The Heat Is On: Should You Choose An Electric Or Gas Furnace For Your Business?

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Installing a furnace is one of the most effective and efficient ways to heat your business in the cooler months, providing reliable warm air through vents and adjustable registers to keep your offices or working spaces comfortably heated. However, there are a vast array of furnace types and configurations available, and you will have some difficult choices to make before deciding which one of them is best for you.

One of these difficult choices is choosing whether your furnace should be powered by electricity or natural gas--both of these power sources have their own advantages, but they also come with a few unique disadvantages that also need to be taken into account.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing an electric furnace?

Electric furnaces are relatively simple devices that create heat by passing an electrical charge through a series of metal heating vanes made from metals with high electrical resistance. This resistance creates heat, which is then drawn through ducting by fans before being expelled through vents.

The simplicity of these devices can be one of their main advantages, for two reasons; firstly, electric furnaces tend to be much cheaper than gas-fired furnaces, at least to purchase. Secondly, with less moving parts and no pressurised components to worry about, maintaining an electric furnace is generally cheaper and simpler than looking after a gas furnace. You may also find that furnace servicemen charge less to maintain or repair electric furnaces due to this decreased complexity. Electric furnaces also tend to run slightly quieter than their gas-powered counterparts, a boon for businesses that handle sensitive operations or manufacturing processes.

However, because electric furnaces require a high amount of electrical resistance to be effective, they tend to use a lot of power, significantly more than a gas furnace would require to provide the same amount of heat. This can increase long-term running costs and may force you to run your furnace at high or full power during particularly cold days, which can affect the working lifespan of your furnace. Electric furnaces can also take a while to heat up, especially on cold mornings.

What about the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a gas furnace?

Gas fired furnaces essentially operate as miniaturised natural gas power plants, and operate by mixing natural gas with air before combusting the mixture in a sealed chamber. The heat produced by this combustion is then forced through ducts and vents by fans in a similar fashion to heat produced by electric furnaces.

Gas furnaces are an excellent choice for heating businesses located in colder areas, as the overall heating potential of a gas furnace is higher than that of an equivalently-sized electric furnace. Unlike their electrical counterparts, gas furnaces also begin to produce heat from practically the moment they are turned on (although larger offices and working spaces will still need to wait a short period before appreciable heating is achieved). The greatest advantage of gas-fired furnaces, however, is that they can be far cheaper to run than electric furnaces, especially for intermittent heating during irregular work hours where fast heating is required.

Unfortunately, while gas furnaces tend to be cheap to run, they can be quite expensive to buy, and you should expect a much larger initial outlay than what you would pay to have an electric furnace installed. Maintenance and repairs will also have to be carried out by trained HVAC professionals due to the dangerous contents of a gas furnace, which can increase overall running costs. A malfunctioning or leaking gas furnace also poses a carbon monoxide risk, and although modern gas furnaces have a variety of redundancies in place to prevent monoxide venting, your business will probably have to invest in carbon monoxide sensors and other safety features.