The benefits of electric heating
Electric heating systems owe their popularity to the many advantages they offer. Moreover, they’re not only affordable, safe and comfortable, they’re also easy to use and energy-efficient.
According to a study published by Statistics Canada, electricity is used to heat nearly 40% of Canadian homes,1 and the vast majority of homes opt for electric baseboards.2 Electric heating is the most commonly used system in Quebec (85%), Newfoundland and Labrador (71%) and New Brunswick (66%).3
All electric heaters have the following in common: a housing, a resistor (often referred to as an element), an overheat control device (thermal protection), and contact cables. Some also have a simple ventilation mechanism to direct the heat generated.
Although it is the purview of recognized professionals, the installation of an electric heater or a series of electric heaters is much less complex than the installation of other components or a system that runs on oil or gas, for instance. In addition to the electrical connection, these methods require a supply pipe hook-up or a storage tank to store the fuel oil.
Electric heating is instantaneous. After adjusting the thermostat on the appliance or the wall, you’re ready to go! The unit responds immediately and silently unless it has a ventilation mechanism. All the energy required is then used at 100%, with no loss of energy during operation. The home or one of its rooms receives a uniform, enveloping warmth free of turbulence or the risk of gas contamination. Moreover, no unpleasant odours are produced.
Whether it’s a radiant, convection or forced-air electric heating system, you can control the temperature of the entire house with a single thermostat, or you can control the temperature of each room with individual thermostats. The use of programmable or non-programmable electronic thermostats makes it possible to adjust the temperature continually to match the setpoint. Comfort and energy savings are guaranteed.
Fully electric heating is safe and is the option contractors most often choose. Electric units are virtually maintenance-free and rarely break down, which further contributes to their energy savings.
Depending on their budget, new home buyers can choose electric baseboards, convectors or a forced-air system. The cost for a set of baseboard heaters and convectors for a single-family home can range from $650 to $4,000, depending on the number and size of the rooms and the units selected. Installation costs, which are less dependent on the configuration of the home, can easily run to $2,000. Heating costs are about $2,100 per year.
However, the fact that the cost of electricity doesn’t fluctuate as the cost of other forms of energy in response to market forces makes it even more attractive. The cost of electricity increases steadily over time but stays within a reasonable range.
INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE COSTS FOR MAJOR HEATING SYSTEMS
In 2018, natural gas heating costs were higher than electric heating costs. While the price of natural gas is more stable than that of oil, it is subject to volatility.
The hardware required to heat the home with natural gas, including the utility connection and labour, is about $4,000 to $6,600, including some incentive discounts offered by the utility. An annual service call by a technician and filter replacement cost an additional $250 per year. Natural gas, unlike oil, does not need to be stored. Most people also opt for a natural gas hot water tank.
Heating costs for a 2,400-square-foot home are roughly $1,350 with a furnace that runs at 80% efficiency. The price per cubic metre of natural gas tends to be more stable than the price of oil, but it is not immune to unexpected increases. Although accidents are rare, many people are concerned about the explosive nature of natural gas.
Boilers and furnaces have seen their heyday. Ubiquitous 50 years ago, their market share has dropped to 7% today. Besides, the price of heating oil is constantly fluctuating. The cost of electricity keeps pace with inflation, while the costs of fuel oil and natural gas vary more sharply.
OIl furnaces, which are still being sold, cost between $2,000 and $3,000 depending on the type of heating system selected. The tank and its installation cost about $1,300. In addition, some preventive maintenance and an annual service call by a technician, an average cost of $125, are required to keep the system running. With heating oil at $1.30 per litre, the cost of heating an average four-person home is estimated to be more than $3,000. The price of a litre of heating oil has no floor or ceiling value.
TRADITIONAL WOOD HEATING (BOILERS, STOVES AND FIREPLACES)
Without a doubt, heating with wood is the least expensive way to heat a house. Expect to pay around $1,000 to heat an average home with 10 to 15 cords of wood that cost $80 or more each.
Not only is this type of heating a source of pollution, depending on the type of furnace used, but it also requires considerable effort: storing the wood so that it dries properly, burning it regularly, removing the ash from the heating unit, etc., not to mention the temperature fluctuations that its use often entails.
Furthermore, wood-burning is facing more and more restrictions or prohibitions in a growing number of municipalities.
INFLATION AND ENERGY PRICE TRENDS IN QUEBEC
All clienteles combined, from 1963 to 2014
Index (1963 = 100)
Sources: Hydro-Québec, Régie de l’énergie, Bloomberg Cil Buyer’s Guide and Statistics Canada (2018 data for fuel oil and natural gas).
HOME HEATING SYSTEM COST CALCULATOR
Here’s a handy calculation tool from Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency you can use to estimate the approximate home heating costs for various heating systems.