Converting from electric to natural gas heating might save you money and energy. You may convert your home to natural gas by installing a gas furnace, a gas boiler, or a hybrid system. When replacing a gas boiler, you must replace both the heat pump and the air ducts. Otherwise, you won't be able to use heated air anymore.
Electric heat uses less energy than other forms of heat and is therefore more efficient, but it also costs less than heat produced by other fuels. If you can afford the extra cost now rather than later, then an electric heater is the way to go. But if your budget doesn't allow for this upgrade, then another form of fuel-heated system will need to be installed instead.
Gas furnaces and boilers are much more efficient at heating water than electric resistance heaters are. Because gas heats water faster and more efficiently, you won't need as many units as you would if you were using electric resistance heaters. A gas-fired boiler can produce enough hot water for up to 10 homes, while an electric resistance heater can only produce enough heat for two or three houses.
Hybrid systems use a combination of gas and electricity to heat water. They are usually more expensive than either a gas furnace or a boiler, but they also use less energy than electric resistance heaters.
It is considerably less expensive to run. Natural gas is much cheaper than electricity almost everywhere in the country. If you live in a cold region and rely heavily on your heater in the winter, a gas furnace can save you money in the long term. Electric heaters are more efficient than gas heaters, but they are also more expensive to purchase and operate.
The main advantage of electric heat is that you can store it in batteries or use it during periods of low electricity prices. This is called "peak-load shaving" and it can be very useful if you use heating loads at times when the price of electricity is high. Batteries are expensive but having some capacity available for later uses can give you significant savings over time.
Gas heat is the most expensive form of heating, even including the cost of electricity to run its fan and pump. But gas furnaces are very efficient compared to other types of heaters, so you won't need to use as much of it. This means that you will need to buy fewer gallons of gas per year. Also, gas appliances are less likely to break down than electrical ones so they have a longer life span. These are just some of the many reasons why natural gas is the fuel of choice for home heating.
Electric heat pumps work like air conditioners do in terms of how they are priced.
The transition from gas to electric heating has various advantages. When a home is converted from gas to electric heating, the current gas-fired hot air system is replaced with a new electric furnace or heat pump that uses the home's existing ducting system. The electric furnace or heat pump heats water or oil, which in turn heats homes using traditional methods such as radiators and heaters.
Electric heat pumps are now available in a wide range of energy efficiency ratings and costs. They use substantially the same components as conventional split-system air conditioners, except that they have no compressor or condenser needed for cooling. Instead, an electric motor drives an impeller inside the heat pump, which pushes heated air out through the exchanger (heat radiator) and into the home while drawing in cool air from outside the house. The electric heater works similarly, using electricity to heat air that is then circulated through the home by a fan.
Advantages of converting your gas heater to electric include reduced environmental impact because there is no combustion product to remove from the house nor any carbon dioxide emissions from the use of natural gas instead; lower operating costs since there is no need for regular maintenance of mechanical parts or fuel delivery systems; and possible savings in initial installation cost if you choose to replace your old gas heater with an electric model.
Because electricity is more expensive per unit than natural gas, the lifetime cost of electric heating is greater than that of gas heating. Electric heating takes longer. Your furnace's heat will not reach the high temperatures of a gas furnace. This implies you'll be colder for a longer period of time. Also, electric heaters are more expensive up front. You'll need an electric heater instead of a stove or fireplace.
How much does electricity cost? The current price of electricity varies by city and region but is typically about 12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). For example, Washington, D.C., has a rate of 22 cents/kWh, while Boston's rate is 8 cents/kWh. Rates will vary depending on how cold it is out and what time of year it is. Use this calculator from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to find out how much electricity costs in your area.
Heating with electricity isn't as efficient as heating with natural gas. You won't get as much warmth per watt spent if you use electricity instead. However, if you can't afford to run your heater all day every day, then using electricity may be your only option.
Also, keep in mind that most homes today are heated with electricity anyway because we use the most economical form of heating - hot water. If your main goal is to save money, switching to electricity for space heating may not be the best solution.