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Old 18.05.2008, 00:17
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To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

We found a house to buy that is perfect in everything -- except that it has electric heating (a boiler for hot water and electric floor heating on the ground floor plus simple electric radiators in bedrooms and bathrooms). The owners claim that the house is well-insulated and that their electricity bill does not exceed 350 CHF per month (the house has about 200 m2).

But to me this is terribly off-putting: back at home this kind of heating would be considered substandard as you would either pay enormous electricity bills to really heat the house in winter or be constantly freezing. Not to mention negative environmental impact of this type of heating.

Anyway, the real estate agent thought that we were crazy to base our decision on this one factor only. So I would appreciate if some of you could tell me what you think about this.
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Old 18.05.2008, 00:33
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

Your electricity bill may be huge but your oil bill is zero. All in all I don't think electric heating is that much more expensive than oil e.g. The main problem as I see it is the the dry indoor climate that it gives (but that may actually be good for the mold-infested houses in CH I'm just thinking....).

As for the environment aspect, Switzerland has mainly water- and nuclear produced electricity. If the alternative is oil-heating, I don't quite see the problem or why that would be better. Assuming of course that the heating system is up to date with oil-filled radiators etc so that you aren't wasting to much energy. And on the up-side, you can have as many lamps running as you want with no bad conscience :-)
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Old 18.05.2008, 00:56
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

You have to compromise somewhere - no house is going to be 100% perfect. So if you mean it when you say its perfect in every other aspect then maybe you just have to put up with the less than ideal heating situation.
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Old 18.05.2008, 01:09
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

I would definitely buy. Our house is heated with oil and you should see our oil bill. Friends of ours bought a house last September, remodeled it, and are now using electric heating. My friend just told me that their bill was 1800 for 6 months. Mind you we just finished winter and she will probably not have to pay that much for the second half of the year...AND her house is HUGE. 3 levels (not including cellar---which is not heated!) and 6 bedrooms and only the living room has floor heating.
So if you love the house, I say go for it. It is not easy to find a good house! And yes, houses here generally have very good insulation.

Environmental drawbacks? sorry, can't help you there.There might be some, but supposedly, in CH, we get electricity mainly from Hydro power plants? AT least my 11 year old daughter always tells me to relax about leaving the light on in her room all the time, when I tell her about how wasteful that was.....now I just have to say...welll, it still costs money!!!--- but maybe they don't teach her that at school?
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Old 18.05.2008, 09:30
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

I would ask to see the electricity bills for the last couple of years. CHF350/month max, but what is the average?

We have a small house 128sq metres heated by gas. The cost is approx CHF1100/year - most of the use coming through the winter months.

Electric heating using a heat pump to heat and for hot water is efficient, but electric cables under the floor to heat and oil-filled radiators are not.

As other poster have pointed out, in Switzerland at least, thanks to hydo-electric schemes electricity is relatively green and supplies are more secure and prices likely to rise less then gas or oil.

In the end it seems to me you will know your local housing market and thus can decide if such a house can be re-sold, this has always been my criteria for buying - or is the electric heating going to be a problem...
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Old 18.05.2008, 10:59
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

If the property fits all your criteria without taking heating into account then I would go for it. Nowhere is perfect and if you are lucky enough to have found somewhere in Geneva at the right price,area etc that is another reason to go ahead with this purchase.

My sister has electric heating and loves it. Underfloor heating is great if like walking round barefoot.
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Old 19.05.2008, 11:27
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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I would ask to see the electricity bills for the last couple of years. CHF350/month max, but what is the average?

Electric heating using a heat pump to heat and for hot water is efficient, but electric cables under the floor to heat and oil-filled radiators are not.

In the end it seems to me you will know your local housing market and thus can decide if such a house can be re-sold, this has always been my criteria for buying - or is the electric heating going to be a problem...
Thanks AbFab, this are exactly our thoughts. The way we see it, it is a lovely house but it does not have a heating system at all. There are only radiators and electric cables under the floor, no heat pump except for hot water for kitchen and bathrooms. So there is not even a possibility to relatively easily replace it with something more efficient. Back home, this type of heating no one would ever use except perhaps in a holiday home on the Mediterranean coast -- which you use only in the summer and possibly a few days in winter.

I would like to thank everyone for useful advice and I see the point in going for the house if everything else is perfect. But there is the resale potential factor, as AbFab mentioned. We discussed it a lot over the weekend and we think that the only reason the house has not been sold (it has been on the market for a few months now and we even found out that the price has dropped twice during that period) is the heating issue.

