How to Buy an Electric Furnace
Electric furnaces are commonly used in homes, apartments, mobile homes, and offices. Most models on the market today are designed to provide 20-30 years of service. Due to their compact size they are commonly installed in the basement, closet, utility room, or attic. They can be integrated with your existing ductwork to circulate heat from the electric furnace, depending on where you install it.
Electric Furnace Basics
A forced air electric furnace, as the name suggests, is powered by electricity. The unit itself contains a series of heating elements, with a blower to force air over them. The blower moves the air across the heating elements; this air is heated and then distributed into the living space of your home.
The heating elements are designed so as to not overload the electrical supply in your home. Typically, they are 240 volts and they can require up to 80 amps of electrical supply.
In terms of their up-front costs, electric furnaces are often less expensive than other heating options. Also, electric furnaces do not require additional fuel pipes and expensive fuel storage tanks. They do not require any venting. There is a major reduction in material costs, which saves several hours in installation time. Electric furnaces have few moving parts, which makes the operation affordable and maintenance simple. They have a compact central heating unit with a blower fan and can be adapted to add on heat pump systems as well as central air conditioning units.
How do Electric Furnaces Differ from Heat Pumps?
We asked HVAC expert Tim Szabo to give an explanation of the differences between a heat pump and an electric furnace.
Tim: A heat pump is a single unit that can provide cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter, as well as provide hot water; an "all in one solution", if you will. The main components consist of heat exchanger coils -- one for the outside and one for the inside. The outdoor coil extracts heat from the air; the indoor coil transfers the heat into the indoor heating system, such as a radiator.
FurnaceCompare: So is it practical for any climate or region?
Tim: No. In colder climates, a heat pump may not provide you with the proper heating solution, and the constant use will shorten its lifespan. It is mainly recommended for mild, dry climates, where the temperature doesn't dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
FurnaceCompare: Are Heat pumps more efficient than electric furnaces?
Tim: Yes they are considered to be a more efficient and cost-effective source for heating and cooling.
Advantages Of Electrical Heating
Heating with electricity has some specific advantages. You can control it exactly to allow uniformity of temperature. With no fuel combustion involved, it is cleaner than oil or gas. Electric furnaces are considered safer because automatic breakers protect them from overloading. You can get an electric furnace started quickly and they operate quietly. Since an electric furnace has no flame, you don't have to relight a pilot light or deal with combustible fuels in the house. Electric furnaces are often 100 percent efficient.
Disadvantages of Electric Heat
However, after installation, heating with electricity is often more expensive than heating with natural gas or fuel oil. As with all heating systems if the supply ducts and returns are not well- insulated, you will lose heat as you transfer it throughout your house. Furthermore, some furnaces and boilers can run even when the electricity is out. No so with electric furnaces.
Maintenance of an electric furnace is typically straight-forward, and largely consists of ensuring that the furnace filters are cleaned or replaced per the manufacturer's instructions.
Electric Furnace Brands
Popular electric furnace manufacturers include: