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Electric or Gas Heating for Rental Units

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

In the battle of electric vs gas heating, which one should you choose? We break down the pros and cons of each option to help you decide.

As an apartment owner, it's essential to consider the pros and cons of different heating systems to make an informed decision. Here, we'll compare electric baseboards and ductless splits (also known as mini-split systems) against gas furnaces in terms of energy efficiency, installation and maintenance costs, safety, and comfort.

1. Energy Efficiency:

  • Electric baseboards and ductless splits: These systems are generally more energy-efficient than gas furnaces. Electric baseboards convert nearly 100% of the electricity they consume into heat, while ductless splits have a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) that can range from 15 to 25.

  • Gas furnaces: The efficiency of gas furnaces varies depending on the model, with modern high-efficiency furnaces achieving efficiencies of 90-98%. However, they are generally less efficient than electric heating systems.

2. Installation and Maintenance Costs:

  • Electric baseboards: These systems are relatively easy and inexpensive to install, as they don't require any ductwork. Maintenance costs are also low, as these systems have few moving parts.

  • Ductless splits: While more expensive than electric baseboards, ductless splits are still more affordable than installing a gas furnace with ductwork. They also have relatively low maintenance costs.

  • Gas furnaces: These systems often have higher upfront installation costs due to the need for ductwork and venting. Additionally, they require regular maintenance, such as filter changes and annual inspections, which can add up over time.

3. Safety:

  • Electric baseboards and ductless splits: These systems are considered safer than gas furnaces, as they don't produce combustion gases, which can be hazardous if not properly vented.

  • Gas furnaces: These systems require proper venting and maintenance to prevent carbon monoxide buildup, which can be dangerous if not addressed. In addition, gas leaks can pose a risk of explosion or fire.

4. Comfort:

  • Electric baseboards: These systems tend to produce uneven heating, with some rooms feeling colder than others. They also tend to dry out the air, which can be uncomfortable in winter months.

  • Ductless splits: These systems provide more even heating and can also provide cooling during summer months. They also offer zone control, allowing you to heat or cool specific areas of your apartment independently.

  • Gas furnaces: Gas furnaces generally provide more consistent and comfortable heating than electric baseboards. However, they don't offer cooling capabilities or zone control like ductless splits.

Looking specifically from an apartment owners perspective, there are a few more things to consider.

  1. Gas heating in a building (in Canada) requires CO2 detectors.

  2. Gas heating often causes increases in insurance premiums

  3. Electric baseboards have less moving parts and therefore fail less/less maintenance

  4. To use electric baseboards, you will need a large enough service. For 8 apartments generally speaking that is at least 200amps.

  5. Ductless splits will possibly provide more comfort as it has air conditioning along with basic heating functions in cases where temperature is > -30C.

Overall, electric baseboards and ductless splits are more energy-efficient and safer than gas furnaces. However, gas furnaces provide more consistent heating and can be more cost-effective in areas where natural gas is cheap. Consider your specific needs, local energy costs, and climate when making a decision.

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