All About Electric Heat, Gas Heat, and Heat Pump Systems

July 28, 2015 by Chris Drake

Here at BIG RED DOG we put the H in HVAC to meet our clients’ needs.

For small office, retail, and multifamily construction, three types of heating systems work well in conjunction with package DX or split system DX cooling: electric heat, gas heat, and heat pump systems. So which one to choose? Many factors go into choosing the right heating system for each building. We must assess and compare capital cost, operating cost, and climate factors to determine the economics of each system.

Heat pump systems have higher initial costs due to the need for specific controls and hardware as well as auxiliary electric heat coils, which increase the electrical demand of the system.  Gas heat systems have higher initial costs due to the hefty steel coils and extra piping from the building gas service to the air handling units. Electric heat systems have lower initial costs due to simplicity of design.

Sample Heat Pump System
Sample Heat Pump Coil 

Electric and gas heat systems have higher operating costs. Electric heat coils generate heat with electricity with an efficiency rate near 100%. Gas heat systems are about 80% efficient because they use combustion to generate heat. The local cost of electricity and natural gas helps determine the option with the lower operating cost. Heat pump systems have lower operating costs because the systems move heat into a building from outside instead of working to generate its own heat. Heat pump systems can move three times more thermal energy than electrical energy required to function.

Sample of an electric heat pump
Sample of an electric heat coil


Sample of a Gas Heat Pump
Sample of a Gas Heat Coil

The most important factor when considering a heating system is climate. In general, gas heat systems are better suited to cooler climates, and electric heat and heat pump systems are better suited to warmer climates. Although Texas is very warm, the oil-friendly economic climate makes it possible to use any type of heating system.

There are several factors to consider when designing a heating system. BIG RED DOG’s heating designs will satisfy thermal comfort while optimizing our clients’ economic needs.


Your project needs Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineers who have done this before. Our MEP team has completed the HVAC, electrical, and plumbing design for hundreds of apartments, office buildings, and related development projects. Contact us today to learn how we can help your next project be a great success.

Written by Chris Drake

Chris Drake

Chris Drake is the Plumbing Discipline Leader at BIG RED DOG. He received a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY and is a registered P.E. His professional experience includes the design of plumbing and HVAC systems in the campus, institutional, sports, federal, and manufacturing markets. His is also experienced in design/build, construction administration, and is a member of ASHRAE and ASPE. Chris originally hails from the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Outside of work, Chris enjoys exploring Austin and the surrounding hill country, traveling, and supporting the Buffalo Bills.