When considering home upgrades, most people immediately think about a kitchen or bathroom remodel. Many envision hosting a cozy dinner party with friends and family in their sparkling new kitchens, outfitted with a modern oven, smooth marble countertops, and shiny new appliances. While kitchens are a fantastic place to start remodels, before beginning, you may want to consider going to the source — the fuel source powering that oven, those appliances. Switching from gas or oil to electricity will not only save you money in the long run, but it will also help safeguard your family’s health and the health of the planet.
Here’s what you need to know about electrifying your home.
What Is Home Electrification?
Put simply, home electrification is the process of transitioning all combustion-powered appliances (so, anything that uses oil or gas) to electricity-powered ones.
The switch is sometimes referred to as “strategic electrification” or “beneficial electrification” because it gives your home much more flexibility in how it’s powered. By enabling your home to be powered 100% by electricity, you can opt for utility-provided power or rooftop solar and battery storage.
Why You Should Consider Home Electrification
There are numerous environmental arguments in favor of electrifying your home, including the reduction of your carbon footprint. But what many homeowners don’t realize is that when you start eliminating gas and combustion appliances in the home, you improve indoor air quality, which in turn protects your family against the detrimental effects of gas leaks and combustion-related gasses like carbon monoxide.
“Eliminating indoor combustion is one of the healthiest and safest investments you can make in your home,” says Rob Howard, founder of Howard Building Science and a Pearl Network Builder. “Anytime you’re burning fuel indoors, there’s a health and safety concern, and this includes wood-burning fireplaces, gas water heaters and stoves, and other fuel-based appliances.”
Howard explained that one of the reasons he and Pearl recommend home electrification is because fuel-powered appliances aren’t adequately maintained.
“Most Americans do a better job maintaining their cars than their gas stoves, which is understandable,” says Howard. “If you’re a car owner, you know that you must change your oil regularly or you run the risk of ruining your engine. But for fuel-powered appliances, such as gas stoves or water tanks, there’s no established baseline for regularly maintaining or inspecting these appliances, which poses many health and safety risks.”
Howard shared that switching to all-electric appliances is also much more reliable. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), over the past two decades, oil and gas pipelines in the U.S. resulted in over 5,700 significant incidents, causing 256 fatalities and 1,142 injuries. Incidents involving gas distribution pipelines, which carry natural gas to homes, businesses, and other consumer destinations, made up over 70% of fatalities and injuries recorded, and as our infrastructure continues to age, incidents will continue to increase and may become more severe, which can lead to significant supply disruptions.
“As our natural gas infrastructure ages, there are inherent challenges with safety. If you’re investing in home upgrades, your best investments are in electric appliances to ensure long-term reliability,“ says Howard.
In addition to environmental, health, and safety benefits, electrification can save you a lot of money. Natural gas prices fluctuate as it is, and as incidence of extreme weather increases, natural gas price swings may intensify. For example, prices can suddenly escalate when demand increases during excessively cold periods or when supply is disrupted by hurricanes and other extreme weather events.
When you electrify your home, you are more protected from these sudden surges in energy costs. Electrifying your home also means you can now power your home with renewable energy, such as solar, which continues to drop in price. This means you’ll be less reliant on the power grid, and your electricity costs should stabilize over time.
After installing a rooftop solar system, the amount of kWh you draw from the grid will be considerably lower. You can decrease this even further by connecting your solar system to battery storage so you can store solar energy during the day, then use that energy at night, for example. The cost of battery storage has also dropped substantially in recent years, adding to rooftop solar’s allure.
Related Post: Solar Energy: How to Get Started, Confidently
Great Ways to Electrify
Because heating and cooling uses so much energy, switching from an oil- or gas-powered furnace to a heat pump can significantly reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Rather than burning fossil fuel to generate heat, heat pumps move heat in and out of buildings, which makes them very environmentally friendly and beneficial to indoor air quality.
“Many people I speak to have reservations about heat pumps, especially in colder climates,” says Howard. “But what they don’t know is that heat pump technology has really come a long way, and they can be used in some of the coldest climates, even up in Canada.”
Investing in your heating and cooling systems, plus water heaters, will have the biggest impact. “If these systems are more than 10 years old, they are probably very inefficient and require a lot of maintenance,” says Howard. “If you invest in new technology, not only will you save by purchasing products that are much more efficient, you’ll also save money on repairs and have a lot more reliability.”
Related Post: Is a Heat Pump Right for Your Home?
Is Home Electrification Affordable?
While some electrification upgrades can be costly up front, most end up paying for themselves over time through a combination of saved energy costs and added resale value of the home. If you’re looking to get a quicker return on your investment, the good news is there are plenty of incentives out there designed to reduce your upfront costs.
The Inflation Reduction Act has set aside over $9 billion in federal rebates and tax credits that can be accessed for home electrification projects. States, utilities, and manufactures also offer rebates that help homeowners replace aging water heaters, furnaces, and air conditioners with electric equipment at reduced cost. Be sure to read our Rebates and Tax Credits Guide to get more ideas on how to save.
There’s also no need to electrify all at once. Instead, create a plan and timeline based on your budget and consider setting aside specific funds to make incremental improvements. “Many people I work with set up their home improvement plans around tax season,” says Howard. “If you get a tax return, you can use that money for your home upgrades.”
Related Post: Homeowner’s Guide to Energy-Efficiency Rebates and Tax Credits
Start Planning for Home Electrification
Electrifying your home can be a relatively painless experience. Developing a home improvement plan that focuses on setting goals can simplify things.
Pearl makes it easy to plan and fulfill those goals with our free Green Door app. Use Green Door to generate a customized Home Investment Plan (HIP) based on your home’s age, assets, and location, plus your own goals. Identify home performance improvements, such as solar or heat pump installation that will give you the most bang for your buck, and connect with Pearl Network Contractors for Pearl Certified installation.
Login to Green Door today to develop your customized Home Improvement Plan and begin your journey to an all-electric, sustainable, and more affordable home.