Electric heaters may be in form of radiation or convection heaters. Radiation heaters produce warmth through infrared radiations from a heating element inside a glass envelops. They are usually equipped with reflectors that direct heat away from the heater to desired body. They are mostly appropriate for warming focal points. Convection heaters on the other hand provide warmth by heating air that rises up leading to a constant flow of warm air within the room. They are suitable for heating closed spaces such as rooms, homes and houses. A centralized heating system works by passing an electric current through a heating element whose resistance causes it to heat up and radiate heat into the adjacent air. It is equipped with a fan, which forces the transmission of warm air via tubes to other rooms.
A central gas furnace works by burning a gas, in form of propane or natural gas, using flame that heats air passing over it. There is a fan inside blowing the heated air through duct to other rooms in the home while the by products are passed out through the chimney while fresh air gets back to the furnace and is heated again and sent through the tubes. Gas heaters are usually of two types. Flued heaters are installed permanently at correct heights to extract all the gases that are emitted. Flueless heaters are vent-free and usually used in rooms with good ventilations. The sources of gas could be the mains, LPG gas or bottled gas.
Installation costs of gas heaters are comparatively higher to electric heaters since they require specialized expertise and more expensive materials. Installation requires a chimney that sends out the combusted gas, air channels through which the gases and air pass as well as a centralized furnace that combusts the gas and heats the air. Installation of a centralized electric system requires an electric furnace which heats up air as well as pipes which move the heated air to other rooms. The cost of an electric furnace is relatively cheaper, making its installation fairly affordable. It is estimated that the average installation price of a gas furnace ranges between 1500-3000 pounds while that of an electric furnace is between 600-700 pounds.
Gas heaters are said to produce a higher amount of energy compared to electric heaters in the same amount of time. This is because the gas is burned which produces a flame that heats air, which is spread through convection while in electric heaters; the heating element has to get hot first before it starts emitting heat. For heat to be produced, a lot of energy has to be consumed to be able to exceed the electrical resistance. Gas is also cheaper compared to electricity making operating costs of gas heaters cheaper in the long run. In UK for example, the cost of one unit of gas is about 4p for every kWh while that of electricity is 15p for every kWh. The cost of using electricity for centralized heating ends up having an overall cost of about three times more than that of gas However, electric heaters have proven to be cheaper when heating a small room at reduced temperatures. Gas heaters are therefore suitable for heating larger homes as the warm is easily transmitted to other rooms via the constructed channels; or within the same room through convection. The lifespan of electric heaters is however greater than that of gas heaters. The probability of changing equipment is low; these further hike up the maintenance costs of gas heaters associated with swapping of older equipment with the newer ones.
Despite their energy efficiency, electricity generating power plants produce considerable amounts of pollutants such as greenhousegases, which are hazardous to the environment and animal life. The heating elements in electric heaters provide warmth by radiation and convection that is accompanied by production of carbon dioxide. Gas heaters produce less carbon dioxide than electric heating; however, incompletely combusted gas may emit nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide that pose a danger to health such as asphyxiation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Electricity is readily available anywhere and can be easily utilized. The electric heaters are known to be very energy efficient, using up to 100% of the energy to provide heating. This means that all the energy that goes into a heater is not wasted,but comes out as heat. This is applicable to those heaters using the aid of a fan to spread the heat around, convection based heaters that spreads the heat through radiant energy or a centralized heaters that spread the warmth to other rooms by pipes making them ultimate energy savers. Electric heaters don’t require stored fuel to generate heat; they work immediately they are plugged into the electricity mains.
Gas heaters cannot be used everywhere due to the unavailability of gas in some areas. They are less efficient compared to electric heaters as they utilize about 80-90% of the energy andlosing about 10-20% to the surrounding. Gas efficiency can however, be improved by weather-stripping, which eliminates leaks of gases. The heating system should also be turned off in unused rooms to avoid unnecessary loss of energy. Professional servicing could also be sought to fine tune and inspect the furnace. These professionals should also check for other abnormalities such as cracks within the unit, pipe obstruction, loose wires, blower flaws, malfunctioning safety switches, thermostat problems, faulty ignition components, damaged capacitors and low gas pressure. Proper maintenance of gas heaters increases their durability and efficiency.
Energy efficiency of both electric or gas heaters can be optimized by incorporating them with a thermostat. The thermostat regulates the room temperature by turning the heater off when it’s too hot and on when the temperature is getting low; this also minimizes continuous running and saves on energy costs.