Natural Gas Furnace
The cleanest burning fossil fuel
Natural gas is presently the most popular fuel for home heating in North America for a number of reasons, including its convenience, traditionally low price, and cleanliness. It is often pointed out that natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, which is completely true.
If your major objective is to make the best environmental choice for home heating however, choices such as corn or wood pellet furnaces, heat pumps, and even solar furnaces are out there - all of which have a considerably better environmental impact, and some of which are more economical. If your major objective is price and convenience however, natural gas is a potentially very good candidate.
As a quick explanation, "natural" gas is also known simply as gas. It is a substance typically found along with petroleum deposits in geologically suited locations. First discovered at the end of the 19thcentury, it is made up almost entirely of methane which is formed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms (CH4). Interestingly, methane is also produced by cattle and other livestock, as well as by decaying organic matter and landfill sites. There are even some projects underway to capture methane from these sources. Depending on your location, it is possible that in the very near future your stove may be burning "natural gas" produced by either a pig farm or junkyard.
A natural gas furnace burns the gas in a combustion chamber and transfers the heat through a heat exchanger to a carrier medium - usually air, or sometimes a liquid such as water, depending on the type of heat distribution system you've selected.
Because of the relative cleanliness of natural gas, a natural gas furnace tends to suffer less abuse through the basic burning process than an oil-fired furnace or a corn furnace. It is also easier to maintain or repair. In most forced-air natural gas furnaces, the most common component to fail is the blower - a large fan used to push air through the ducts and out of the vents in your home. Due to the efficiency of natural gas furnaces, they tend to be significantly less expensive to operate than an electric furnace.