How to Know if Your Heater is Gas or Electric?

How to Tell Gas Or Electric Furnace
We think a lot about our heat in the winter, but usually it is revolving around turning up the thermostat to beat those chilly days. However, there are a few times when you might need to know a little more about the hot air coming out of your vents. How can you tell if your home heat is powered by gas or an electric heat source? And when would you need this information?

What is a Forced Air Heating System? 

A forced air heating system – where the heat comes out of vents in the home – is one of the most common heating systems. While you may see radiators or baseboard heaters in some older homes, most homes these days have a forced air heating system. Both gas heaters and electric heaters work in similar ways. Both systems use a fan to force air through a chamber or device that heats the air, which is then pushed through air ducts into different rooms in your home.

Difference Between a Gas Furnace and an Electric Furnace

A gas system pushes the forced air through a heat exchanger, while an electric system heats the air in a heating element. The two systems are also set up differently. Gas units usually have heavy metal pipes or plastic hoses connectors, where electric systems have heavy gauge wiring and covered with flexible metal.

How to Tell if Your Heater is Gas or Electric

The first step in determining if your heater is gas or electric is to first ensure you have a forced-air heating system. If you have vents and ducts in your home that push our warm air, then you do indeed have a forced-air system! If your home is outfitted with baseboard heaters, mini-splits or a boiler, you have a ductless heating system, and the following does not apply to your home.

If you do have forced air, the next step to determine if the system is gas or electric is to turn up the thermostat and increase the heat temperature. You should hear the air moving through the ducts, feel warm air pushed out through your vents or even hear your heating system making quiet humming noises if you are close to the source.

Next, find the location of your heating unit. This may be in a closet, basement or attic. If you are unsure where your heating unit is located, you could try to follow your homes ductwork in places where it is exposed, such as a basement or attic. It is always good information to know where your heating unit is located. 

The next step is to check out your unit. It may say right on the label if it is gas or electric, so start by reading the labels. If it does not say here, you can usually tell by looking at the front panel. A gas heat exchanger uses a burner to produce heat, so there is usually a small window located on the front of the unit. If you see a small blue flame when looking through that panel, it is a gas heat exchanger. Other styles of gas heating units might have a small metal panel on the front of the system that you can remove to check for a blue flame. Anything with a blue flame is a gas system.

On the other hand, if there is no access window or panel, it is an electric system. Electric systems also make much less noise, another key distinguishing feature. While a gas system uses a burner in a combustion chamber to heat the air, an electric system uses electric coils, in a heating element, that become hot when electricity is running through them, which heats the air.

Gas units usually have heavy metal pipes or plastic hoses connectors, where electric systems are connected with heavy gauge wiring and covered with flexible metal.

Why to Know What Kind of System You Have

While it may seem like trivial knowledge, knowing what kind of system you have can ensure you are completing the proper heating maintenance to keep your system running well for a long time, and keep your family warm and happy throughout the winter. Different systems will take different maintenance, including different filters, motor lubrication and blower cleaning. In addition, the pilot light on your electric system can sometimes get extinguished, and it is important to know if this is a possibility and when it may happen in your home.

Basic knowledge about your home and utilities is important for every homeowner. It can save you money, help you properly maintain your home and keep your family healthy and safe. If you have questions about your heating system or if it is time for your annual maintenance, contact the team at Central Heating today.

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