I have a four unit in "upstate" NY with one oil boiler paid for by me. What is the best way to separate the heating system and pass that utility onto the tenants? (The utility company will run natural gas lines to the building for free provided I hook them up to something within 60 days. 1.)Should I just throw in electric wall heat into every unit and reduce the rent to account for higher heating cost to tenants? This is the cheapest upfront option to me 2.) Should I just throw in four natural gas boilers since the radiator systems are intact? This is being quoted at 5-10k per unit. 3.) Should I just install mini ductless heat pumps that do both AC and heat? The advantage there is that I would get cooling without having to install duct work, however this is being quoted at nearly 6k per unit. 4) Or should I just keep paying the oil heating bill?
@Louis Aller - I'm not sure that the payback time on any of these options will meet your requirements. The electric wall heat option is a definite no- it'll cost the tenants so much that you'll never hear the end of it, and you'll have higher turnover rates. You'd have to reduce rental rates so sharply that it would have a negative return from day 1.
But if you are going to proceed- I'd go with ductless heat pumps. There's an energy calculator on efficiencymaine.com. I ran the calculation with a ductless minisplit air source heat pump vs an energy star oil furnace/boiler(with oil at $2.21/gallon and electric at 15 cents/kilowatt hour,) and with these assumptions, the ductless saves about 35% on heating costs. So if you're paying $5k/yr to heat the place with oil, the tenants should pay $3250/yr for heat.
If that's the end of the story, I'd say it's an awful investment- $6k X 4 = $24k invested for a savings of $1750/yr, or about 7.3%. But there's more to it. Your tenants will have power over their own heat. If your building is poorly built, that could be a disaster; a tenant leaving the heat off(to save $$ or because they forgot to pay their electric bill) during a cold snap could cause burst pipes and big damage. In a well-built building, that's not an issue. If that's your situation, then tenants having control over their heat is much better than not. If one tenant likes it cooler and another likes it hotter- no problem! Plus they'll have AC in the summer without those unsightly window AC units. These will make your building a much nicer place to live(translation- cha ching! Nicer place = higher rents and lower turnover. Maybe that 7.3% return will really turn out to be more like 15%)
Also, how do you broach this issue when leases renew? If you tell the residents that since they're paying the heat you're reducing rent by $500/year per unit, then you take in $2k less in rent, but save $3k in heating costs(if my estimate of $5k/yr was right.) That makes the investment look a little better.
Installing gas forced hot air will be less effective- depending on gas/oil prices, you might only save 10%, plus everyone will have to pay for extra gas service which could wipe out those savings.