I understand that regulations in Vaud (the house is close to Nyon) do not proscribe electric heating like in Geneva, but only about 10% houses use this type of heating and the authorities would like to completely outphase it. So I would not be surprised if the authorities came up with a requirement to install a more energy-efficient heating system within a certain deadline (usually 5 or 10 years, but still). This house, although not detached, is not part of a 'co-propriete', which means that each owner is individually responsible for maintenance and there is no 'fond de renovation'. I can not even imagine how much it would cost to install a proper heating system. The owners invested a lot into renovating (the house was built in 1985), but not into putting any kind of normal heating in place. And I can not believe that they never considered it.

So we decided not to go for it. We believe that for that kind of money we can still find a house that is equally attractive and has a better heating solution. We have been looking for quite a while, so we are obviously not in a hurry. Our bottom line is that we buy only something with which we are entirely comfortable, and this house does not give us that kind of reassurance.
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Old 19.05.2008, 11:51
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

By heat pump I mean this: Wikipedia reference-linkhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_pump.

These are not popular in the US & UK mainly due to the initial cost, but are often used in 'Minergy' (low energy) houses in Switzerland. They function like a refrigerator in reverse extracting heat from either the outside air or from the ground, usually by deep bore hole. The heat pump somehow manages to produce 4 times the energy is uses as it moves heat but does not create it...
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Old 19.05.2008, 12:09
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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By heat pump I mean this: Wikipedia reference-linkhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_pump.

These are not popular in the US & UK mainly due to the initial cost, but are often used in 'Minergy' (low energy) houses in Switzerland. They function like a refrigerator in reverse extracting heat from either the outside air or from the ground, usually by deep bore hole. The heat pump somehow manages to produce 4 times the energy is uses as it moves heat but does not create it...
We considered it, but they take approximately 10-15 years to pay for themselves. Normally they provide a percentage of the heating but it still needs to be "topped up" with gas/electric. The cost of installing them is in the region of 15k.

350chf a month is a hell of a lot of electricity, that's about 20,000kw/h a month assuming a high cost of 18 rappen a unit? I would have thought it would have to be a cold winter to run up that cost. On another note we have had our gas heating on "nuke" setting all winter (I hadn't learnt how to use it) and our bill came in at 1800chf (I subsequently learnt how to use it very quickly).

My German is pretty poor, but according to Energie Uster you should be able to choose your provider soon, and Energie Uster are about half the price of the Zürich providers. I'm not sure if this extended to the French region but 175chf a month for all power requirements would be very good.
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Old 19.05.2008, 12:28
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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We found a house to buy that is perfect in everything -- except that it has electric heating (a boiler for hot water and electric floor heating on the ground floor plus simple electric radiators in bedrooms and bathrooms). The owners claim that the house is well-insulated and that their electricity bill does not exceed 350 CHF per month (the house has about 200 m2).

But to me this is terribly off-putting: back at home this kind of heating would be considered substandard as you would either pay enormous electricity bills to really heat the house in winter or be constantly freezing. Not to mention negative environmental impact of this type of heating.

Anyway, the real estate agent thought that we were crazy to base our decision on this one factor only. So I would appreciate if some of you could tell me what you think about this.
The key phrase here is "well-insulated". If the house is well insulated then your heating costs will be reduced as any heat that is generated is not going to go anywhere - it will stay in the house and you won't need more generated to replace it.

Our current flat is well insulated and although we have underfloor heating in the bedrooms, we have never, ever turned it on.

We're getting a new min-energie place also with electric underfloor heating and this is from a company that specialising in Eco-houses. I don't think you've got anything to worry about.
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Old 19.05.2008, 13:31
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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By heat pump I mean this: Wikipedia reference-linkhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_pump.

These are not popular in the US & UK mainly due to the initial cost, but are often used in 'Minergy' (low energy) houses in Switzerland. They function like a refrigerator in reverse extracting heat from either the outside air or from the ground, usually by deep bore hole. The heat pump somehow manages to produce 4 times the energy is uses as it moves heat but does not create it...
OK, that is 'pompe à chaleur' and it is very popular in Switzerland as it apparently significantly reduces heating costs in the long run. No, this house does not have that, it has wall-attached electric radiators in bedrooms and electric floor heating in the living room and kitchen.
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Old 19.05.2008, 14:55
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

Why not make an offer with CHF35,000 - 50,000 knocked off for the heating? But I imagine that if the price is already been dropped twice this has been taken into consideration.

We did look up the cost of changing our oil heating system to an air pump system. The price was CHF17,000 (this system is not the type that they need to dig a big hole in the ground!). But in the end, we thought it's not really worth the money to change it. We spend about CHF2000 per year currently for heating oil.

