There are several heating options for your home. Electric furnaces and gas furnaces have their strengths and weaknesses. Deciding which one is right for you and your family can be a challenge.

What Is a Natural Gas Furnace, and How Does It Work?

A natural gas furnace heats air by burning natural gas. The furnace ignites the gas to warm the air inside it. Afterward, it sends this heated air through the home’s ductwork. For optimal operation, every component of the gas furnace must synchronize with each other.


The thermostat controls the HVAC unit’s operation. You set your preferred home temperature on the thermostat. The thermostat signals the furnace to turn on if the temperature falls below your setting. Once the temperature reaches your desired level, the thermostat signals the furnace to shut off.


Metal tubes act as burners, channeling the natural gas. The burners burn the natural gas, heating air drawn in from either the draft hood or fans.

Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger consists of multiple heated metal tubes. These tubes warm the air inside the furnace by absorbing heat from the burners.

The Blower

The blower channels air from the ducts to the heat exchanger. After heating, the blower redirects this air back through the ducts to circulate it throughout the home.


The flue gathers combustion gas waste produced from burning natural gas. It then guides this waste gas away from the home to ensure the safety of its occupants.

How Does an Electric Furnace Operate?

An electric furnace uses electricity to generate heat, unlike a gas furnace that relies on natural gas. Instead of a gas burner, an electric furnace contains an electric heating element.

Think of an electric furnace like a hairdryer. Both systems draw in air that moves through a heat exchanger. Inside this exchanger, the electric heating elements warm the air. A blower then pushes this warmed air into your home’s ductwork, distributing it to various rooms.

Electric furnaces typically feature three to six electric resistance heating elements ranging from 3.5 to 7 kW. These elements resemble the coils inside a toaster. Electrically charged particles flow through these metal wires, generating heat as they do.

Key components of an electric furnace include the transformer and the contactor sequencer. The contactor sequencer regulates the voltage reaching the furnace’s heating elements and coordinates with the thermostat to initiate heating cycles.

The sequencer controls when the heating elements turn on and off, managing current spikes. It ensures that all heating elements don’t activate simultaneously, preventing electrical overloads that could trip a breaker.

The transformer powers the electric furnace, enabling it to manage circuits for the contactors, sequencers, and thermostat. Its primary function is to facilitate the smooth transfer of electrical energy between these different circuits, ensuring safe and efficient operation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Natural Gas Furnace

Natural gas furnaces stand out as a prevalent heating option in many U.S. homes. While they offer various benefits, they also come with drawbacks worth considering.

Advantage: High Efficiency

Highly efficient natural gas furnaces, especially those with an Energy Star Label, boast efficiency ratings of up to 97%. This means they effectively distribute nearly all the generated heat throughout your home, resulting in minimal energy waste. Contrast this with older models where up to 45% of generated heat escaped through the chimney.

Advantage: Rapid Heating

Utilizing natural gas allows the furnace to achieve high temperatures swiftly. Consequently, warm air circulates throughout your home within minutes, providing quick temperature increases. This rapid heating is often unmatched by alternative systems like heat pumps.

Advantage: Adaptability

Gas furnaces offer adaptability, seamlessly integrating with existing HVAC systems in most homes. As a result, installing a new gas furnace typically doesn’t necessitate a complete overhaul of your current HVAC setup, translating to cost savings.

Advantage: Market Desirability

For rental or resale purposes, gas furnaces hold significant appeal. Both homeowners and renters generally prefer them due to their familiarity and efficient heating capabilities. Any concerns about installation or maintenance costs often take a backseat to the convenience and performance they offer.

Disadvantage: High Installation Costs

While gas furnaces prove efficient over time, their initial installation can be costly, especially if your home lacks existing ductwork or access to natural gas.

Disadvantage: Limited Lifecycle

Compared to other heating systems, gas furnaces have a relatively shorter lifespan. You might expect around 20 years of service with proper maintenance, falling short of the 30 years achievable with well-maintained electric heaters.

Disadvantage: Increased Maintenance Needs

Gas furnaces demand more frequent maintenance than their electric counterparts. Given their combustion-based operation, ongoing preventative measures become essential to prevent potential hazards like carbon monoxide leaks.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an Electric Furnace

While not as commonly favored as gas furnaces, electric furnaces garner increasing attention due to their distinct benefits and drawbacks.

Advantage: Cost-Effective Installation

Electric furnaces eliminate the need for gas lines, simplifying the installation process and reducing associated costs.

Advantage: No Dependency on Gas Lines

In areas devoid of gas lines, electric furnaces offer a reliable heating alternative. Users can depend on electricity without concerns about gas availability or sourcing.

Advantage: Low Noise

Operating at approximately 40 dB, electric furnaces operate more quietly than gas furnaces, which often exceed 60 decibels.

Advantage: Enhanced Reliability

With fewer moving parts than gas furnaces, electric furnaces experience fewer breakdowns and operational issues. This reliability proves especially beneficial in rural areas where prompt repair services may be scarce.

Advantage: Extended Lifespan

Electric furnaces boast a potential lifespan of up to 30 years. This longevity, combined with their safety, makes them a durable and secure heating investment.

Disadvantage: Reduced Heating Efficiency

Electric furnaces may struggle to efficiently heat homes in consistently sub-zero climates. This can result in less comfortable living conditions and longer wait times for warmed air to circulate compared to gas furnaces.

Disadvantage: Higher Operational Costs

Electricity typically costs more than natural gas, leading to higher monthly utility bills for users of electric furnaces. Additionally, electric furnaces lack the versatility of gas models, as they can’t integrate as seamlessly with systems like heat pumps or air conditioners.

Which One Is Right for You?

There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when deciding whether an electric or gas furnace is best for your home. One of the biggest considerations is your ZIP Code. If you live in a cold environment, you may benefit from the comfort of the gas furnace. Conversely, if gas is not available where you live, an electric furnace can provide a cost-effective, efficient option.

Municipalities are starting to outlaw new gas hookups to reduce carbon emissions in some areas. This could also play a role in which option you decide. If you’re not sure what option is right for your home, talk to the professional HVAC technicians at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. Our team can evaluate your situation, discuss your comfort needs, and present you with some viable options.

Enjoying Quality HVAC Service in Plainfield, Chicago

At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our licensed and experienced plumbers and HVAC technicians have been serving the area since 2008. We are a family-owned and operated company backed by generations of experience. We offer straightforward pricing, the latest technology, and multiple financing options. All of our technicians are certified and receive ongoing training in the latest technology.

Our services include HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair. We install water heaters, tankless water heaters, and sump pumps and do toilet repair and replacement. Contact TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today and see for yourself why our services are so highly prized.

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