What to Know About Electric Heating for Your Home

Angela Brown
Written by Angela Brown
Updated October 14, 2021
Woman on couch with blanket and electronic device
Charday Penn/E+ via Getty Images

When you're ready to replace your old furnace, there are multiple types of electric heating to consider

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Thoughts of winter evoke memories of hot bowls of soup, warm cookies, and snuggling on the couch to read a good book. But if you want to stay toasty this winter, you may need to replace your old furnace before the temperatures drop. Electric furnaces and heating options are popular for homes and industrial purposes. If you want to know which is best for your home, keep reading to learn more about the various types of electrical heating available.

How an Electric Furnace Works

An electric furnace can provide years of toasty memories. On average, electric furnaces last between 20 and 30 years. Electric furnaces use, you guessed it, electricity to generate heat. The heater converts the energy from the electric current into heat, but how the heat is distributed depends on the type of furnace you choose.

An electric furnace operates using a system of coils, relay, ducts, and sequencers. A heating relay in the furnace controls the amount of electricity that flows to the heating element. This ensures that enough electricity is moved to create the right amount of heat, without overheating and causing a fire. 

When the heating elements are hot, the blower pushes the hot air out of the furnace through vents. Electric furnaces also have filters to keep allergens and other harmful materials out of circulation. Electric furnaces also have thermostats inside that regulate the temperature and prevent your unit from overheating.

How to Choose an Electric Furnace

Adjusting the temperature on a home thermostat
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While there are many options, setting a few goals for your budget and needs can make finding the right furnace simple. When you’re shopping for an electric furnace, there are a few things to think about that will make the shopping process much easier.

  • Cost: Electric units are much less expensive to install, but they cost more money over time since they’re less energy-efficient than a gas furnace.

  • Space: Electric units are smaller, so you can find one that will fit into any home, including mobile homes.

  • Size: Getting the right size unit is essential for heating your home properly and efficiently.

  • Economic impact: It’s a double-edged sword. An electric furnace doesn’t use gas or oil so they don’t create emissions. However, they use a significant amount of electricity.

  • Best of both worlds: You could purchase a dual-furnace that uses oil and electricity to help reduce utility bills and increase energy efficiency.

  • Check out the warranty: It’s not uncommon for minor (or major) issues to appear after installation. Make sure your warranty covers parts for at least 10 years. If you hire a professional, ask if they offer a parts and service warranty.

The Manual J Calculation

The Manual J Calculation is a mathematical equation that determines the amount of cooling or heating you need to properly manage the temperature in your home. You (or the professional you hire) will use this calculation to determine what size furnace and ductwork will work best for your home.

How Much Does an Electric Furnace Cost?

Electric furnaces are much less expensive than gas furnaces, but more expensive than baseboard heating. The average total cost of a new electric furnace installation is between $1,570 and $6,570.

The typical unit costs between $500 and $1,500, and the rest of your costs will go towards labor, materials, permits, and any ductwork.

Electric Furnace vs. Gas Furnace

If you need to replace your furnace, you might be wondering if an electric furnace or gas furnace is a better choice. Both options have benefits as well as drawbacks.

  • Electric furnaces are smaller and can include a cooling coil. Gas furnaces don’t allow you to cool and heat your home with one unit.

  • Gas furnaces use natural gas, which poses potential safety hazards if there is a problem with your heater and natural gas builds up in your home.

  • Electric furnaces are more expensive over time. Your utility bill will likely be higher since electric furnaces aren’t as energy-efficient. Maintenance costs are less expensive for electric heaters.

  • Gas furnaces often heat your home more quickly, so if you have a larger home in a very cold climate, an electric heater might not do the job.

  • Electric furnaces typically last up to 30 years, while gas furnaces have a lifespan of around 20 years.

4 Types of Electric Heating

When shopping for a way to heat your home, you’ll want to consider the following four types of electrical heating.

1. Electric Furnace

An electric furnace produces heat by blowing air over a heating element (usually a heating coil). The hot air is then distributed throughout the home. 

Electric furnaces come in a variety of sizes and they’re easy to install. The upfront cost of an electric furnace is lower than a gas furnace, and maintenance costs are typically lower. You may spend more money on your electric bill throughout the year though. The average cost of an electric furnace is $1,570 to $6,570.

2. Electric Heat Pump

An electric heat pump allows a unit to provide both heating and cooling options. You’ll pay more for an electric heat pump, but it’s more energy-efficient and you’ll be able to keep your home cool in the summer. 

An electric heat pump operates similarly to a traditional electric furnace, except that it has an outdoor segment that contains a second coil, fan, and compressor. This pump operates year-round, helping heat the home quicker in the winter and cool more quickly in the summer. The average cost of an electric heat pump is $4,130 to $7,300.

3. Radiant Heating

Radiant heating systems are most often installed near the ceiling (cove heating). The heat is created via an electric element that heats up an aluminum panel. The panel radiates the heat out into the room. If you opt for radiant heating, you’ll need quality insulation in your home to maximize the efficiency of your heating unit. The average cost of radiant heating is $1,730 to $6,050.

4. Baseboard Heaters

Baseboard heaters are ideal for smaller spaces or older homes. Installing these types of heaters doesn’t require ductwork. They’re low cost and come in many different sizes. The biggest drawback is that their heat is limited to individual rooms, so you may need to install multiple baseboard heaters in your home. The average cost of electric heater and baseboard installation is $125 to $2,500.

Keeping your home toasty during the winter is important. Choosing the right electric furnace or heating option for your home will help you stay warm and save money.

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