Do you want to warm up your home during the colder season but you can’t decide between a gas heater or electric heater?
Are you wondering whether electric or gas heat is cheaper?
If so, you’ll enjoy this ultimate comparison guide of a gas heater vs electric heater.
Whether you’re seeking a permanent heater for winter or want to get rid of that early morning chill with a portable unit, selecting the correct heater can be tricky.
But which type of heater fits your needs best: an electric heater or gas heater?
You’ll find out below.
Gas Heater vs Electric Heater
Compared to electric heaters, gas heaters produce more heat within the same time frame.
A gas heater is cheaper to operate than an electric heater since it uses gas.
If a small room is to be heated at very low temperatures, electric heaters are cheaper to use.
Next, we’ll dive into the different types of gas heat vs electric heaters.
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Types of Gas Heaters
There are many types of gas heaters. Some are fueled by liquid propane or natural gas.
These units come in different sizes and features. They’re also designed for different spaces and needs.
Gas heaters are different from other heaters due to their fuel type.
Gas heat relies on propane or natural gas. Some gas heaters are powered by electricity while others are powered by a combination of the two.
We’ll break down the different heater types and their intended use next. With that information, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on how to get the perfect heater for your home.
Wall furnaces are installed in the drywall and between the studs of the wall.
These gas heaters draw cool air from the bottom. Then, they heat it to warm air and expel it from the top.
These gas heaters heat spaces between 300 square feet to 1,700 square feet.
Wall furnaces are commonly used for home additions, smaller homes, and apartments.
Vented heaters are dynamic heating systems and can use liquid propane or natural gas.
These gas heaters are used indoors to heat spaces of between 300 square feet to 3,000 square feet.
Vented heaters come as space heaters or wall heaters and must have adequate ventilation to prevent the build up of carbon monoxide.
Infrared heaters use electromagnetic waves to heat the room.
The heat is transferred directly from the unit to objects in the room. This allows the sensation of warmth to be achieved much faster than heating up the air.
These gas heaters are good for covering between 200 square feet to 1,000 square feet.
One thing to keep in mind is that these gas heaters require several safety precautions.
Furniture, children, and flammable objects should be kept away from these units in case of a malfunction or potential burn.
Ventless gas heaters are used as auxiliary heat sources.
You have the option of choosing between infrared or blue flame heating.
Vent-free heaters use liquid propane, gas, or dual fuel models.
These gas heaters heat spaces 200 square feet to 1,200 square feet.
With a ventless heater, you don’t have to open a window or use the heater in a well-ventilated area. That’s because these heating systems do not expel carbon monoxide like vented heating units.
Check out our best propane heater for house list for recommendations on this type of heater.
A blue flame heater warms up the air in the room where it is placed. It doesn’t warm the objects in the room like an infrared heater.
Therefore, this type of gas heater is better used in insulated places.
These gas heaters take longer to heat the room but are a great energy-saving option in the sense that they don’t use electricity. They also include a blower or fan to spread the warm air in the room.
These gas heaters heat spaces between 300 square feet to 1,400 square feet.
The fact that blue flame heaters are very economical and operate with very high efficiency are some of their biggest advantages.
Types of Electric Heaters
Electric heaters differ from other heaters that have a combustible fuel source like propane, natural gas, kerosene, or wood.
Such heaters require a vent to exhaust the gases produced during combustion.
The term “electric heater” refers to the heating apparatus used to warm the cold air.
The type of electric heater depends on the application and the design.
We’ll discuss the various options below.
Electric Fan Heaters
Electric fan heaters have a heating element that produces thermal energy by passing an electric current through a resistive element that generates heat. This is commonly known as the Joule effect, which refers to the generation of heat by the passing of electricity through a resistance.
These electric heaters have a fan that blows air through the hot element and distributes warm air in the room. They also connect to the power source using an outlet plug and are portable.
Electric fan heaters fall under the class of convection heaters. However, the heat stops after the heater is turned off since they only heat the air in the room.
