Here's the question, read below for the back story and details.

1100SF row home shell. LNG and 200A Electric service but at the moment leaning towards all electric. Considering upfront capital, long term efficiency and long term maintenance, I'm looking for the best heating solution and could use some insight.

A little back story here. I'm flipping a row home which will be primarily for student housing. While this is not my first flip. It is my first flip for student housing and also, my first flip where I am hiring a contractor. The goal here is a cost-effective flip given the intended tenants, not cheap. My budget is 80K for a 1100SF home.

Also, this home is in an old area of the city where natural gas headers are at best an unknown variable but in some cases filled with sediment and sometimes collapsed. The contractor proposed going all electric since we are redoing the electric anyway. I'm not married to this idea, but not opposed to it if it is necessary, or I can get incentives from the electrical company.

I'm concerned about heating. The home appears to have had forced air in some of the home at some point. However, it doesn't appear to be balanced and is in really bad shape. This is a clean slate, even some of the sub-floors are being replaced. The contractor seems to think that each students room should have its own heating control, and suggests electric baseboard heating. I do like the fact that there would be less maintenance involved but the independent controls seem a little superfluous, and I was under the impression that electric baseboard heat is horribly inefficient. Since there is not a fluid medium with any heat capacity to speak of, if it is not running, it is not heating. I'll be putting in new R13 and brand new windows which will help, but I'm still not sure. I'd like to know what my other options are. Most homes I've worked in had an existing Hydoionic system to work off of. So the decision of what type of heating to use for both long term efficiency and reasonable (not minimal) upfront capital expenses somewhat eludes me.

  • ... each students room should have its own heating control, ... - Yes, for sure. Some people like 68F, some like 78F.
    – Mattman944
    Feb 8, 2020 at 16:55
  • 3
    Hot water with individual thermostatic controls on the radiators is pretty common.
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 8, 2020 at 17:02
  • 3
    I lived in student housing. People will become angry, even violent, if they can't set their own temperature. If you are flipping and won't be the person renting maybe you don't care. But a savvy buyer will avoid this property.
    – Mattman944
    Feb 8, 2020 at 17:36
  • 5
    Add insulation - by far the most effective
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 8, 2020 at 18:04
  • 1
    And don't forget to air-seal! Feb 8, 2020 at 18:10

3 Answers 3


A mini split system would likely meet your needs best. While it's obviously a lot more expensive to install you might be able to recoup at least some of the cost with a higher selling price.

Not sure if A/C is needed in your area, but of course you also get A/C with a mini split system. I believe a mini split system can only do heating or cooling at one time, not both.

Each indoor unit will have it's own thermostat, so that meets your need for individualized controls.

Baseboard heat also typically have room thermostats and usually run at line voltage. Programmable line voltage Tstats are available, but not very common.

Like Ecnerwal said, baseboard is considered 100% efficient, but not cost effective. Unless you are in a rare part of the country where electricity is cheap, operating electric baseboard heat will be very expensive.

One more thought, will the individual rooms be metered separately? I would guess not, which could lead to arguments among your tenants regarding splitting up the electric bill. Because a mini-split system would be so much less expensive to operate, they might not argue over the electric bill if that were installed.

  • Other methods (heat pump) do useful work (moving heat that's already there) with the energy you put into them. You also have to consider the inefficiency of power production and transmission. Feb 9, 2020 at 21:38
  • Thanks for the advice, I'm leaning towards 4 cold weather evaporators in the bedrooms and trying to balance the heat with vents in the walls and floors. Do you have any experience with these cold weather units? The location is Philadelphia, which is not extremely cold, but we have a few months below freezing and probably a handfull of days below 10F. Will these things be able to keep up?
    – mreff555
    Feb 17, 2020 at 15:11
  • I'm not familiar the the term "cold weather evaporators" so I did a quick google search and they seem related to air conditioning, not heating. I'd be cautious about using "vents in floors and walls" as they would allow sound/noise to easily pass between rooms. I would imagine your tenants would like more privacy than that. From your comments I would suggest you get a pro to give you a design, advice and installation. Feb 17, 2020 at 16:09

Electric baseboard is "100% efficient" - all the heat gets used in the house. It's also horribly expensive to operate, and not remotely the most efficient "all-electric" heat, which is a cold-climate heat pump(CCHP) that can be 250-300% efficient. Also known as mini-splits.

The only "advantage" electric baseboard has is that it's cheap to install. It can also cause fires if furniture or drapes are pushed too close to it.

Many utilities have rebate programs for installing a CCHP. Some states do as well.

Depending on utility rates, natural gas or CCHP are the most cost effective form of heat to operate in most places that have natural gas available. As far as I can discern from your question the area of concern for that would appear to be the domain of the gas utility, so perhaps they would be willing to investigate if you are considering connecting to their service.

  • 4
    But it's a flip, so "cheap to install" is what it's all about. And electric baseboard is insanely cheap. $50 a room for the heaters. I guarantee you that's what the contractor is saying. Feb 8, 2020 at 17:19
  • 1
    This is upstate east coast. It should be LNG. But it's a flip. It's going to be w/e you can cheaply and quickly run away from, screaming.
    – Mazura
    Feb 9, 2020 at 1:37

I would propose that the best overall solution that I see here is electric baseboard heating. Here are the reasons that I see to make this viable:

  1. Low upfront cost to install, both from a unit and labor cost.
  2. Very easy to allow for simple AC line style thermostats in each room to allow for room to room temperature adjustment.
  3. With multiple renters it is straightforward to pass the monthly electrical operational costs on to the renters.
  4. These days it should be possible to use smart WiFi attached smart thermostats to be able to monitor electrical usage to and use that data to split up the electric bill among individual renters.
  • 3
    In order to pass the costs along to the renters you'd need a meter (and separate breaker panel) for each unit -- reasonable for full sized apartments, but not so reasonable for compact units.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 9, 2020 at 2:55
  • 1
    In some jurisdictions, reselling electrical power requires a license, which the purchaser of the property may, or may not, desire, or be able to, acquire. How painful it is to pass the electrical costs on to the renters/students is going to depend on the jurisdiction and how any monitoring is done. Without actual separate living units with individual meters to the electric service, it could be opening up a large can of worms.
    – Makyen
    Feb 9, 2020 at 3:48

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