I have a natural gas furnace but I want to use electric heat?

What is better for the environment? I have a natural gas furnace, but in my area all of our electricity comes from hydro dams. So would I be better off using electric heaters to go more green? We have very cold winters and they last about 5 months. I am thinking of buying some plug in electric heaters, is this a good idea? I must confess that I also want to save money as our natural gas is going up in price this winter by 30%, would using electricity save me money?

5 Responses to “I have a natural gas furnace but I want to use electric heat?”

  1. vicinic Says:

    you could save some money on your bills by going to an electrict heat pump. Since we do not know where you live, we cannot estimate the savings versus the expense of converting. To really lower your bills, you’d need a geothermal heat pump.

  2. measserv Says:

    Your electric power comes from the grid which is shared by everyone. The grid will get its power from nuclear, coal, wind, hydro and any other source attached to the grid. Gas is the cleanest and likely the cheapest option you have.

  3. John Says:

    Portable space heaters tend to be a fire hazard and relatively inefficent because they are not intended for long-term use. If you happen to own your home, it may be a good idea to investigate Geothermal energy (fairly high initial cost, very low total cost of ownership and near zero maintenance) or baseboard heating.

    Geothermal heating systems essentially warms cold air with a liquid which is then itself warmed in the earth.

    Natural gas expels NOX (nitrogen oxide) like many fossil fuels, however is one of the cleanest "dirty" fuels.

    Another option you have is to purchase "Renewable energy credits". Although a metered location has no chance of acquiring just the green energy (wind, biomass, solar, hydro, etc), by buying RECs you are funding further development into green techniques and reducing your personal carbon footprint on the earth. Most homes will not use more than 12MWh in a year (to keep it in perspective)

  4. donfletcheryh Says:

    An answer from personal experience:
    I converted a small apartment building from natural gas to all electric heat, electric water heating, electric clothes driers in Montreal, back in 1972. Well, our total energy cost did go down sharply, about 30%. But also because we had better heat distribution we had better comfort.

    After I had left Montreal the area was hit by a very severe ice storm that took out many km of hydro lines, including the main lines feeding Montreal and local lines serving that part of the city. Power outage in mid winter was over 10 days in many areas, and over 6 days in that locality. All plumbing was frozen and broken.

    People were huddled in those few houses that had oil or gas heat, where the oil/gas heat was not dependent on electricity. That meant those
    very gas space heaters we had removed had become central to keeping people from freezing to death.

    Keeping the gas service connected for the 12 years after we had it removed would have proven a lot of insurance, both in terms of cost and benefit. But the cost of replacing that plumbing system would also have been very significant.

    We use a thermal solar heating system now, and it is more reliable than gas or electric. But we also have a wood space heater as a comfort backup. I suggest that, if you switch to all electric, you may want to retain a wood space heater to deal with any risk of an electric system outage. You could of course use a solar thermal system, not just for emergency, but as a daily system that will cut your heating cost.

    (Our solar system will keep our house to 15C during periods of prolonged cloudy weather, even with winds. It will of course also reach above 34C when the sun is blazing in mid January, (but only when we have 3 days of sunshine in a row does our morning temperature rise above 22C.)

    With a heat pump we could have avoided needing the comfort backup wood stove, and we could have avoided using 3.5 cu metres of wood each winter.

    But if we were heating by electricity primarily I would plan to use either geothermal heat pump or solar assisted heat pump. And I would still want to have that backup wood heater with a limited supply of wood to get by any electrical system failure.

    Yes, it could be a corn stove, or a coal stove, a kerosene stove… anything that will provide enough heat to prevent freeze up.

    Even with gas heat it can be worth while having some backup, like electric space heaters.

    If your electricity comes entirely from hydro and wind, and your utility is selling excess power to areas that use coal, then every kWh you use means that there is someone that has to use coal generated power instead of your hydro or wind power.
    If your electricity comes mostly from hydro, but you buy coal generated power when demand is high, converting to electricity will mean that much more demand will require that much more coal to be burned.

    But wind power built explicitly to provide electricity for heating may be the best community option.

  5. groingo Says:

    Portable electric heaters for the most part are all made in China and there are very few that are both efficient and safe.
    Your best bet is to zone your house for the winter and heat only areas you need to heat and stay with the natural gas.
    At my last count I have accumulated 35 portable electric heaters
    all ETL and UL approved and NONE are fit to safely use.
    P.S. Do NOT buy any heater from Wal-mart, they are the worst of all.