You can find the most energy efficient space heaters here which include several electric fan heaters. You can also check out our electric wall heater reviews page if you’re looking for a wall mountable type of space heater.
Electric Infrared Heaters
Electric infrared heaters are also called electric radiant heaters or radiative space heaters.
These heaters produce radiation in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. This process heats objects and people who are positioned directly in front of the heater and not the air around them.
This type of heater uses nichrome heating wire positioned within a quartz tube and has a metal reflector that directs outwards the radiant heat.
These electric heaters take longer to heat up a room because the heat energy is not transferred through the air. However, the trade off is that infrared heaters can retain heat in the room even after the heater is turned off since they heat the objects in the room; not the air.
These units are the most popular choice for use indoors as well as outdoor areas where room insulation is almost impossible.
You can find our top infrared heater reviews here to compare the best units.
Other examples of electric infrared heaters are radiant panel heaters and cove heaters.
Ceramic heaters use an electric heating element made of PTC material. PTC means a positive temperature coefficient.
These electric heaters exist in both convective form (uses a fan) and infrared heater form.
The use of ceramic adds a safety feature to this type of electric heater. Polycrystalline ceramic heats up to a point where its thermal resistance rises.
That self-limiting property prevents the heater from taking more heat from electricity, limiting the heater’s temperature as a result.
You can find our top ceramic heater reviews here to compare these types of units.
Electric Oil Filled Heaters
This electric heater looks like a traditional radiator, but is portable and runs on electricity.
The internal columns are filled with diathermic oil that is heated up and moved around inside the fins to warm the metal casing throughout.
The heat is then radiated from the metal columns and into the air to warm up the room.
The oil never has to be changed or replaced as it is a closed system.
You can find our oil filled radiator heater reviews here.
Electric Heat Pumps
Electric heat pumps use a mechanical compressing cycle to pull heat from the outside air and use it to heat a building.
These units are very energy-efficient because they only transfer heat and don’t generate heat energy.
Electric Heat vs Gas Heat Cost
Is gas heat cheaper than electric?
Or is electric heat cheaper than gas?
Here’s how to find out.
The cost of electric heating vs gas heating apparatus is determined by four major factors.
The cost of fuel per unit, fuel type, the heating system’s efficiency, and the amount of heat generated per unit of fuel.
The heat produced is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units).
This formula is used to calculate heating costs:
Cost per Unit X 1,000,000 BTUs
The average house requires 50,000,000 to 150,000,000 BTUs of heat for the winter season.
Calculating Electric Heat Costs
The average customer in the U.S. spends 13 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. Each kilowatt generates around 3,412 BTUs of heat.
Electric furnaces have a yearly fuel utilization efficiency rating of 95% to 100%.
Electric space heaters have an efficiency rating of 100%.
With an electric heater, you should expect to pay an estimate of $38 per 1,000,000 BTUs of heat. This amounts to a range of $1,900 to $5,700 to heat an entire house with electricity for the winter season.
If you have a large space to warm up like a living room or basement, be sure to check out our large room heater reviews to compare the top models available.
Calculating Gas Heat Costs
One therm of natural gas is equal to 100,000 BTUs. One therm costs about 80 cents per hour.
Gas furnaces in the U.S. have annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of 78%. Therefore, consumers pay around $14.02 per 1,000,000 BTUs of heat.
This amounts to a range of $700 to $2,100 to heat an entire house with gas for the winter season.
Despite the difference in the price of gas and electricity by region and with time, gas furnaces are cheaper to operate than electric heaters.
Advantages of Gas Heat
- Cheaper to operate: Natural gas is cheaper than electricity. If you live in a cold area, using a gas heater can save you money.
- Heats faster: It produces maximum heat as soon as the heater starts burning, unlike electric heaters that take time to warm up.
