heaters do continue to improve in efficiency, and you may find that it is all you require if you only need to rely on a heater occasionally. If you aren’t sure about whether your home is a good candidate for such a system, though, there’s always an easy answer to your heating questions waiting just a phone call away. An experienced heating installer can walk you through more detailed pros and cons while also evaluating your home for its suitability. Consider exploring your options in this area before the next cold snap arrives.