Understanding the pros and cons
Air conditioning systems are essential for regulating the atmosphere within a room to make the occupants (like you and your family) comfortable. AC is pretty much everywhere in a place as hot and humid as Houston in the summer, but not all heating and cooling systems are the same. For starters, air conditioners are powered differently—either by gas or electricity—with electric-powered heating and cooling being the most popular.
There are important distinctions between the gas and electric HVAC. Let’s look at these 2 air conditioning systems and highlight their pros and cons to make it easier to pick the best system for you and your family.
Gas vs. electric operating systems
An electric air conditioning system uses electric power to generate cool air. Similarly, in an all-electric heating system, electric power fuels the furnace and runs the condenser.
A gas air conditioner uses natural gas to generate power. However, this system is not exclusively gas; some electric power is used to run the condenser. Gas is used only in the furnace to generate the heat required.
This variation is known as a “split” system, in which the furnace is fueled by gas or oil and the condenser is powered by electricity. The term “split” refers to the way the unit transfers warm air outside in the summer and cold air outside in the winter.
There are no variations in the duct systems used to circulate air with either system. You can use any suitable duct system with either one.
Both gas and electric air conditioning systems are similar in terms of components. Both use a furnace to generate heat, a condenser to cool the air and a duct system to circulate the air through your home. They also rely on a temperature sensing element, commonly a thermostat, to determine what air condition is required in the room.
Gas vs. electric heating and cooling costs
The upfront cost is the initial sum required while setting up the system. The total purchase and installation costs of a gas-powered air conditioner are typically higher than those of an electric-powered system. When considering upfront cost, an electric-powered system is typically the best option.
Electric air conditioning systems tend to require more frequent repairs, making their upkeep more expensive than gas-powered systems. A gas-powered system is often the way to go when considering future repairs and maintenance costs.
In recent years, natural gas has been cheaper than electricity. This makes the current energy costs of a gas-powered air-conditioning system less than an electric-powered system. However, this can change depending on the price of natural gas in comparison to electricity in your area.
Natural gas HVAC pros and cons
These are some of the factors that will make a natural gas heating and cooling system more appealing:
- Gas-powered systems are more powerful than electric-powered systems and can heat a space faster.
- Gas systems aren’t as vulnerable to power outages. When the power goes out, electric-powered systems leave you without heat, while gas-powered systems can generate heat without relying on electricity.
- They’re more efficient. It requires a lot of electric power to achieve the same heating effect as a gas-powered system.
Some drawbacks of a gas-powered air conditioner and furnace include:
- Gas-powered air-conditioning systems could emit carbon monoxide that could flow into your house. They require professional installation and regular inspections to ensure there are no leaks.
- The upfront costs of installing gas-powered systems are higher, making them more expensive to set up.
Gas vs. electric furnace
Modes of operation
Both types of furnaces depend on the signal sent by a thermostat to determine whether to start heating the air or not. In a gas furnace, a small flame, known as a pilot light, ignites the main burner upon receiving a signal from the thermostat. The main burner heats the air, which then circulates through the ducts. On the other hand, an electric furnace ignites the coils inside the furnace upon receiving the signal to heat the air as required.
For fast heating results, a gas furnace is the way to go. A gas furnace heats up faster than an electric heater and is more efficient in extreme temperature conditions. Gas furnaces are better at heating large spaces, while electric heaters are usually only recommended for smaller spaces.
The cost of installing a gas furnace is higher than an electric furnace. However, maintaining an electric furnace costs more in the long run due to the higher costs of electric energy.
Gas furnaces require attention since they pose a potential carbon monoxide risk. Electric furnaces, on the other hand, demand minimal safety attention.
Generally speaking, electric furnaces are more durable than gas furnaces. Gas furnaces typically last 10-20 years, almost half the lifespan of electric furnaces. Burning gas in electric furnaces can produce particles that result in corrosion if not cleaned regularly.
Determining which system is right for you is largely a matter of personal preference. Make sure to factor in the upfront and maintenance costs, efficiency, safety and durability.