Electrical heating systems are largely comprised of a resistor unit that converts electrical energy to thermal energy. This thermal energy heats air in the furnace, which is then blown out into different rooms of the house via heating ducts. These types of heating systems are compact, comparatively inexpensive, and can last over 20 years before needing to be replaced, but they are not without their fair share of shortcomings.
Pros: Increased Home Safety
Because electric heating systems don't directly engage in the combustion of oil or natural gas, there is less danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. An added benefit of the elimination of fossil fuelling is the absence of dirt and soot accumulation, produced as a result of fuel combustion. Additionally, the lack of a pilot light in an electrical heating system eliminates the possibility of an accidental explosion when attempting to restart the furnace.
Pros: Lower Installation costs
Electric heating systems are much cheaper to install than heating systems that operate via fossil fuel combustion. One factor that greatly reduces the installation cost is the eliminated need for a specialised flue for the venting of combustion gases. This is an enforced safety requirement for furnaces that use oil or gas. Installation costs are reduced even further by the eliminated need to connect to a fossil fuel supply, and the requisite fuel pipe installation--between the source and the furnace--that comes with it.
Cons: Uses Fossil Fuels To Operate
For the eco-minded, there is an uncomfortable contradiction regarding electric home heating: While electric heating systems don't require direct fossil fuelling, they are powered by electricity, which is often generated by the burning of coal. If you power your home with solar and/or wind generators, or receive electricity from alternative sources through your local utility, then this moral dilemma is happily avoided. If you receive your electricity from traditional, coal-burning power plants, there is the uncomfortable knowledge that regular heater use will create environmental damage elsewhere, in the form of air pollution and strip mining.
Cons: Expensive To Operate Long-Term
Heating a home with oil or natural gas can be expensive, but the utility bill incurred from heating your home with an electric system can be just as expensive, and often even more so. This is especially true in areas with long, cold winter seasons, which require a continual running of the electric heating system for months at a time. For this reason, electric heating systems are often recommended to people who live in more moderate climates, and who only need occasional, supplementary heat for short periods of time.
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