How Many Watts Does a Furnace Use?
The use of furnaces in residential and commercial settings is a significant aspect of energy consumption, especially during colder months.
Understanding how many watts a furnace uses is crucial for energy management, cost estimation, and environmental considerations.
Published: January 6, 2024.
Understanding the Wattage of Electric Furnaces
Electric furnaces convert electrical energy directly into heat, with their power consumption typically measured in watts.
The wattage of an electric furnace can vary widely based on its size, efficiency, and the heating requirements of the space.
Smaller units might consume several thousand watts, while larger, whole-house systems could require significantly more - on average, electric furnaces range from 10kW to 50kW.
The key to understanding an electric furnace's energy use lies in its wattage rating, which directly correlates to the electricity it draws. This consumption directly impacts electricity bills and is a critical factor in selecting an appropriate furnace for a home.
On average, home electric furnace wattage is around 18-20kW.
Electric Furnace Energy Consumption
Electric furnaces don't operate 100% of the time - on average, they operate 50-60% of their "ON" time.
Thus, if your 20 kW furnace is turned ON, for example, 5 hours per day, with 60% time being actually ON, it will consume:
E(Wh) = 5h * 0.6 * 20kW = 60 kWh
The electric bill for running such a furnace depends on the price of electricity. For example:
- 0.09 $/kWh: $$$ = 60 kWh * 0.09 $/kWh = 5.4 $/day → 162 $/month
- 0.15 $/kWh: $$$ = 60 kWh * 0.15 $/kWh = 9 $/day → 270 $/month
During very cold days, electric furnaces can empty wallets rather quickly.
Energy Use in Gas Furnaces: Measuring in BTUs
Unlike electric furnaces, gas furnaces consume natural gas, and their energy usage is often measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs) per hour.
One BTU represents the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Gas furnaces are typically rated by their input and output BTUs, indicating the amount of gas energy consumed and the actual heating energy produced, respectively. The efficiency of a gas furnace is determined by the percentage of gas energy converted into usable heat.
Understanding the BTU measurements and efficiency ratings of gas furnaces is essential for assessing energy consumption and operational costs.
For more about BTUs and Watts, feel free to check our Watts to BTU and BTU to Watts Conversions article.
Do Gas Furnaces Consume Electricity?
Yes, they do.
The average wattage of fans or blowers in gas furnaces typically ranges between 75 to 800 watts.
However, the most common range for residential gas furnace blowers is between 200 to 600 watts. The specific wattage depends on various factors, including the size of the furnace, the efficiency of the blower motor, and the speed settings.
High-efficiency furnaces often have variable-speed blowers that adjust their speed as needed, which can lead to lower average power consumption.
On the other hand, older or less efficient models might have fixed-speed blowers that consume more power. It's important to refer to the specific model's specifications for the most accurate information regarding its blower's power consumption.
Gas Furnace Electricity Consumption
If you have a gas furnace with a variable speed fan rated at 100W, which operates 60% of the time, its electricity bill for 5 hours per day operation will be:
- E(Wh) = 5h * 0.6 * 100W = 0.3 kWh
- 0.09 $/kWh: $$$ = 0.3 kWh * 0.09 $/kWh = 0.027 $/day → 0.81 $/month
- 0.15 $/kWh: $$$ = 0.3 kWh * 0.15 $/kWh = 0.045 $/day → 1.35 $/month
As one can see, the electric bill for a gas furnace fan is almost insignificant, but obviously, that is not the only cost of running such furnaces. On the contrary...
Electric vs. Gas Furnaces: A Comparative Analysis of Energy Efficiency
When comparing electric and gas furnaces, energy efficiency is a key differentiator.
Electric furnaces tend to have a higher Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating, often close to 100%, meaning almost all the electricity consumed is converted into heat.
However, this doesn't necessarily translate to lower energy costs due to the higher price of electricity compared to natural gas.
Gas furnaces, on the other hand, have a lower AFUE rating, typically ranging from 55% to around 97%. Despite this, they can be more cost-effective in areas where natural gas is cheaper than electricity.
The choice between electric and gas furnaces is thus influenced by local energy prices, availability, and personal preferences regarding sustainability and efficiency.
Factors Influencing the Wattage of Furnaces
Several factors impact the wattage and overall energy consumption of furnaces.
For electric furnaces, the size of the space to be heated and the furnace’s efficiency rating are primary determinants. Larger spaces require furnaces with higher wattage to maintain comfortable temperatures.
For gas furnaces, the efficiency is measured in BTUs, and factors like the furnace's age, maintenance status, and the home's insulation affect its energy usage.
In both types, external factors like climate, thermostat settings, and the frequency of use play significant roles in determining energy consumption.
Tips for Reducing Furnace Energy Consumption
Reducing furnace energy consumption not only lowers utility bills but also contributes to environmental conservation.
Regular maintenance, including cleaning and replacing filters, ensures efficient furnace operation. Upgrading insulation and sealing leaks around doors and windows can reduce heat loss, thereby requiring less energy for heating.
Installing a programmable thermostat allows better control over heating schedules, reducing unnecessary furnace operation. For long-term savings, considering a high-efficiency furnace model or an energy-efficient home design can significantly cut down on energy usage.
Lastly, adopting energy-saving habits, such as lowering the thermostat at night or when the house is unoccupied, can contribute to substantial energy savings.
Optimizing Furnace Use for Energy Efficiency
Understanding and optimizing the energy consumption of furnaces is crucial for both financial savings and environmental sustainability. Whether choosing between an electric or gas furnace, it's important to consider factors such as efficiency ratings, operating costs, and the specific energy needs of your space.
Regular maintenance, proper insulation, smart thermostat usage, and conscious heating habits are all effective ways to optimize furnace use. Additionally, considering the long-term benefits of investing in high-efficiency furnace models or more efficient heating technologies can lead to greater energy savings and reduced environmental impact.
Ultimately, the goal is to achieve a comfortable indoor environment in an energy-efficient and cost-effective manner, aligning with both personal and ecological responsibilities.