Switch. That’s what you can count on. The world is changing, so it makes sense that our homes should change too. Electrifying your home is big picture – decarbonizing, reducing reliance on foreign oil – but also personal. Electrifying your home can make it more comfortable, improve indoor air quality and lower your monthly bills. It’s a good change.
Change is easier in small increments. Need a new device? Start there. Opt for an induction cooktop rather than a gas one. Not only will you electrify your home, you’ll cook faster – water boils in 4 minutes compared to 7 or 8 minutes with electric coils or a gas stove. Not only are they fast, but they are safe. Since they only heat items containing iron particles, a misplaced tea towel will never catch fire. And you can’t beat their energy efficiency – 85-90% of the heat they produce is used for cooking (compared to the 65-70% range for electric and gas heaters).
Another easy step is to replace an aging gas grill with an electric grill. Electric grills never run out of fuel and are much easier to clean. Plus, on a health note, they don’t create carcinogens. The downside is that you can’t quite get the same flavor as with a flame.
Under construction or ready for a new fireplace insert? Think electric. Most electric inserts plug into a standard 120 volt outlet – a dedicated circuit at the outlet is preferred but not always required. With these inserts, the advantages are numerous. Electric fireplaces can be used in summer (flame effect without heat), they do not release harmful gases into the room and they are safe for children and pets – no surface heats up and causes accidental burns. Another advantage? They are extremely efficient – converting electricity into heat with 99% efficiency compared to the 60-80% efficiency of gas or wood burning fireplaces. And they are cheap. The heatless flame effect costs 50 cents per month to operate. Add heat and running costs increase to around $7.80 per month. The savings don’t stop there. The maintenance of the electric fireplace is practically non-existent. No chimney sweeping, no monitoring for carbon monoxide leaks from fuel lines. Maintaining an electric fireplace insert is as simple as changing a few light bulbs every two years.
The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly over the past 10 years. It used to be that the cost of installing solar panels on your home was $80,000, but now it’s dropped to $20,000 or less after tax credits and incentives. But it’s still a lot. Not only is the upfront cost high, but like everything in real estate, the decision to go solar is location, location, location. Are you in an area that gets lots of sun? Is your roof facing south or west? Without the right exposure, the effort is wasted. If you are located in the right place, the next question is how big are the savings? In our area, it is estimated that there is an average savings of $3,000 over a period of 20 years after the solar installation. The math says it’s still feel-good tech, but given the jumps at the pump lately, who knows what the future holds.
Another chance to electrify your home could come when your water heater breaks down. If this happens, consider a heat pump water heater. They look like a typical water heater but use electricity instead of gas (working like an upside-down refrigerator). Like many electrical appliances, they are super efficient – using 3.5 to 6 times less energy than gas. Most require a dedicated 240V circuit, but since water heaters are often located in the mechanical room near the panel, running a dedicated circuit isn’t always a huge expense. If you choose a model that requires 15 amps of electricity or less, you have a better chance of the water heaters electrical requirements fitting into your existing panel. Also, choose a larger size. Since electricity takes longer to heat water than gas, a few extra gallons will buffer the delay. Like most energy-efficient changes to our homes, there are incentives to help cover the additional upfront costs. A $300 federal tax credit and local utility company rebates are available for replacing gas water heaters in addition to rebates for upgrading your electrical panel if needed.
The change is here, it’s time to make the most of it.
Jeff Stock is the owner of Elk Ridge Electric in Billings.