Traditional electric furnaces are an outdated form of heating. They rely on electric-resistance heating elements (similar to those of toasters and common small infrared portable heaters) to provide heat, which is then blown by a fan and - in the case of central systems - distributed through the home’s ductwork.
What is now called electric furnaces is a different equipment. The new electric furnaces are air-source heat pumps, an increasingly common type of electric equipment using the air-conditioning and refrigerator technology.
Many people and manufacturers are now using the term electric furnaces to refer to common heat pumps, and it is in this sense that we will use the term eletric furnaces in this page.
electric furnaces parts
New electric furnaces are in fact air-source heat pumps.
They use the air-conditioning technology to extract heat from the air.
Most of these furnaces aren't that efficient in climates with significant periods of freezing temperatures.The new eletric furnaces may have electric-resistance elements, but they are mostly air-conditioners working in reverse, able to heat and cool our buildings.
The electric-resistance elements aren't anymore built-in key parts. They aren't used unless the outside air is too cold, and the compressor - a key part of the eletric furnace - is unable to produce heat; only then the electric resistance system enters into action.
And this is a very important point to keep in mind: if your climate has long periods of freezing temperatures, and if your home has high heating requirements, these electric furnaces aren't effective.
However, there are now "cold-climate" electric furnaces (a recent technological innovation with tested results) able to run without resorting to electric-resistance elements - unless temperatures get very, very low: below the -13ºF/-25ºC.
Traditional electric furnaces are the most expensive way to heat a home.
They use too much electricity.
Traditional electric furnaces costs
Traditional electric furnace have high running costs.
Traditional electrical heating is expensive, unless it is used very sparsely: 1) to supplement other heating systems or 2) in moderate climates with small heating needs or 3) in super-insulated homes where the heating needs have been reduced to very low levels.
New electric furnaces running costs
When they do not resort to their electric resistances, new electric furnaces are an interesting way of electric heating – undoubtedly the most cost-competitive.
In favorable conditions, new electric furnaces are able to deliver 2-3 times more heat than the electricity they use; in other words: their running costs are low, compared to other electric heating equipment.
And they become even more interesting in their ductless versions – a way of avoiding the heat loss and the costs of ductwork. See: Ductless mini-split heat pumps.
Electric furnaces prices
The prices of new central electric furnaces are often in the $2.000-$4.000 range; but they vary significantly with the manufacturer, the size, the features and the AFUE (energy efficiency); installed prices can be significantly higher; it depends on details associated to the ducts.
The installed prices of ductless electric furnaces (mini-split systems) are significantly lower, even for systems with a higher number of air handlers. Installation costs for these systems are very low.
Electric furnaces manufacturers list
Energy Star list of certified electric furnaces (air source heat pumps)
Air conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute AHRI list of certified electric furnaces (air source heat pumps)
Below we list the online addresses of key electric furnace manufacturers, including some key Japanese manufacturers - Mitsubishi, Fujitsu or Daikin… These manufacturers have developed a new electrical heating technology, able to respond to the residential heating needs in cold climates without resorting to electrical resistance heating, as long as temperatures do not drop below, say, 13ºF/25º.
Note that the manufacturers are basically those of air conditioning; the underline technology is the same.
See: New Heat Pumps