The 6 natural gas myths that you need to know about.
If you’ve landed here with questions about natural gas vs. electric heat, like Is electric home heating reliable? Do you have to heat your house and hot water with gas? Which is the better, less expensive option? … well, you’ve found the right corner of the internet.
In this guide, you’ll cover:
- Is natural gas the best way to heat a home?
- 6 natural gas vs. electricity myths
- How to get energy-conserving home upgrades at no upfront cost
- FAQs about natural gas vs. electricity
But before we dive in, let’s set the scene:
Natural gas has been a leader in American home heating for generations.
47% of Americans heat their homes with natural gas, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), with 36% relying on electric heat and close to 10% using heating oil or propane (1, 2).
47% of Americans heat their homes with natural gas.EIA.gov
But we’ve noticed—and maybe you have, too—that new energy-efficient technology and rising natural gas prices have wise homeowners across the globe trading in their fossil fuel furnaces, boilers, and water heaters for electric heat pumps… and with surprising results.
(And depending on where you live, you could get a heat pump at no upfront cost along with local rebates. Discover how.)
Plus, recent reports have proven once again that we need to take natural gas safety seriously.
Combustion heating—that is, burning fossil fuels in your home—isn’t great for your indoor air quality and can have negative effects on your health.
All the while, many people have become disenchanted with the perceived “lower cost” of natural gas heating: Many Americans suffered high heating bills in the 2022-2023 winter months that made budgeting even more difficult amidst inflation.
And much to the surprise of many, your local gas utility company likely didn’t reap any benefits, either. They don’t necessarily profit off of higher natural gas prices. More on that here.
Another thing here, depending on where you live, you can get whole-home weatherization to help conserve energy at home—or even switch a super-efficient, healthy electric heat and leave fossil fuels in the dust—at no upfront cost. Tap here to see if your home qualifies.
The natural gas vs. electric heat debate
At first glance, heating your home or water with natural gas seems like the least expensive option.
That’s because, generally in the past, it was. But this isn’t necessarily the case anymore for most homes.
Traditionally—in areas that have higher electricity prices—natural gas has often been the less expensive way to heat a home based on two things:
- Your monthly heating bill alone, and
- Conventional space heating and water heating methods of the past
But that isn’t quite the full story when you look at the entire life of a gas appliance and recent developments in home heating technology that runs on electricity.
But keep reading… we’ll be debunking the myths that keep Americans questioning in the electric vs. gas heat debate.
Let’s dig in.
Electric heat vs. gas: The myths
For decades, a good majority of us have been told that natural gas furnaces were the most efficient and reliable way to get warm in the cold winter months.
And that’s because, in the past, natural gas furnaces and boilers did often provide the best home heating and water heating options at attainable prices for the average family.
Many homeowners who are looking to install a new heating system, convert from heating oil, or switch from propane heating sometimes default to natural gas upgrades because, in the past, it has been cheaper.
There have also been myths and rumors out there that electric heat just isn’t as reliable (or is extremely, extremely costly) in cold winter months.
All the while, almost 4 out of 10 households are relying on portable electric space heaters to supplement their existing heating system that just isn’t up to warming a whole house evenly (5).
Almost 4 out of 10 households are relying on portable electric space heaters to supplement their existing heating system.EIA
(This writer’s unfortunately using one right now in my Midwestern basement office. Because my newer gas furnace just isn’t cutting it on this chilly spring day.)
So is natural gas the best way to heat a home? To have a hot shower? To boil your pasta? To bake your chocolate chip cookies?
Keep reading. Let’s debunk some myths.
6 Natural gas vs. electricity myths
- Myth 1: Natural gas is more reliable
- Myth 2: Natural gas is readily available
- Myth 3: Natural gas doesn’t pose a health hazard
- Myth 4: Natural gas is always a cheaper way to heat your home
- Myth 5: Natural gas is clean and environmentally friendly
- Myth 6: Electric space heating and water heating is inefficient and can’t keep up
Myth 1: Natural gas is more reliable
It’s unclear where this myth originated: Many people believe that natural gas is a more reliable fuel or that you’ll stay warmer during blackouts with natural gas.
Even if your home uses natural gas for water heating, cooking, or heating your home on cold days, those appliances still require electricity to turn on and function.
We’re going to pause here—in case your scanning this article quickly—and repeat this important truth:
Natural gas appliances still require electricity to turn on and function. Essentially, you’re using two fuels for one appliance.
