According to our experts, there are a few mitigating factors to consider, from cost to your carbon footprint.
house with snow
Credit: Getty / Yellow Dog Productions

Whether you're considering upgrading to a more efficient home heating system or thinking about putting an offer in on a new home and curious about whether or not the existing system is ideal, you may find yourself wondering which is better—gas or electric heat? Here, we spoke with two professionals to determine if one type of heating system really is better than the other.

The Difference

Anthony Carrino, a celebrity home renovator and Trane Residential partner, says that the key difference between the two systems boils down to fuel. "Gas furnaces burn fuel (natural gas or liquid propane) to generate heat and distribute it throughout the house," he explains, noting that electric iterations power heat pumps within a central heating and cooling system; they use the outside air to both heat a home in the winter and cool it in the summer, moving warmer air from one part of your house to the other. Carrino says that both are perfectly good options—and that determining the style best for your home has to do with several mitigating factors.

Factors to Consider

Ultimately, it all comes down to where you live, the size of your home, your comfort and efficiency needs, and budget. All of these impact a heating system's lifespan and level of maintenance required. "For homeowners living in mild climates—temperatures above 30 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take—the electricity-based heat system is most efficient. They can save substantially on consumption when not susceptible to the demands of colder weather," he says. "Alternatively, for those living in colder climates that experiences freezing or subfreezing temperatures, a new gas furnace with a higher Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating would be recommended." The most efficient iterations can convert as much as 97 percent of the fuel you pay for into heat, he notes.

Upfront Cost

According to Bryan Buckley, brand manager at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, there's another factor to keep in mind before you make your choice: upfront costs. "If you're interested in low upfront cost, an electric furnace may be the best bet," he explains, adding that these types of units rely on an existing power source (electricity), so you won't need to have an additional energy source installed in your home (like a gas line). "However, when using electricity to heat the home, depending on the price per watt of electricity, you could see a spike in your power bill," he says. "So, while you may save money up front, an electric furnace may cost more in the long run."

The Best of Both Worlds

"When it comes to the environment and carbon footprint considerations, there are numerous factors that determine how efficient each choice may be," Carrino says. "For example, an electric heating system is only as environmentally beneficial as the power grid that sustains it." So, what's the best option? According to Carrino, it might actually be a furnace that relies on both. "The value of a dual-fuel system—installing both a heat pump and gas furnace—is that it will rely upon the heat pump on milder days and the furnace on the colder ones to capitalize on the most efficient operations of both systems."

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
February 20, 2021
Another option I wish was discussed is geothermal. I think is the greenest, even though up front costs are a lot. Btw, when you log into this site, it says it's the "women's network". I have been a Martha Stewart fan and fierce supporters of her for over a decade. Why try to make it a gender issue now???