Nothing feels better on a cold winter morning than a warm home. Thanks to technology, we have options to keep our houses warm. While many homes rely on gas appliances, others operate on electricity. Are there electric furnaces that run as efficiently as gas? The answers may surprise you.
Let’s start with some basics.
How Electric Furnaces Work
Electric furnaces produce heat using electricity. They have air handlers crafted of heating coils that work similarly to the mechanics of a toaster. When the coils are heated up, they warm the air that flows over them. That heated air is then pushed through blowers to send the warm air throughout your home.
A thermostat controls the entire unit. When the thermostat registers a drop in temperature, it signals for heat from the central unit. The heating coils warm the air, and the blower fan pushes heated air out into the rooms until the thermostat registers the set temperature. It then cycles off until the entire process starts over again.
Gas vs. Electric – What’s the Difference?
If process electric furnaces use sound similar to natural gas furnaces, it’s because they are. Both units rely on a central air system to push heat through ductwork into every room in your home. Both systems provide efficient ways to keep your home warm. Yet their approaches are somewhat different.
Efficiency itself can be somewhat ambiguous.
● You can measure efficiency through a ratio between energy input and useful output.
● You can measure it by cost-effectiveness.
Natural gas furnaces have annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings for comparison. Standard units can have an AFUE as low as 78 percent and as high as 98 percent. An AFUE of 90 will convert 90 percent of its fuel into usable heat, while 10 percent will be wasted through inefficiencies. Electric furnaces have an AFUE of 100 percent. That means 100 percent of the electricity used converts to heat.
While electric furnaces may technically be more thermally efficient, other things must be considered. Energy costs, equipment installation, and geographical location can all impact which unit makes most sense in your home. Space and water heating together account for nearly two-thirds of the average home’s energy usage.
If you’re contemplating whether gas or electric is best for you, start a conversation with your local HVAC contractor. They can help you assess your needs and make the right decision for your home.
What Are Heat Pumps?
Natural gas heating may be prevalent, but it isn’t always suitable for every homeowner. For some, they choose not to pipe combustible fuel into their homes. In the Pacific Northwest, for instance, mild winters mean homes don’t need the amount of heat needed in some other parts of the country. Homeowners in milder climates have options. And for some, turning to heat pumps is a solution.
Heat pumps are energy-efficient devices used for both heating and cooling purposes. These systems transfer heat from one location to another, making them highly versatile and cost-effective solutions for maintaining comfortable indoor environments.
In heating mode, a heat pump extracts heat from the outdoor air, ground, or water source and transfers it indoors to warm the living space. During the cooling cycle, the process is reversed. The heat pump removes heat from the indoor air and releases it outdoors, effectively cooling the interior. This dual functionality makes heat pumps an all-in-one solution for year-round temperature control.
People turn to heat pumps because of their remarkable efficiency. Instead of generating heat by burning fuel, they use electricity to move heat, resulting in significantly lower energy consumption than traditional heating and cooling systems. This energy efficiency reduces utility bills and contributes to a smaller carbon footprint, making heat pumps an environmentally friendly choice.
Heat pumps come in various types: air-source, ground-source (geothermal), and water-source. Air-source heat pumps are the most common and easiest to install, while ground-source heat pumps tap into the earth’s stable temperature for enhanced efficiency. Water-source heat pumps extract heat from a water body such as a pond or lake.
What makes heat pumps even more popular is their consistent and even heating and cooling, which eliminates hot and cold spots. They also provide dehumidification benefits, enhancing indoor air quality and comfort.
What Are Mini-Splits?
Not convinced an electric forced-air furnace or a heat pump is right for you? Mini-splits, or ductless mini-split systems, are cutting-edge heating and cooling solutions that offer flexible and efficient climate control. These systems have two main components: an outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air handlers. Mini-splits are designed to provide targeted comfort while eliminating the need for extensive ductwork, making them a versatile and practical choice for a range of applications.
The indoor air handlers of mini-splits are compact units that can be mounted on walls, ceilings, or floors, blending seamlessly with interior decor. These units are connected to the outdoor compressor through a small conduit containing refrigerant and power lines. This setup allows for easy installation without the extensive renovation required for traditional ducted systems.
People love mini-splits because of their zoned heating and cooling capabilities. Each indoor unit can be independently controlled, enabling occupants to customize temperature settings for individual rooms or zones. This feature enhances comfort and leads to energy savings by avoiding the need to heat or cool unoccupied spaces.
Mini-splits are renowned for their exceptional energy efficiency. By eliminating ductwork and minimizing energy losses, these systems can provide substantial cost savings on utility bills. Mini-splits also use inverter technology, which allows the compressor to adjust its speed according to the desired temperature, further optimizing energy consumption.
These systems excel in both heating and cooling modes, making them suitable for year-round use. In colder months, mini-splits can efficiently extract heat from the outdoor air and transfer it indoors, ensuring a warm and cozy atmosphere. During hotter periods, the system can reverse the process to cool the indoor space effectively.
Electric Furnaces May Be Suitable for You
You have choices when keeping your home warm this winter. Whether it’s time to replace an old furnace or you’re contemplating a new build, consider an electric furnace as a solution. Entek HVAC has worked with homeowners across the Pacific Northwest to help them select the perfect solution for their home environment. If you’re in the Portland-Vancouver area, contact them to discuss your electric furnace options..