Electric heaters are cheaper, easier to install and do not need a chimney like gas heaters do. However, gas heating has lower operational costs because gas is usually cheaper than electricity and gas heaters are better at warming up larger spaces. Electric heaters may be more economical when used in small rooms.
The first part of this comparison focuses on heating living spaces. For heating water, see Gas vs. Electric Water Heaters.
HVAC and Home Heating
Types of heaters
Types of electric heaters
There are two kinds of electric heaters:
- Radiation heaters - A heating element that reaches high temperatures is packaged inside a glass envelope that emits heat as infrared radiations. A reflector directs the heat away from the heater. The radiation travels through air until it reaches a heat absorbing body. They provide spot heating. Examples of these types of heater is infrared heaters.
- Convection heaters – Heating element heats the air next to it by convection. Hot air rises up and cold air rushes in to fill the gap and is heated. Thus a constant hot air current flow is setup. This is best suited for closed space. Examples of these types of heaters are ceramic and oil filled heaters.
This video talks about the different types of electric space heaters, theirs pros and cons:
Types of gas heaters
Gas heating is of two types:
- Flued heaters – These are permanently installed. The flue should be installed at correct height to extract all the emitted gas.
- Non-flued heaters – These are vent-free or flueless heaters. They can be used in a room with proper ventilation. But the ventilation might cool the room.
A gas heater or furnace needs a chimney to send out the emissions due to the burning of gases. Installation generally requires air ducts and vents throughout the house. The heater itself is quite large and needs professional installation.
Portable electric heaters do not need installation. Wall-mounted electric heaters do need to be installed but the installation is much easier than gas heaters and can be done yourself.
The cost of installation of gas heaters is more as they need a centralized furnace with flue outlets to be installed. Electric heaters are comparatively cheaper.
Gas heaters produce more heat when compared to electric heaters in the same amount of time. Since gas is generally cheaper than electricity, a gas heater has lower operating cost. Electric space heaters are cheaper only when a small space is to be heated at lower temperature settings.
- Radiation heaters produce focused heating and hence pose dangers of ignition.
- Ventless gas heaters have to be installed in space with proper ventilation and have to be turned off before sleeping. Partially combusted gas might emit carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide that are hazardous.
- Heating removes the moisture from air and hence can aggravate conditions of dry skin and eczema. A humidifier can be used to improve the humidity level.
Gas vs. Electric Water Heaters
When it comes to water heaters, some of the same considerations apply. Gas water heaters are not 100% efficient and need to vent out gas via a chimney. There are some high-efficiency gas water heaters that do not require a chimney but use a fan and pipe to vent out via the side of the house. Electric water
Storage water heaters use a tank to store the hot water. These are different from point-of-use water heaters, which are smaller and installed in bathrooms where the hot water is needed. POU heaters are almost always electric while heaters with water storage tanks can be both gas and electric. Gas heaters are much more popular than electric water heaters in the United States and most European countries because gas is often conveniently piped throughout cities and towns and currently is the cheaper to use than electricity.
For a more detailed comparison, see Electric vs. Gas Water Heaters.
Gas heating is more suitable for larger households because the heating is faster than electric heaters. For households with only a couple of members, the storage tank capacity is usually enough to not require quick re-heating. So electric heaters can work for them. Electric heating may be the only available option if a chimney or another outlet is not available for venting.