This price did not include putting radiators in as we would just need to hook up the new system to the old network. I would guess CHF 30-35,000 for the system and installing radiators would do the trick.
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Old 19.05.2008, 15:06
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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Why not make an offer with CHF35,000 - 50,000 knocked off for the heating? But I imagine that if the price is already been dropped twice this has been taken into consideration.

We did look up the cost of changing our oil heating system to an air pump system. The price was CHF17,000 (this system is not the type that they need to dig a big hole in the ground!). But in the end, we thought it's not really worth the money to change it. We spend about CHF2000 per year currently for heating oil.

This price did not include putting radiators in as we would just need to hook up the new system to the old network. I would guess CHF 30-35,000 for the system and installing radiators would do the trick.
Radiators work out to average about 1000chf each fitted (including new pipes etc). It's incredibly disruptive fitting them though because the walls have to be dug out to accommodate the pipes, re-plastered and repainted.
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Old 19.05.2008, 17:43
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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Radiators work out to average about 1000chf each fitted (including new pipes etc). It's incredibly disruptive fitting them though because the walls have to be dug out to accommodate the pipes, re-plastered and repainted.
Yes, this is what would need to be done, since the house does not have any pipes at all. I think it would be huge work -- but if I thought that this could be done for 35,000 CHF I would be willing to get into negotiations on the price of the house.

Of course, I have no idea how much it would be, but judging by the price of installing one additional electric socket in newly-built houses (250 -350 CHF), or connecting the washing machine (500 CHF), then to install the entire central heating system could, I imagine, run up to 100,000 CHF. And would probably take months. Has anyone actually done that and can tell me if I am wildly off the mark here?
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Old 19.05.2008, 17:58
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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Yes, this is what would need to be done, since the house does not have any pipes at all. I think it would be huge work -- but if I thought that this could be done for 35,000 CHF I would be willing to get into negotiations on the price of the house.

Of course, I have no idea how much it would be, but judging by the price of installing one additional electric socket in newly-built houses (250 -350 CHF), or connecting the washing machine (500 CHF), then to install the entire central heating system could, I imagine, run up to 100,000 CHF. And would probably take months. Has anyone actually done that and can tell me if I am wildly off the mark here?
I have done it and you are wildly off the mark.

We spent about 20k (from memory) for a 160 meter squared house, this includes 12 new radiators of varying size and a new high end Junkers Gas Boiler. We didn't replace the hot water tank because we didn't need to. I guess you'd add 10-15k to this if you want a heat pump.

We did have the walls open anyway so no additional cost associated with patching up after, this could easily run into 5-10k extra I guess.

TBH I'm not sure it's worth it, the electric system sounds ok.

EDIT: why don't you ask for copies of their electric bill for the last few years?

Last edited by peachy; 19.05.2008 at 18:12.
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Old 19.05.2008, 18:22
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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We considered it, but they take approximately 10-15 years to pay for themselves. Normally they provide a percentage of the heating but it still needs to be "topped up" with gas/electric. The cost of installing them is in the region of 15k.

350chf a month is a hell of a lot of electricity, that's about 20,000kw/h a month assuming a high cost of 18 rappen a unit? I would have thought it would have to be a cold winter to run up that cost. On another note we have had our gas heating on "nuke" setting all winter (I hadn't learnt how to use it) and our bill came in at 1800chf (I subsequently learnt how to use it very quickly).

My German is pretty poor, but according to Energie Uster you should be able to choose your provider soon, and Energie Uster are about half the price of the Zürich providers. I'm not sure if this extended to the French region but 175chf a month for all power requirements would be very good.
Our house is heated with JUST a heat-pump. For Hot Water, we have Solar but when this is not working, then the Heat-pump steps in and gives us Hot water.

Adding Solar heating is quite cost effective. The heat-pump is more expensive, plus for that you would have to change to 'water' radiators or under floor system.

Locally they generate electricity by burning wood
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Old 19.05.2008, 18:36
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

Peachy, thanks for this useful information. We did ask for electricity bills, so we will see how it goes.
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Old 19.05.2008, 18:37
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Re: To buy or not to buy: house with electric heating?

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So we decided not to go for it. We believe that for that kind of money we can still find a house that is equally attractive and has a better heating solution. We have been looking for quite a while, so we are obviously not in a hurry. Our bottom line is that we buy only something with which we are entirely comfortable, and this house does not give us that kind of reassurance.
You have done a very good analysis by yourself already.

I agree that you should make the decision when you & your family are entirely comfortable. Buying a house is a very big decision if not life time decision. You'll blame yourself seriously if anything wrong happening with the heating system in the future...."We should not have bought the house, We should have known about that..." would be in your minds all the time.

good luck.
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