gas vs electric heaters

Gas and electric heating systems are two of the most common heating systems in Las Vegas, and each of them have unique benefits. This article will explain the differences between gas furnaces and electric heaters as well as pro and cons.

How Do Gas Furnaces Work?

Gas furnaces use a heat source such as natural gas. In some rural areas, some homes may use propane. When the home requires heat, the gas is ignited inside the furnace and heats up a steel heat exchanger causing the blower motor to start blowing air through the duct system. The cold air from the house blows across the hot heat exchanger causing the air to get warm and is then circulated into the home.

Furnaces are typically located in the garage, attic or a closet. Gas furnaces require a flue pipe to vent unhealthy carbon monoxide to the outside of a home. Because the outside temperature has no effect on how a gas furnace operates, a furnace will typically deliver 115-135-degree warm air into the home. This method of heating a home is more comfortable and a cold night.

Gas heating systems have no need to run the compressor except for cooling the home in the summer. As a result, the compressor runs less than a heat pump compressor and tend to last longer. Compressors in gas heating systems will typically last 12-15yrs.

How Do Electric Heaters Work?

Newer “all electric homes” are heated with a heat pump. This can be identified by turning the heater on and then going outside the home and watching the heat pump operate. Most “all electric” homes that have heat pumps also have secondary heat strips to help heat the home on the coldest nights.

Heat pumps work very efficient until the outside temp reaches 38 degrees. Once it gets colder than 38 the systems tend to run longer and require additional help heating the house. Heat pump systems also can build up ice on the outdoor unit causing them to automatically go into defrost occasionally. When the system is in defrost, the heat strips are turned on to temper the air that is blown into the home. The defrost cycle will generally last 5-7 mins. In our climate heat pumps tend to blow 100-115-degree air into the home. On a cold night this can feel a bit cold or drafty to the homeowner.

A heat pump actually runs the compressor in the summer and the winter to cool and heat the home. Unlike a gas heating system where the compressor only runs in the summer to cool the home. As a result, the compressors in heat pump systems run much more and tend to fail at a faster rate. Generally, a heat pump compressor has an average lifespan of 10-13 yrs. before it fails.  

Which Heating System Is Safer?

The risks of each heating system are quite different, but there are potential risks involved with both types of heating systems. The combustion in gas heating systems can lead to a buildup of carbon monoxide inside the home if it is not vented properly or there is a crack in the heat exchanger. Given the fact that heating systems don’t run as long in Las Vegas as they would in other much colder states, the concentration of carbon monoxide could still be lethal and fix immediately.  As for an electric heating system, it does create combustion so there is no risk of a carbon monoxide build up.

The coils used in electric heating systems can cause a fire. This is a particularly serious risk associated with electric space heaters, which are estimated to play a role in as many as 79% of house fires that resulted in deaths.

Which Heating System Is More Efficient?

Some electric heat systems can be quite efficient, but they are generally not as efficient as gas heat. Gas heating heats the air coming out of the vent to as much as 130-140 degrees. An electric heat pump produces heat below body temperature (98.6°F). This means it’s possible to heat your home more quickly using gas.

Which Heating System Is More Cost Effective?

While gas heat is more efficient, these differences do not make it more affordable to use natural gas in the warm climate of Las Vegas. When the temperature you wish to heat the indoors of your home to is within six to eight degrees of the outside temperature, electric heat can actually have lower operating costs than gas heat. In order for gas heat to be more economical, the temperatures must be substantially lower than the indoor temperature of your home. In addition, gas heat can be more expensive to set up than electric.

Which Heating System Requires More Maintenance?

Both types of heating systems require regular safety inspections. The gas heating systems have several limit controls that are designed to shut off the system in the event of a problem. These limit controls are reliable but they can and do fail. By regularly inspecting and adjusting these type system it can give the homeowner comfort knowing their system is running safe.

Heat pump systems need to have regular maintenance for different reasons than the gas heating system. The heat pump runs the compressor in both the summer and winter. The compressor is the heart of the system and is the most expensive part. Proper refrigerant charge is vital for operation and compressor longevity. In addition, several other components should be checked to confirm the compressor is not using too much power or over amping which will short its life expectancy. The secondary heat strips also have safety limits that should be inspected for proper operation and protection.

Both types of heating systems have their pros and cons. When comparing risks, gas heat in Las Vegas has a low chance of carbon monoxide build up while the coils in electric heating systems have a higher chance to cause fires. Gas systems usually have a smaller lifespan compared to electric heating systems. Electric heat can have lower operating costs than gas heat. Using natural gas in a warmer climate like Las Vegas does not make it more affordable since temperatures must be a lot lower than the indoor temperature of your home. Startup costs can also be higher with gas heat compared to electric. There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding which heating system is best for your situation. Generally, gas heat is the way to go if you’re in a colder climate while electric heating systems suit warmer climates better.

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