Is It Cheaper to Run a Space Heater or Gas Furnace?

Until my late teens, I lived in a tropical climate that provided warm weather year-round.

So when I moved up north for work, you can imagine how uncomfortable I was when temperatures dropped below 50, especially in the winter.

Aside from adjusting to the new city’s culture, I also had to find an appliance that I had never used before: a heater.

I had two options for heating my flat, and I had to decide between a space heater and a gas furnace. 

Since I had just moved in, I didn’t want an appliance that would rack up my bills and cost me a lot of money to run.

So, I tried to find out which heating appliance would work better for me while also costing me less in the long run.

I asked experts, hopped on message boards, and explored forums to find the answer.

And while there was definitely one appliance that used less power, I discovered that it may not be the best option for some people.

If you’re looking to figure out which appliance is cheaper to run and which one is the better pick for your home, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I’ll be explaining how both of these appliances work and which one would cost less to keep your indoors warm and comfortable.

I’ll also go over some of the pros and cons of each appliance so you can determine the better fit for your home.

How Does a Gas Furnace Work?

A gas furnace is a central heating system.

This means you can use one gas furnace to heat all of the rooms in your home on demand.

Gas furnaces can produce heat consistently by safely burning gas via their built-in burner.

Then, the heat from the burner travels to a heat exchanger, which gets very hot.

After that, the furnace blows air through the heat exchanger, warming the air before it gets released and mixed with the air indoors.

When the hot air is released, the room temperature goes up.

On top of that, you can put vents in every room so that the gas furnace heats up the entire home.

This is why gas furnaces can be a cost-effective and convenient option for larger homes.

Installing and maintaining a central heating system at home can be a huge hassle, especially if it breaks down.

So, if you’re looking for a more scaled-down approach to heating your space at home, you might want to take a look at getting yourself a space heater.

How Do Space Heaters Work?

Space heaters accomplish the same goals as a central heating system but on a smaller scale.

As the name suggests, these heaters are designed for smaller spaces, such as a single room in an apartment.

Now, suppose you have a large home with many rooms.

In that case, I don’t recommend getting space heaters, as you’ll need multiple appliances to keep everyone warm.

But suppose you live in a small apartment alone like me.

In that case, a space heater is an excellent option if you don’t want to go through the hassle of installing a central heating system.

Space heaters work similarly to gas furnaces by blowing hot air through a vent to raise the temperature.

One difference is that these heaters don’t burn gas to generate heat.

Instead, they use electricity to heat the exchanger before blowing air over it.

I own a space heater with an air purifier for my apartment, and it’s excellent for several reasons.

For one, I can point it towards me if I’m super cold and want to warm up fast.

Space heaters are also much simpler to operate, are generally safer to use, and are portable, meaning you can move them from room to room.

What Appliance Costs More to Run?

It can be hard to determine which type of heating appliance will cost more to run.

This is because you must consider the type of heater you have, the size of your home, how you plan on powering the heater, and several different factors.

With space heaters, one of your primary considerations is the size of your heater.

Generally, a smaller space heater will consume less electricity than a larger space heater.

So, if you have a larger space heater, you must prepare to pay a higher fee to keep it running.

Additionally, if you put your space heater in the hottest settings, you will consume more electricity.

But on average, experts say that an average-sized space heater costs around $60 per month to run.

However, remember that this also depends on how much your electricity costs per kWh in your area.

On top of that, the cost of running a gas furnace will also vary depending on several factors.

To start, you have to consider the cost of gas in your area.

Another thing you need to consider is how often you run the furnace and what temperature you set it to.

Again, the higher the temperature and the more often it is on, the more you will have to pay.

Generally, a gas furnace costs between $150-$200 a month.

And while that may be significantly more than a space heater, keep in mind that a gas furnace can heat your whole home rather than a single room.

With a space heater, you will be paying around $60 monthly to heat one zone or room in the home.

If you’re looking to heat the whole house, you need multiple space heaters, so the costs can add up fairly quickly.

With gas furnaces, you heat multiple rooms in the home, so it might be the more economical choice.

That said, some people would benefit more from a space heater, while others might benefit more from a gas furnace.

So, when choosing which appliance to heat your home with, consider your needs and go from there.

Gas Furnace vs. Space Heater – Which Should You Use?

So, which heater would be the best option for your home?

Well, that depends on several factors.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs and benefits of each heater to help you figure out which type of heater would work best for you.

That way, it will be much easier for you to decide which one is the best fit for your home.

Upfront Costs

When it comes to upfront costs, you will be spending much less for a space heater, especially if you’re only buying one.

Some space heaters are as cheap as $20, so they’re easily affordable if you’re not someone looking to heat up your home with DIY methods.