And this also means if you experience a blackout due to a storm or electric grid problems, your natural gas appliances will stop working right alongside your electric ones if you don’t have battery backup.
In some cases you may still be able to use some models of gas stoves to cook food during a power outage, and you may still have hot water if you can keep the pilot light going on your water heater. So that is a plus.
But ultimately, the big takeaway here is that a gas appliance often needs two forms of energy to run efficiently, safely, and correctly: Electricity and natural gas. Especially if we’re talking about home heating systems: Both gas furnaces and boilers require electricity to function.
Both gas furnaces and boilers require electricity to function.
If you’re worried about having access to electricity during a long blackout, you can invest in an electric battery backup for your home. These large home batteries can keep some appliances running when you need them most.
Myth 2: Natural gas is readily available
The truth is natural gas is a limited natural resource. It’s a fossil fuel, and one day it will run out.
While there’s no need to panic about the supply of natural gas at this moment in time (and the US should have enough dry reserves for about the next 98 years), the availability of natural gas is also subject to geopolitical factors, regional and seasonal variability, and available infrastructure to meet demand.
The truth is natural gas is a limited natural resource. It’s a fossil fuel, and one day it will run out.
So it’s crucial to use this limited resource wisely.
Natural gas is currently the largest generator of electricity in the US, and it makes up close to 25% of the world’s energy supply due to natural gas being exported more frequently in liquified natural gas (LNG) form (6).
It’s an incredibly essential form of energy, so it’s vital to steward it well and waste less.
Converting your home appliances to run on electricity can help.
Myth 3: Natural gas doesn’t pose a health hazard
Natural gas appliances are generally considered safe.
And if you get regular maintenance and safety checks on your natural gas water heater, stove, and furnace or boiler, you’ll minimize potential risks and fire hazards.
But gas leaks and appliance malfunctions can occur, even with the best and most routine maintenance schedule. And more often than you might think.
In fact, one report noted gas leaks were found in 25% of homes built before 1980 (7). Yikes!
(If you suspect a gas leak, evacuate and call your gas company immediately. Safety first, always.)
A gas leak in your house could produce symptoms like:
- Chest pain (8)
But even with normal, safe operation, gas appliances have a risk of off-gassing extra CO2 in your home.
Read one real-life account from one of our team members here.
Gas leaks were found in 25% of homes built before 1980.Canary Media
Less often, natural gas appliances can produce carbon monoxide—which can worsen your indoor air quality and make you very sick.
In some cases, carbon monoxide off-gassing can cause death, so having working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home is absolutely essential.
And true story: This writer has a close friend whose old furnace gave out due to age on a cold winter’s day. The HVAC technician who came out for the emergency call required everyone in the home to evacuate for several hours, because in the short time since the ancient furnace had stopped working, it had started leaking carbon monoxide in small amounts.
(That’s pretty alarming.)
But with electric home heating and all-electric appliances, you can have greater peace of mind. Gas leaks and off-gassing isn’t a worry.
Myth 4: Fossil fuels are always a cheaper way to heat your home
Currently, home heating oil is the most expensive way to heat a home, with propane following in a close second (9).
Natural gas can be less expensive than other energy sources, but it’s very sensitive to geopolitical factors that can cause big price fluctuations.
Generally, per unit, natural gas is cheaper than electricity—when you don’t take hidden costs of natural gas into consideration.
But depending on where you live and what type of heating system you use (i.e., an efficient heat pump!), heating your home with electricity could be more cost-effective.
Myth 5: Natural gas is clean and environmentally friendly
Natural gas is cleaner than other fossil fuels—like coal or oil—but still has negative impacts on the environment, especially when it’s extracted and transported.
Extracting natural gas from the environment can release methane gas, which contributes to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year-period (10).
Also, burning natural gas (just like any fossil fuel) releases carbon dioxide into the air, which contributes to climate change. Not to mention, it also releases excess carbon dioxide into your home when burned by your appliances.
Even if you properly vent your gas-burning appliances outside, you’re still polluting your own neighborhood.
Combustion fumes from your gas appliances—including nitrogen oxides, a group of chemicals that have been linked to numerous health issues—directly contribute to smog (11).
Combustion fumes from your gas appliances directly contribute to smog in your community.Canary Media
Myth 6: Heating your home (and water) with electricity is incredibly inefficient and expensive
Not true—as long as you’re using electric heat pump systems!
