FurnacesGas vs Electric Furnaces


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 the professionals, you want to be able to make an informed decision and you may have some questions. Two of the most common queries homeowners have involved gas and electric furnaces. What’s the difference between the two and which is right for my house? While both furnaces are designed for the same job, they operate on different principles. Here are a few of the most important distinctions between the two gas and electric furnaces.

How They Operate

Both gas and electric furnaces distribute heat the same way: forced-air heating systems. Air warmed by a furnace is funneled through air ducts to warm a space. At the same time, intake vents siphon cooler air back to the furnace to be heated. 

The primary difference between the two is that a gas furnace will generate heat by igniting natural gas while an electric furnace utilizes heating coils powered by electricity, kind of like a hairdryer. In both cases, a heat exchanger is used to draw in cool air to be heated by the furnaces.

Short-term Costs

Typically, most homeowners find that electric furnaces are not only cheaper to purchase, but also less expensive to install. The installation process for a gas furnace requires specialized equipment and entails dealing with natural gas which is highly combustible. Additionally, a gas unit can leak toxic chemicals if the setup is done improperly. A gas furnace will also require a vent leading outside. If no suitable preexisting vent exists, then an added expense will be incurred to create one. 

In contrast, electric furnaces are substantially simpler to install and do not require exterior vents.

Long-term Costs

Short-term costs only tell half of the story. To better examine the cost differences, we have to turn to the long-term. In the long-run, there are three main cost considerations to keep in mind:

1. The Cost of Operation

Despite being less efficient on paper, in practice, gas furnaces cost less to operate than their electric counterparts. This is because natural gas prices are favorable compared to the cost of electricity. In fact, in many cases, the cost to run an electric furnace can cost well over twice as much. In the future, the price of natural gas may rise but presently the price is substantially lower than the equivalent amount of electricity needed to warm the same space. 

Additionally, gas furnaces are more powerful than electric units, allowing them to heat houses faster and to a greater extent than electric furnaces. This can be especially useful in colder climates.

2. The Cost of Maintenance

Owing to their simpler design and method of operation, electric furnaces are easier to maintain and incur fewer maintenance costs. Gas furnaces, on the other hand, require extensive regular maintenance and inspections to ensure safe and proper operation. A malfunctioning gas furnace can quickly become dangerous.

3. Life Expectancy

With proper maintenance and repairs, a typical gas furnace can operate for 20 years or longer. While that may sound good and certainly is a long period of time, electric furnaces can last even longer, functioning for up to 30 years in some cases.


Regarding safety, electric furnaces are clearly the better choice. A malfunctioning gas furnace can release carbon monoxide into the air, a colorless, odorless gas that can potentially be fatal. Additionally, natural gas is flammable and can pose a hazard on its own if something goes wrong. In contrast, electric furnaces are less complex and deal with far fewer volatile components. That said, electric furnaces do require high voltage wiring. 

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that electric furnaces run more quietly than gas units.

Premier Furnace Installation and Maintenance

For nearly 25 years, Sullivan Heating & Cooling has been a leader in the HVAC industry for the greater Puget Sound area, providing top-quality heating and cooling services. 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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