Does An Electric Furnace Have A Heat Exchanger?

An electric furnace does not have a heat exchanger because it burns no fuel such as gas or oil. Furnaces that burn fuels have heat exchangers that contain the products of combustion and send them up or out a flue pipe.

Electric furnaces operate the same way as the smaller electric portable heaters you plug into a wall socket.

A fan blows air across an element and you feel heat coming out. No heat exchanger is required because no fuels are being burned.

The difference between this heater at the left and an actual forced air furnace is the that the furnace moves more air and would have larger or even more elements.

Electric elements are simply a coiled wire that when powered by electricity produces heat.

This image shows a 90% efficient gas furnace. 90% efficient means that 10% of the heat produced by the furnace goes out the flue.

The white PVC at the left is fresh air coming from outside to feed the burners. The burners focus the flame into a heat exchanger.

When the heat exchanger is warm the fan blows air around the outside of the heat exchanger and into the house.

The gases, mostly CO2 are then funneled out the flue into the atmosphere.

Heat exchangers keep harmful exhaust away from the air you breath. Think of it as a chamber that contains the exhaust and sends it up the chimney and the air you breath blows around the outside of this chamber to pick up the heat.

I just left a job where a roofer knocked down a chimney and roofed over the top. An 80% efficient gas furnace was tied into that chimney. The customer and her daughter woke up one morning to there carbon monoxide detector blaring and feeling nauseous and with head aches.

The gas company was called and detected high amounts of carbon monoxide and red tagged the furnace.

When I got there I found this: The roofer had knocked down the chimney to replace the roofing without looking to see if any appliances were vented into the chimney. And the furnace was.

Roofed over chimney. Exhaust gases directly into attic.

It’s not the first time we have come across someone close to death from carbon monoxide poisoning. Having a carbon monoxide detector is so important if you have any carbon fuel appliances. It saved these girls lives.

Heat exchangers can crack and when they do it is possible for the CO2 or even harmful carbon monoxide to enter the air you breath. Keep in mind that a furnace has to be producing carbon monoxide to be a hazard. There are a lot of cracked heat exchangers out there at this moment that are burning clean and you wouldn’t know it.

Read here if you want to know more about carbon monoxide. It has been labeled the silent killer.

Do Electric Furnaces Produce Carbon Monoxide?

You should be able to bet your life on the fact that they don’t. Truly nothing is worth that but since electric furnaces don’t burn fuels they cannot produce carbon monoxide.

I’m trying to think of an instance where they could and it’s just not coming. Electric furnaces are very simple in their construction and operation. The only think I can think of that would be even remotely hazardous would be if a motor winding burned and even then the it would be the awful smell of burning wire insulation.


Every type of furnace has it’s best application. And, every area of the world has different climates that require different types of heating equipment.

Every house has different needs and supply of power and fuel. Your panel may not support an electric furnace and then again you may have natural gas available and if you don’t the option may me propane.

Another option could be to add a heat pump to an electric or gas furnace.

If you have natural gas available, don’t let what I’ve talked about here scare you. Most cases that involve carbon monoxide are due to neglect.

Gas furnaces are very safe when maintained and you are educated about a few important facts.

Protect yourself and your family with safety products like carbon monoxide testers. Use professional people to inspect your heating and cooling equipment and duct work.

Chad Peterson

Chad Peterson is a veteran of the HVAC industry since 1977. "I like to explain heating and air conditioning problems in a way the average home owner can understand. "

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