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The Basics of How Electric Furnaces Work

January 5, 2024

There are a few power source options available if you're looking for a new furnace for any home or building, and one of the most popular and common in today's day and age is the electric furnace. As this format is slightly newer and more modern than the more well-known gas furnace, there are some who aren't entirely familiar with it yet - how do electric furnaces work?

At Thompson's Comfort Connection, we're here to offer a wide range of quality furnace replacement services to clients around Sandy, Draper and nearby areas, including top electric furnace models. Here are some basics on how electric furnaces work, some of their key components, and a basic example that will help you understand how they operate.

Electric Furnace Basics

For those just learning about electric furnaces, there are two main things to know: first is that they don't use any fuel like natural gas in order to generate heat. The second part is that instead of burning fuel, they make use of electrical resistance in order to produce heat.

Essentially, electrical resistance occurs when an electrical current passes through a material with high resistance - think of the filament in a light bulb, for example. As this resistance occurs, it creates heat that can then be dispersed throughout the furnace and your home or building.

Key Components                       

The main components of an electric furnace include heating elements, a blower fan, a control board, and safety features like limit switches and fuses. Heating elements are made up of coiled metal wires that are heated to high temperatures by electrical resistance, and they are responsible for creating the heat that will be blown into your home or building. The blower fan then helps distribute this warm air throughout your space, just like in a gas furnace.

The control board is essentially the brain of the electric furnace - it monitors and controls all functions within the system, such as turning on and off the heating elements and blower fan. Safety features like limit switches and fuses are also important to prevent any potential hazards, such as overheating or electrical fires.

Similar to a Toaster

As a basic example to help visualize how an electric furnace works, think of it as a large version of your toaster at home. When you turn on the toaster, electrical resistance occurs within the heating elements and creates heat that toasts your bread. In a similar way, electrical resistance creates heat within the heating elements in an electric furnace, which is then distributed through the blower fan.

Obviously, this is a bit of a simplified explanation, but it helps to understand the basic concept of electrical resistance and how it is used in electric furnaces.

Often Paired With Heat Pumps

In many cases, electric furnaces are paired with heat pumps, which provide heating and cooling capabilities in one system. Heat pumps work by transferring heat between the inside and outside of your home or building, depending on whether you need to warm up or cool down your space.

When paired with an electric furnace, the heat pump can supply warm air to the furnace's blower fan, providing efficient heating throughout your home or building. This combination can be especially useful in areas with mild winters, as the heat pump can handle most of the heating needs while the electric furnace acts as a backup for colder temperatures.

If you're thinking about utilizing this combination of heating systems, be sure to consult with a professional HVAC technician who can help you select the right models and ensure proper installation.

Thermostat Considerations

For those who have utilized a gas furnace for most or all of their lives, you may be wondering if there are any differences when it comes to how to utilize an electric furnace from your home's thermostat. The answer: Not really! Most of today's thermostats are able to be used with both gas and electric furnaces, so you should have no trouble adjusting your settings or programming your desired temperature.

However, it is always a good idea to double-check the compatibility of your thermostat with your specific furnace model before making a purchase.

Electric furnaces may be slightly newer than their gas counterparts, but they have quickly gained popularity for their efficiency and ease of use. With a little knowledge on how they work, you can confidently consider an electric furnace as a great option for your home or building heating needs. So if you're looking to upgrade your furnace or install a new one, don't hesitate to contact us at Thompson's Comfort Connection for top-notch service - we're here to help clients around Sandy and Draper with all their heating and cooling needs!

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