FurnacesGas vs Electric Furnaces


Two of the most common questions homeowners have involve gas and electric furnaces. What’s the difference between the two? Which one is right for your house? If you’re interested in installing a new furnace for your Washington residence this season, trust the experts at Sullivan Heating & Cooling to get the job done right.

But before you hire professionals, you want to make an informed decision. While both furnaces are made for the same job, they function differently. Here are a few of the most important distinctions between gas and electric furnaces.

How They Operate

Both gas and electric furnaces distribute heat the same way, which is through forced-air heating systems. A furnace warms the air, which is then funneled through air ducts to warm up a space. While this is happening, intake vents siphon cooler air back to the furnace to be heated.

The main difference between the two furnaces is that a gas furnace generates heat by igniting natural gas while an electric furnaces uses heating coils powered by electricity. Think of it as similar to a hairdryer. In both cases, a heat exchanger draws in cool air to be heated by the furnaces.

Short-term Costs

Usually homeowners find electric furnaces are not only cheaper to purchase, but also cheaper to install. This is because the installation process for a gas furnaces requires specialized equipment and involves dealing with natural gas, which is highly combustible.

If a gas furnace setup is done improperly, the unit can even leak toxic chemicals. Also, a gas furnace requires a vent leading outside. If no vent already exists in the home, creating one will be an added expense. On the other hand, electric furnaces are much easier to install and do not require exterior vents.

Long-term Costs

thermostat with dollar sign on display

Short-term costs are only half of the equation! To better understand the cost differences, we have to take a look at long-term costs as well. In the long run, there are three main cost considerations to keep in mind:

1. The Cost of Operation

Even though they’re less efficient on paper, gas furnaces cost less to operate than their electric counterparts. This is due to the fact that natural gas prices are cheaper than electricity. In many cases, running an electric furnace can cost over twice as much. The price of natural gas may rise in the future, but presently the price is much lower than electricity.

Additionally, gas furnaces pack a punch. They’re more powerful than electric units and can heat houses more quickly. This is especially useful in colder climates or just when it’s super cold outside.

In either case, keep in mind your furnace should not run continuously. Curious about what you should do if your furnace keeps running? Read our article here: What To Do If My Furnace Keeps Running.

2. The Cost of Maintenance

Electric furnaces have an edge when it comes to maintenance costs. Due to their simpler design and the way they operate, they are easier to maintain. On the other hand, gas furnaces require regular maintenance and inspections to ensure safe operation. If a problem arises with a gas furnace, it can quickly become dangerous.

3. Life Expectancy

With proper maintenance and upkeep, a gas furnace can last 20 years or longer. But electric furnaces can last even longer than that with potentially up to 30 years.


technician working on furnace

When it comes to safety, electric furnaces are the better choice. When a gas furnace malfunctions, it releases carbon monoxide into the air. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that has the potential to be fatal. Natural gas is also flammable and can be a hazard on its own if something goes wrong. On the other hand, electric furnaces are less complex, although they do require high voltage wiring.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that electric furnaces run more quietly than gas units.

Premier Furnace Installation and Maintenance

Sullivan Heating & Cooling has been a leader in the HVAC industry for the greater Puget Sound area for nearly 25 years. Our exceptional team consists of extensively trained and dedicated professionals committed to premier service. Our relentless pursuit of quality has earned us an A+ rating from the BBB.

Contact us today to get in touch with one of our expert consultants. From installation to inspection, repair, and maintenance, we provide the full assortment of furnace services you need. Or work with our highly skilled team for any other systems you may need including air conditioners, heat pumps, water heaters, generators, and more. To learn more and find out if we service your area, call Sullivan Heating & Cooling today at (360) 405-0723.


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