When it comes to appliances, it may be confusing sometimes to identify the differences between natural gas and electric.
Although it is easy to recognize a natural gas cooktop by looking for the blue flame when you turn it on, the difference between gas and electric may not be as clear when it comes to things like furnaces and water heaters.
The following tips may help identify some of the differences between natural gas and electric appliances.
Heating and Cooling: Natural Gas or Electric?
There are many types of home heating and cooling systems, but the most common are natural gas furnaces (often installed with an electric air conditioner) and electric heat pumps (which provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer) . Both types rely on blowers to circulate the warm or cool air through an air duct system.
There are two main types of configurations for these systems – a “split system” which means that there are two different pieces of equipment or “boxes” – one usually located outside of the home and one located inside the home in the attic, crawlspace or garage - that are connected by small pipes that carry refrigerant back and forth. There are also “packaged” systems which simply mean that all of the heating and cooling components are “packaged” together in one piece of equipment. These are sometimes referred to as a “Gas Pack” or a “Heat Pump Package Unit” and are usually located outside on the side or rear of the home.
Gas packs consist of an air conditioner and a natural gas furnace in one unit. They are frequently located outside of the home, and often near a gas meter.
Electric heat pumps look very similar to typical air conditioning units, but instead generate heat. They are generally located outside of the house near the air conditioning unit. Take a look at some key differences between gas packs and electric heat pumps:
|Gas Pack (Furnace and AC Combo) ||Electric Heat Pump|
|Part of air conditioning unit -- Combines electric air conditioner with natural gas heat ||Stand alone unit|
|Generally located outdoors on side of home, and sometimes on rooftop or near a gas meter ||Usually located outside of home near AC unit|
|Common for homes with a crawl space ||Common for slab homes|
|Has gas pipe feeding into it ||Has no pipe going into it|
Furnaces are usually located inside the house, in a basement or garage, on a ground floor, and often near an outside wall. Furnaces are typically fueled with gas, electricity, or oil. They draw air into a home’s duct system, where it is warmed before being delivered back to the rooms of the house. The following provides some key differences between natural gas and electric furnaces:
|Natural Gas Furnace ||Electric Furnace|
|Vent-pipe or flue where exhaust vents to outside ||No vent-pipe, but rather a wire in top of unit|
|Has a pilot light generally located near bottom center of unit ||No pilot light, but has heating strips or elements, often visible through a side grate or vent.|
|Gas pipe going into the unit ||No visible piping connected to the unit|
|Located inside the house, in a basement, garage or on a ground floor ||Located inside the house, in a basement, garage or on a ground floor|
There are many other types of home heating units, including:
Learn more about the advantages of natural gas heat.
- Dual fuel heat pump with propane gas or fuel oil furnace
- Propane gas or fuel oil furnace with air conditioner
- Natural gas or electric space heaters
- Radiant heat baseboards and flooring
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Traditional tank-type water heaters hold and heat water in a tank, and are generally located on the ground floor, in a garage, basement, or laundry room/closet. The following provides some key differences between natural gas and electric water heaters:
Water Heaters: Natural Gas or Electric?
|Natural Gas Water Heater ||Electric Water Heater|
|Vent-pipe (2” or more) on top of unit leading to an outside wall ||No vent-pipe, but rather a wire in top of unit|
|Temperature knob on outside of unit (red, yellow or blue) ||Temperature knob is often behind a panel|
|Gas pipe leading into bottom of heating unit ||No gas pipe leading into heating unit|
|Often installed on a stand about 18-20” off of the ground ||May not be on a stand|
|Located in basement, ground floor room, or garage. Some may be located outside of the home in a silver box ||Located in basement, ground floor room, or garage|
Learn more about the benefits of natural gas water heat.
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Tankless Water Heaters
Rather than holding water in a tank like a conventional water heater, the tankless heater circulates water through a burner that heats the water as it passes through. The result is better efficiency, as you only pay to heat water when you need it and for as long as you want it. Electricity is necessary to operate a tankless system, regardless of whether its primary energy source is electric or natural gas.
Although tankless systems may cost more up front, they are often cheaper to operate because energy isn't required to maintain a large tank of hot water 24 hours a day. Learn more about the efficiency of tankless water heat.
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Ranges, Cooktops and Ovens: Natural Gas or Electric?
It is relatively easy to identify whether you have a natural gas or electric range, cooktop or oven…simply turn on the cooktop to see the following difference:
|Natural Gas Range, Cooktop, Oven ||Electric Range, Cooktop, Oven|
|Burner grates rest over circular burners that supply a blue flame when turned on ||Burners are either coils or smooth-top that turn red/orange or no color when turned on|
There are two main types of ranges (i.e. a combination cook top and oven) – natural gas which has burners that have a blue flame when turned on or electric resistance which has a circular or flat coil that turns orange when turned on. If you have a natural gas range (combination cooktop and oven), then the burner type can help you identify if the range is gas or electric. If the cooktop is electric, then the wall oven may also be electric, however, this is not always the case. If you have a natural gas cooktop, your wall oven may be either gas or electric.
Natural gas cooktops perform better than electric cooktops by offering even cooking, high-output burners and super-low simmer temperatures. Plus, when the power goes out, you can still cook!
Learn more about cooking with natural gas.
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Dryers: Natural Gas or Electric?
It is difficult to tell the difference between an electric and a natural gas clothes dryer, as they look virtually the same. Both have vents leading to an outside wall and both are run by an electric motor. However, some key differences between natural gas and electric dryers include:
|Natural Gas Dryer ||Electric Dryer|
|Gas burner supplies heat ||Heating coil provides heat|
|Has a gas hook-up, with a pipe leading into the back of the dryer ||No visible piping connected to the unit|
|Requires only a 120-volt electric outlet ||Connected to a 240-volt electric outlet|
It may be hard to determine if your dryer has a connected gas line without physically moving the dryer, which may be difficult and is not suggested.
In general, natural gas models are more economical than electric models, drying clothes nearly twice as fast. In addition, natural gas dryers are easier on fabrics because clothes are dried quicker and at specific temperatures to adequately evaporate water from the fabric.
Learn more about the efficiency of natural gas dryers.
Contact SCE&G today to make the switch to natural gas.