Disadvantages of Gas Heat
- Expensive up front: Gas heaters are more expensive to purchase than electric heaters and the installation process is complex due to venting processes. Gas heaters need a larger investment than an electric heater.
- Shorter life span: Gas heaters don’t last longer than 10 to 20 years as compared to electric heaters.
- They require more maintenance: Due to the combustible fuel, gas heaters should be maintained annually for efficient and safe operation. Skipping maintenance could expose your family to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Advantages of Electric Heat
- Low investment upfront: Electric furnaces easily fit into most spaces thanks to their compact size. They don’t require piping, ductwork or fuel storage tanks, giving them low installation costs.
- Easy to maintain: Electric heaters don’t need to be maintained as regularly since it doesn’t use fuel like a gas heater which can put your family in danger if a malfunction occurs.
- Easy to install: Electric heaters don’t need an exterior vent and can be installed anywhere.
Disadvantages of Electric Heat
- Slow heating: It takes time to power up the heating element before warming up the room. This means that you have to wait a bit longer to get warm.
- Expensive in long-term usage: The high cost of electricity makes electric heat more expensive than gas heat.
Gas Furnace vs Electric Heat Pump
Gas Furnaces Work Best in Colder Climates
Heat pumps draw air from the outside. The warmer the air outside, the more heat they produce.
However, heat pumps are less efficient in low-temperature areas.
Therefore, a geothermal model will be required in such situations. The refrigerant lines are buried below frost level where the temperature below the ground is 40°F to 50°F throughout winter.
Gas Furnaces Cost More to Operate Than Electric Heat Pumps
A heat pump doesn’t generate heat but uses electricity to transfer the heat through its lines. It uses less energy than a gas or electric furnace.
Depending on the climate of the region you live, the heating cost of natural gas furnaces averages around $850, propane furnaces average $1,550, electric furnaces average $900, and a heat pump averages around $500.
During the summer season, a heat pump operates like an air conditioner. Depending on your climate, the cost of running your heat pump to cool your home will be around $300 or more for the season.
Gas Furnaces Only Provide Heat
Gas furnaces only provide heat because they use natural gas which burns to produce heat.
Electric heat pumps can work as air conditioners and heaters. They can pull hot air out of a house in the summer to cool it down and draw warmer air from outside and dispense it indoors during the colder months.
Heat Pumps Transfer Heat (Not Generate Heat)
A gas furnace burns combustible fuel to generate heat. An electric furnace generates heat by blowing air through a hot element.
A heat pump draws heat from the outdoors to the interior of your house despite it being hot or cold outside. This process transfers heat from one area to another rather than generating it.
Heat Pumps are Noisier than Gas Furnaces
Heat pumps are noisier than gas furnaces even when they operate normally. But both can be very noisy when they have mechanical problems.
Heat pumps knock and click as the compressed air powers up or down.
Gas Heater vs Electric Heater Safety
Gas Heater Safety Tips
- Buy a carbon monoxide alarm for a backup precaution in case of a carbon monoxide spillage.
- Install smoke alarms in every room in the house and test them regularly.
- Ensure that you have plenty of ventilation when using a gas heater.
- Clean your heater regularly to remove dust particles.
- Keep flammable materials away from the heater.
- Replace gas heaters that are more than 20 years old.
- Have your gas heater serviced each year by a licensed professional.
Electric Heater Safety Tips
- Always turn off an electric space heater before going to sleep.
- Keep electric heaters away from the reach of pets or children.
- Install smoke alarms in every room in the house and test them regularly.
- Always place an electric heater away from flammable items.
- Only plug electric heaters into a wall outlet and never into extension cords.
- Unplug and safely store the space heater when not in use.
Summary of Electric Heaters vs Gas Heaters
As you discovered, there are many different types of gas heaters and electric heaters available for you to choose.
There’s also a variety of differences between a gas heater vs electric heater, including the operating costs.
Hopefully, this guide answered all of your questions about electric heat vs gas heat and helped you determine which unit is right for your needs.