Gas vs. Electric Heaters: A Comprehensive Guide to Running Costs

Daniel Mwangi
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An image showing a gas heater and an electric heater side by side, representing the comparison between gas and electric heaters in terms of cost and efficiency.

When it comes to heating your home, the choice between gas and electric heaters can have a significant impact on your energy costs. Understanding the cost differences and other factors involved can help 

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Understanding Gas and Electric Heaters

Gas and electric heaters are two popular options for residential heating. They both have their advantages and considerations. Gas heaters typically use natural gas or propane as fuel, while electric heaters rely on electricity to generate heat.

Types of Gas Heaters

Gas heaters come in various types, including furnaces, boilers, and space heaters. Furnaces are typically centralized heating systems that distribute warm air throughout the house. Boilers, on the other hand, use hot water or steam to provide heat. Space heaters are portable units that provide localized heating.

Types of Electric Heaters

Electric heaters are available in different forms, such as baseboard heaters, radiant heaters, and heat pumps. Baseboard heaters are installed along the baseboards of rooms and rely on convection to warm the air. Radiant heaters emit infrared radiation that directly heats objects and people. Heat pumps extract heat from the air or ground and transfer it indoors.

Comparing the Efficiency

Efficiency plays a crucial role in determining the cost of running a heater. Let's compare the efficiency of gas and electric heaters.

Gas Heater Efficiency

Gas heaters are generally more energy-efficient than electric heaters. The efficiency of a gas heater is measured by its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. AFUE represents the percentage of fuel that is converted into usable heat. High-efficiency gas heaters can have AFUE ratings above 90%, meaning they convert over 90% of the fuel into heat.

Electric Heater Efficiency

Electric heaters are almost 100% efficient because all the electricity consumed is converted into heat. However, the overall efficiency of electric heating can be lower due to energy losses during electricity generation and transmission. It's important to consider the source of electricity in your area, as some regions rely heavily on fossil fuels for power generation.

Factors Affecting Energy Consumption

Several factors can influence the energy consumption of gas and electric heaters. By understanding these factors, you can optimize your heating system for cost savings.

Insulation and Weatherization

Proper insulation and weatherization play a vital role in minimizing heat loss from your home. Well-insulated walls, windows, and doors help retain heat, reducing the workload on your heater. By sealing air leaks and improving insulation, you can decrease energy consumption and lower heating costs.

Thermostat Settings and Programming

Optimizing thermostat settings and using programmable thermostats can significantly impact energy consumption. Lowering the temperature when you're away or asleep can lead to substantial savings. Programmable thermostats allow you to schedule temperature adjustments according to your daily routine, ensuring efficient heating when needed.

Heat Distribution and Room Size

The efficiency of heating is influenced by how well the heat is distributed throughout your home and the size of the rooms. Gas furnaces with forced-air systems distribute heat more evenly, while baseboard heaters in individual rooms may have variations in temperature. Consider the layout and size of your home to determine the most efficient heating solution.

Temperature Requirements

Different individuals have different temperature preferences. By adjusting your thermostat to a comfortable yet reasonable temperature, you can avoid unnecessary energy consumption. Lowering the thermostat by just a few degrees can result in significant energy savings over time.

Calculating the Cost

To make an informed decision, it's essential to consider the cost of running gas and electric heaters.

Gas Heater Costs

Gas heaters are generally cheaper to operate compared to electric heaters. To calculate the cost, you need to consider the price of natural gas or propane in your area and the efficiency of your heater. Multiply the cost per unit of fuel by the amount of fuel consumed to determine the daily, monthly, or annual cost.

Electric Heater Costs

Electric heaters may have higher operating costs due to the price of electricity. To calculate the cost, multiply the electricity rate (in kilowatt-hours) by the power consumption of your heater. This will give you the energy consumption per hour. Multiply it by the number of hours the heater runs to obtain the daily, monthly, or annual cost.

Environmental Impact

Apart from costs, the environmental impact is an important aspect to consider when choosing between gas and electric heaters.

Gas Heater Emissions

Gas heaters produce carbon emissions during the combustion process. While modern gas heaters have become more efficient and emit fewer pollutants, they still contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and indoor air pollution. It's crucial to ensure proper ventilation when using gas heaters.

Electric Heater Emissions

Electric heaters produce no direct emissions at the point of use since they don't burn any fuel. However, the emissions associated with electricity generation depend on the energy mix in your region. If your electricity is sourced from renewable sources, electric heaters have a lower carbon footprint compared to gas heaters.

Choosing the Right Heater for Your Needs

When deciding between gas and electric heaters, consider your specific requirements and circumstances.

Considerations for Gas Heaters

  • Availability and cost of natural gas or propane in your area
  • Initial installation cost and maintenance requirements
  • Ventilation and safety considerations
  • Overall efficiency and heating capacity
  • Long-term cost projections

Considerations for Electric Heaters

  • Electricity rates and potential fluctuations in prices
  • Installation and maintenance costs
  • Heating needs of individual rooms
  • Compatibility with renewable energy sources
  • Energy-saving features and programmability


Choosing between gas and electric heaters involves considering various factors, including efficiency, energy consumption, costs, and environmental impact. Gas heaters are generally more efficient and cost-effective, but electric heaters offer advantages in certain situations. By understanding your heating needs and evaluating the factors discussed in this guide, you can make an informed decision that best suits your requirements.


Q1. Which type of heater is cheaper to run, gas or electric?

A1. Gas heaters are generally cheaper to operate compared to electric heaters due to the lower cost of natural gas or propane.

Q2. Are electric heaters more environmentally friendly than gas heaters?

A2. Electric heaters produce no direct emissions, but the environmental impact depends on the energy mix used for electricity generation.

Q3. Can I use renewable energy sources with electric heaters?

A3. Yes, electric heaters can be powered by renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power, reducing their carbon footprint.

Q4. Do gas heaters require more maintenance than electric heaters?

A4. Gas heaters may require more maintenance, including regular inspections, cleaning, and ensuring proper ventilation.

Q5. Which heater type is more suitable for heating individual rooms?

A5. Electric heaters, such as baseboard heaters or radiant heaters, are often preferred for heating individual rooms due to their localized heat distribution.