The electric furnace has gained a good deal of popularity in recent years, for heating both homes and commercial buildings. It’s especially good for homeowners who don’t have easy access to natural gas, propane, or other fuel sources for different heating methods. The installation process for a gas main can be prohibitively expensive while heating your home electrically simply requires a power outlet.
If you’re considering an electric furnace for your home, you probably have a few questions about how they work. How do they heat your home? How is the electricity generated? Are electric furnaces safe? Are they expensive? Or affordable?
We’ll try to answer these questions below.
Where Does the Heat Come From?
Electric furnaces heat your home using the principle of resistance heating. If you own a toaster, you’ve already witnessed this heating method in action. When you turn your toaster on, you notice small coils turning reddish-orange as they heat up to toast your bread. An electric furnace has a very similar set of coils.
It’s referred to as “resistance” heating, in contrast to “conductive” heating. A coil that has no resistance at all, such as a superconductor, will conduct energy without producing any heat. The greater the resistance, the more heat will be radiated into the air, warming it up. A blower fan then distributes this warm air throughout the home by way of a system of ducts.
Ductless electric heaters also exist and are, essentially, large, portable heaters that can be installed in any given room in your home without the need for a system of ductwork. These can be a great choice for smaller homes as well as for apartments or individual rooms in a larger building.
How Much Do They Cost?
One of the great advantages of an electric furnace is the relatively low cost when compared with other home heating methods. According to Home Advisor’s website, the average cost of a new gas furnace ranges from $1,200 to $7,000. Compare this to a gas furnace, which ranges from $2,000 to $10,000, or a mini-split furnace, which ranges from $5,000 to $15,000. The cost of installation should also be a consideration since it often is more expensive than the furnace itself. For electric furnaces, installation can range from $1,850 to around $2,300.
Of course, these numbers can vary depending upon a number of factors. The size of your home, your location, and other special considerations your HVAC technician may have to make can all affect the final price tag.
What About the Cost of Operations?
Needless to say, it’s impossible to quote the monthly or yearly cost of an electric furnace with any accuracy since the climate in any given part of the country will vary so widely. However, the electric furnace does tend to be on the more expensive side when it comes to operating costs. Electricity is simply more expensive than propane or natural gas.
The average monthly cost hovers at around $158, but this will, of course, change if you live in a particularly warm—or particularly cold—climate. It will also vary greatly depending upon the current cost of electricity, as well as the size of your home. The larger your home is, the more it will cost to heat it, although this, of course, is true of any heating method you choose to utilize.
Is Electric Furnace Safe?
One of the key advantages of an electric furnace is the safety factor. Other heating methods make use of combustible materials, such as gas or oil. In addition to the obvious fire hazard, burning gas, coal, or oil creates toxic byproducts, such as carbon monoxide gas. If this gas leaks into your home, it can be a huge risk to the people living in it. Because there’s no fuel source burning to run an electric furnace, there are no toxic byproducts and, therefore, no risk of any sort of gas leak.
Of course, despite all this, you’ll still need to take certain precautions to ensure your electric furnace is safe. Improperly installed and maintained electrical systems can still pose fire hazards, so make sure that you have your furnace regularly inspected by a qualified, licensed HVAC professional. You’ll also want to make sure your furnace isn’t located near anything that can catch fire easily. Keep the area around it clear of rags, fabric, wood, furniture, and other flammable materials.
How Long Do Electric Furnaces Last?
An electric furnace also has a longer life span than most other options. They can last as long as 20 years; however, this will only be the case if the furnace is regularly maintained. That’s why it’s important to secure the services of a qualified, licensed HVAC professional, such as one from Entek.
Periodically, you should have one of these qualified HVAC technicians come and go through a full maintenance checklist to ensure your electric furnace is in good working order. They’ll check the thermostats—a heater cannot function properly without a working thermostat—and the electrical connections throughout the system. They’ll also inspect the blower to make sure it’s circulating air efficiently, as well as all the ducts and vents to ensure they aren’t blocked by a buildup of dust and dirt or experiencing any leaks. They’ll replace any filters that need it, as well as any other parts that are particular to your home’s furnace, clean out debris, seal leaks, and more.
Finding the Right HVAC Contractor
A good HVAC contractor will have a certification from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, or ASHRAE. It will also have a commitment to the safety of its clients and workers, keeping up with the latest requirements released by OSHA and WISHA. Of course, it’s not enough to simply be certified. The contractor should also have references you can check and satisfied customers you can talk to. Talk to neighbors and find out if they’re happy with their HVAC contractor. You can also check reviews for businesses in your area.