However, you will have to splurge more if you’re looking for a high-quality model.

Generally, space heaters in the $100-$200 range would be decent and serve you well, but you can spend as much as $300 for a top-quality option.

It’s worth mentioning that, in some cases, you might even be better off purchasing an all-in-one heater with a humidifier and an air purifier.

So if you have a bit extra money, don’t hesitate to invest in an excellent and multi-functional appliance.

Conversely, a gas furnace will cost around $1,000-$4,000.

This includes the actual furnace and hiring a professional team to install it for you.

I highly suggest hiring a professional team to install your gas furnace to ensure it’s installed properly and heats your home safely.

You might think that gas furnaces are way more expensive than space heaters and aren’t worth it.

However, keep in mind that if you buy a $250 space heater, you’ll only be able to heat one room at a time.

And when you invest in a gas furnace, you buy an appliance that will be able to heat every room in your home.

So, getting a gas furnace might be cheaper in the long run.

However, that’s if you own your property.

You won’t need a gas furnace if you rent an apartment or a small home.

I personally rent my apartment, and if I one day decide to leave, I won’t have to leave behind a gas furnace worth thousands.

Instead, I’ll grab my $80 portable space heater and take it to my new place.

Operating Costs

When it comes to operating costs, to get the most out of your money, you need to take a look at the space you’re looking to heat.

If you have a small room to heat, a space heater will be much better than a gas furnace.

This is even though electricity costs more than gas.

I pay around $100 in electricity during the winter and have my space heater on most of the time.

If you’re looking to heat a larger home with multiple rooms, using a space heater isn’t ideal, as the electricity bill will quickly rack up.

In that case, I’d recommend going for a gas furnace, which will cost you around $200-$300 per month.

This includes heating your entire average-sized home for hours every single day.

You could expect to pay double that if you heat up your average-sized home with multiple space heaters.

So, both appliances are great.

It just really depends on your current circumstances.


Regarding convenience, space heaters are the most convenient option to heat your home from two.

They don’t break often, and even if they do, you can easily replace them without calling a team to remove and re-install a new one.

Unplug the old model, recycle it, and replace it with a new one.

Space heaters will save you thousands of dollars in long-term maintenance fees, replacement parts, insurance, and other costs.

Aside from that, even if you have a larger home, you can take the space heater to another room if needed.

Most space heaters are very lightweight and easy to move around.

As someone who rents an apartment, moving in was easy, and moving out will be too.

I won’t have to leave behind a gas furnace worth thousands of dollars.

That said, keep in mind that you won’t be able to heat up a bigger space when you use a space heater.

So, when trying to find the more convenient option, consider your space and your needs, as the better heating appliance may vary for everyone.

Pros and Cons of a Gas Furnace


  • It can heat up your whole home
  • Gas is cheaper than electricity in most places
  • There are many gas furnace options available
  • Offers more temperature control than a space heater
  • More efficient than central electrical heaters


  • Relatively expensive to install and maintain

Pros and Cons of a Space Heater


  • Very affordable
  • These appliances are usually portable
  • Great for small spaces
  • Uses less energy than HVAC heaters
  • Small and convenient


  • Not ideal for larger spaces

Tips for Reducing Your Energy Bills When Using Either Appliance

No matter which appliance you end up going for, there are always things you can do to reduce your energy bills at the end of the month.

Below, I’ll share some of the little things I do to keep my home warm without it costing me a fortune.

Keep It On All the Time

This might sound counter-intuitive, but you should keep your gas furnace or space heater on all the time if you want to save money.

This will prevent the appliance from heating up a cold home or room entirely every time.

Instead, when the heater is on, it will only work when the temperature drops to maintain the set temperature.

Do note that this strategy will only work if you have an energy-efficient heater and don’t have a massive space to heat up.

Keep Your Windows and Doors Closed As Much As Possible

If it’s cold outside, keeping your windows or doors in your home open will let in cold air, which will cool down your room.

This means that the heater will need to work extra hard to heat up the new cold air you let in, which will cost you money.

You can still open your windows daily. I do that, and it’s normal.

Keep it to a minimum, though, around 5-10 minutes twice daily.

Is It Cheaper To Run A Space Heater or Gas Furnace: Conclusion

Choosing between a space heater and a gas furnace can be challenging.

To make things easy, you should consider your needs first.

Between the two, a space heater will cost less to buy and is cheaper to run if you only want to heat a small room.

If you’re looking to heat a larger room or an entire home, a gas furnace will be cheaper to run in the long turn.

This is because gas is cheaper than electricity in most parts of the world.

If you’re renting, go for a space heater every time.

There’s no point investing thousands in a gas furnace if you don’t plan on living at the property for years in the future.