efficient heating options? philadelphia row home. i pay electric!

3 Replies

i purchased a home that is a rooming house.  three rooms.  renting for 100 per week per room.  in a perfect world, with no vacancy the home will collect 1200 gross rent.  i paid 17k for the house tenant occupied.  low income zip code.  i cover all utilities (water and electric)  i expect between utilities and taxes (50/month) and insurance (47/month) i should cash flow close to 600+ per month.  since i purchased i have upgraded the bathroom and painted and carpets.  the heating system needs to be addressed and this is where i need some help.  some stats:  the home is small, maybe 1000 square feet row home in the inner city.  there is a home on both sides of my house.  only windows are in the front of the house and the back of the house (again row home style)  2 bedroom.  the downstairs living room was converted into a third room.  common areas are kitchen and bathroom.

the house is all electric.  the house does not have gas service.  its been that way since 2009.  i think keeping a home warm has lot to do with insulation and keeping drafts sealed as well as the heating system applied.  ii added a second interior door to separate the main front door from the living area.  think a small vestibule that acts as a buffer from the outside and the inside.  i replaced the back door with a sealed steel door with weather stripping.  the tenants are also cool with covering the windows in plastic wrap i the middle of winter to eliminate any draft...none of these tactics did the previous owner do.  

if i put electric baseboard heating all over the house (think 6-8 units) i wont have complete control over the electric because baseboards have thermostats on the individual baseboard, giving the tenant the option to run on high 24/7.  that might cost less to install but will kill my monthly cash flow with the electric bill.  im considering getting an electric furnace because there once was a forced hot air heating system and the duct work is already installed and there are vents all throughout the house.  the old furnace is shot but the ductwork is in tact.  its kinda plug and play and i have had several HVAC guys quote me on this. it would cost more up front but it would be a new system with warranty and i can add one thermostat that only i can control.  i think thermostats are huge.  they can be set to one temp and on timers, correct?  i can even get a wi-fi thermostat and control the temp from my primary residence! i think if i set the thermostat at 68 (which is the minimum the city allows) and on a timer i think i can control the heating bill pretty well?

thoughts?  electric baseboard heating or electric furnace with forced hot air?!

first thought, Slumlord.  Second and third:  Baseboard in low-income areas tend to turn into either a fire hazard or part of their moving out furniture.  HVAC, is the better of the two options.  Other than that, candles and stove heat are likely in your future.  

If you went with HVAC, you could possibly find a longer term tenant possibly a family.  I can't imagine dealing with 3 people 4 times a month to collect rent (in this price point neighborhood), you're a better person than me.

Hvac definitely the way to go over baseboard heat.  Getting air movement in the house will eliminate humidity which helps against mold and will also get rid of cold and hot spots.  It will be cheaper in the long run and be waaaay nicer and easier to use like you said with the thermostats.. You said there is no gas, well depending on your location I'd be looking into applying for a gas meter and running gas to go with a gas Hvac... If that's not an option I think a diesel/oil furnace or a propane furnace would be a preferred option over electric. If the house already has the tin then all you gotta do is buy a tank and a furnace and have it installed just like you would an electric furnace..  Whatever you do this would be my order of preference

1. Gas furnace

2. Propane or oil furnace depending on fuel prices in your area

3. Electric furnace

4. Electric baseboard hear

I copied and pasted my previous response from your other post Robert in case this can help anyone else. 


Gas heat = About $8.50 per 1,000,000 BTUs of Heat

Electric Resistance heat = About $31.00 per 1,000,000 BTUs of heat

Heat Pumps are a great option when gas is not available, but in philly gas is available.

Heat pumps = About $9.50 per 1,000,000 BTUs, but the catch is it will only heat down to about 30 degrees outside then you need a electric furnace or gas furnace as a backup/ auxiliary heat. Heat pumps also act as central air in the summer months.

The Mitsubishi H2i ductless mini split heat pumps heat down to -15 and no backup source of heat is needed and is more efficient then even a high efficiency gas furnace, which is ridiculous.... but they are very expensive.


Gas heat is the cheapest when balancing up front installation cost and long term utility cost

We are talking a $22.50 difference between gas or electric per 1,000,000 BTUs burned. Over time that is a huge savings or added expense.

Free Department of Energy Comparison Chart

Punch in your local rates for the numbers to be dead on.


*I have been using the Emerson Sensi Wifi Stat because it is only $120 and you can lock it so it can only be controlled by YOUR smartphone. The tenant can push buttons all day and it will do nothing if you choose to disable the keypad.


I hope that helped :)