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Electric Resistance Heater vs Furnace

I'm looking to install new HVAC equipment. Looking for some expert opinions here on electric resistance heaters.

Electric resistance heaters are 100% efficient but the electricity costs a ton. In your expert opinion, guys, do you think it's worth it to bring a gas line and install a furnace instead?


  • Brewbeer
    Brewbeer Member Posts: 616
    It's always worth it to have natural gas available to use in your home especially if the gas company will install the service for free.
    Hydronics inspired homeowner with self-designed high efficiency low temperature baseboard system and professionally installed mod-con boiler with indirect DHW. My system design thread: http://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/154385
    System Photo: https://us.v-cdn.net/5021738/uploads/FileUpload/79/451e1f19a1e5b345e0951fbe1ff6ca.jpg
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,171
    "Electric resistance heaters are 100% efficient". No. The heater itself is -- it turns all the electricity which reaches it into heat. Wonderful. But... where does that electricity come from? If it come from any fossil fueled power plant -- as the vast majority of the electricity does -- the actual fuel efficiency, overall, is somewhere around 40%, maximum. So the fuel efficiency of electric resistance heating is about 40%. Even a poorly adjusted modern gas furnace is around 85%.

    Heat pumps are another story -- so long as it is ground sourced, or you live in a climate where the performance stays high, they can approach or exceed the fuel efficiency of a modern furnace. But that's a very different animal.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    vibert_cJohn Mills_5Solid_Fuel_Man
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 14,552
    @TeachMeSteam ,
    Depends. How long will you stay in the house? hat will is cost you to get the gas installed.

    If you only stay a few years the electric will be cheaper. If your in it for the long haul go gas.

    Better resale value with the gas as well
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,141
    Hello, In the West, they are looking to do away with gas. Long term, I’d be looked at something like a mini split. I just left a conference on hot water and the manufactures are looking at 120 volt heat pump water heaters to replace gas fired heaters. Things are changing! ;)

    Yours, Larry
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,171
    Indeed. In locations where there is ample sunshine -- such as it might be the southwest -- and ample funds for batteries, or ample wind (ever driven through Altamont Pass into the SF Bay Area?)(who cares about birds, anyway?) heat pumps make a great deal of sense, particularly for new construction or for retrofit in some (by no means all) old construction. In other areas very high performance ground source heat pumps also make sense, even in some less obvious retrofit applications (my old college in Minnesota, of all places, is doing just that), and in more southern areas standard air to air or water heat pumps make sense for new and some retrofit applications, always provided the COP is high enough.

    In fact, in most areas of the US and southern Canada, one can make a very good case for a combination of passive solar and heat pumps for space heating in new construction, always provided one doesn't object to the cost premium.

    All that said, however, I at least simply do not see the practicality of getting rid of gas or oil on a nation-wide basis, as some have recently suggested be done. Not that in principle it couldn't be done. Like many things in engineering -- as I used to say to my students -- if you come up with enough money you can do pretty much what you want -- The money, however, is truly astronomical, and as a result much of the built environment would have to be essentially abandoned -- or revert to the 1800s, which only a few with the necessary woodlands could do.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,140
    In the fifties resistance heaters were baseboards. Individual thermostats in each room saved energy. In the seventies resistance heaters were furnaces in central air systems. Thermostatically controlled dampers are available but I don't see them in homes. So I guess economy is not that important?

  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
    Install a propane tank or get natural gas installed. By the time the electricity is distributed, it’s about 40% efficient if your region uses mostly fossil fuel. So a 95% furnace is far far more efficient.

    Operating costs are about 1/2 to 1/4.

    Our company has replaced 5 electric furnaces with gas furnaces the last 2 months. We’re going ot run a add advertising it since the utility is asking for a 25% increase in rates. It’s insane.

    Get the unit sized and ductwork designed properly. Most new construction I’ve seen have JUNK installs. Unbalanced, oversized and leaky. Probably 20% less efficient than a good install, noisy and less comfortable.