Electric baseboard heat works the same manner as the electric resistance heat coils in the electric forced air furnaces with which you are acquainted. The principal differences being:
- the electric baseboards (EBB) are install and controlled on a room-by-room basis; and
- EBBs rely on convection to permeate heat into the room (there is no fan circulating the air)
In theory EBBs should have similar operating costs to a centralized electric forced air furnace (if not lower), however, in practice, that is usually not the case.
Because of their reliance on convection, EBBs have slow recovery - i.e. if there has been a draft (someone opening an external door or window) or if the heat has been set back during the day and was turned up on the occupants return. As a consequence, people tend to either not set back the heat or overshoot (set it too high) thinking that will heat the room faster. EBBs also work better in buildings with well sealed (no drafts) and well insulated building envelopes.
EBBs also need to be unobstructed (do not set the chesterfield or bed in front of the baseboard) and kept clean (vacuumed at least twice per year) to operate at their best.
So, after that attempt at the basics of EBB convection heat, the short answer that your tenants will likely incur higher heating costs, some of it as a result of drafts in the building envelope and some from the manner in which they are operated.
As Roy has mentioned, the heating costs in typical use will be higher. One advantage to baseboard heating, depending on how they are hooked up, is the ability to zone heat. This means that you can individually control heating in separate rooms. If you have rooms that are unoccupied at various times you have the ability to turn down heat in those while keeping other areas at normal levels.
One consideration is also how the baseboards are being controlled. If it is using a wall mounted thermostat this is preferable. You may also purchase a digital programmable thermostat to better control costs. Be sure however to verify the maximum allowable wattage draw allowed.
One other issue you may not be aware of are baseboard mounted thermostats. You can tell these are installed by looking at the baseboards themselves. You will see a small knob at near either end. The temperature is sensed right at the baseboard. These are a lot less accurate than the wall mounted thermostats and also discourage people from adjusting/ turning them down since one has to get right down to floor level to adjust. There is also no ability to program them as they are purely mechanical. The baseboard mounted thermostats could be eliminated and everything tied to a wall mounted thermostat, obviously at an increased cost.
A lot of homes up here in Ontario built during the 60's were encouraged to use baseboard heating as it was efficient and electrical costs at the time were quite low. That is no longer the case, especially considering the efficiency, reliability and running costs of alternatives.
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