Where did the myth that electric heating is inefficient come from, anyway?
Electric heating has gotten a bad rap in the past. Basically, old electric furnaces, electric floorboard heat, and portable space heaters are like trying to heat a room with a toaster… they’re just not efficient.
And due to the inefficiency of older electric heating technologies (and the cost of electricity vs. natural gas in your area), electric heating can be more expensive to run in the winter than natural gas heaters.
But electric furnaces and radiant floor heating aren’t the most energy-efficient way to heat your home—electric heat pumps are. Learn why in electric heat vs. heat pumps.
And heat pump water heaters (also called hybrid water heaters) can be up to 50% more efficient than conventional natural gas water heaters (13).
Electric heat pump HVAC systems are up to 3 times more efficient than conventional HVAC systems.ENERGY STAR
That’s a huge difference in efficiency when compared to conventional natural gas appliances… and heat pumps run on electricity.
We could wax poetic about heat pumps all day, but in short: A heat pump HVAC system will cut energy waste far more efficiently than an electric furnace, oil furnace, or natural gas heater. (Watch the short video below to learn why.)
And heat pump water heater efficiency blows natural gas water heaters—even tankless—out of the water. Pun intended.
Modern heat pumps have changed the game. Big time. That’s why we like to affectionately call them the Tesla of HVAC.
And their supreme efficiency is one big reason why plenty of heat pump tax credits and rebates are available.
These appliances are absolute pros at cutting energy waste in your home.
Is it time for you to make the switch?
Get the benefits of electric heating without the hassle—and at no upfront cost
Finally say sayonara to natural gas vs. electricity myths and get all the pros of going all-electric.
At Sealed, we help homeowners switch from natural gas to electric heat pumps at no upfront cost… and with white-glove, expert installation and clean-up, too.
You pay us back for the work done with a flexible payment plan that’s right for you. Learn how the payment plan works.
Plus, if your house needs it, we help optimize your home for the highest efficiency and best energy performance with insulation and air sealing upgrades—no matter what type of energy your HVAC system uses.
(Yes, we can help your house use natural gas more efficiently, too.)
Ready to feel better year round? And waste less energy?
See if you qualify to work with Sealed.
81% say their home comfort has improved by replacing their fossil fuel heaters with heat pumps.Cool Products 2022 consumer analysis
Frequently asked questions about natural gas vs. electricity
Here are a few common questions about natural gas vs. electricity. Feel free to use the links below to skip ahead to what you need for today.
- Does natural gas increase home value vs. electric?
- How is natural gas used to generate electricity?
- Is natural gas the cheapest way to heat a house?
Does natural gas increase home value vs. electric?
In our analysis of the top energy efficient home improvements and their return on investment, we’ve discovered that switching to efficient electric heat pump home heating (instead of natural gas) can help boost the marketability and possibly the overall value of a home.
As far as natural gas cooking is concerned, while many home cooks prefer it, electric induction stoves are taking the lead. Ready why in our natural gas safety article.
How is natural gas used to generate electricity?
Natural gas is the largest generator of electricity in the US. To generate electricity with natural gas, it’s burned in combustion turbines.
If you’re really into the science of energy (who isn’t?), we recommend this resource from Duke Energy for further reading.
Is natural gas the cheapest way to heat a house?
Not necessarily. It depends on the type of home heating system you use and the cost of electricity and natural gas in your area. For a deeper analysis of the cost of natural gas, read Why is my gas bill so high?
An important note to our readers:
We’re Sealed, and we’re home energy experts on a mission to make your home more comfortable, efficient, and healthier for you and your family.
We’re passionate about the natural gas vs. electric topic, and we must be forthright: We love electric heat pumps. In fact, we believe in them so much that they’re the only type of HVAC or water heating system we install. (See if you can get one with Sealed at no upfront cost here.)
But we also partner with local gas utilities to make homes more efficient, too, and we want to help you cut energy waste in your home through powerful weatherization upgrades no matter the fuel you use. (You may not know this, but usually your local gas utility doesn’t profit off of higher natural gas prices. Read more about it here.)
Overall, in the past, Americans have been undereducated on the natural gas vs. electric topic, so we want to discuss it openly and honestly here, while also letting our readers know we believe all-electric heat pumps are the future.
And if going fully electric is right for your house and climate, it’s a smart shift that we’re proud to support you in.