Personal Finance

How to Electrify Your Home and Use Clean Energy

hands on electric cooktop

From taking a hot shower in the morning to preparing your evening meal, you probably use more heat and energy than you realize. Energy consumption in the United States has been climbing, but in 2018, it reached an all-time high. Nearly 12% of that expenditure was a result of residential consumption: things like cooking, drying clothes, and heating your home and water.

Most homes in the U.S. either use natural gas or electricity as an energy source, and the split is almost even. As environmental concerns rise, more homeowners and builders are looking to make eco-friendly modifications to reduce their carbon footprint. 

One trend is the “electrify everything” movement, in which people make the switch from natural gas to electricity as their primary energy source. Electric power has already made a name for itself in the auto industry with electric vehicles, so what does the future of home energy look like? Jump to the infographic to learn more. 

What does it mean to electrify?

Energy use in the U.S. has undergone many changes over the past century. Renewable energy alone has tripled since 1950. As it becomes more readily available, we could see a major overhaul in the energy landscape. The “electrify everything” movement aims to reduce carbon emissions to eventually zero by using cleaner energy. 

Examples of going electric are switching to a heat pump rather than a furnace, buying an induction cooktop, and using an electric dryer or even a clothesline to dry your clothes. To take a step further toward clean energy, many homeowners also install solar panels to power their homes. Installing solar panels can increase the value of your home and reduce your energy bills, but you’ll also need to consider how they’ll affect your homeowner's insurance.

One out of four homes already run completely on electric power, mostly in the South. However, this energy may not necessarily be cleaner just yet because it still takes burning fossil fuels to produce electricity. Efforts are being made to clean up the grid that we receive electricity from, mostly by replacing production with renewable sources like solar and wind. Proponents for electrification argue that we shouldn’t wait until the grid is completely clean to make the switch. 

Benefits of electrification

Electrifying may not be for everyone but the potential benefits of electrifying your home can have larger impacts, especially as cleaner energy is made available. 

1. Reducing your carbon footprint

Electrifying your transportation with an electric vehicle, or even hybrid vehicle, helps reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and smog. Why not transfer those benefits to your home? Electrifying your home is one way to reduce your carbon footprint and there are many other green updates you can make to conserve energy at home. 

2. Diversifying the energy grid

In the U.S., energy consumption spans industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial uses. Moving toward a diversified energy grid can lead to economic growth, less political dependence, and environmental benefits. A greater mix of both renewable and nonrenewable energy sources will also help with affordability. 

3. Increasing home safety

While the gas leaks are rare, indoor air quality is a concern in American homes using natural gas. Simple activities like boiling water or cooking on your gas stove can release harmful emissions into the air. Proper ventilation like installing a range hood with an outdoor exhaust or opening a window are ways to keep levels down. Electric appliances don’t release harmful emissions, don’t have open flames, and don’t require a gas line. 

Arguments against electrification

While many in support of the electric trend advocate switching from natural gas as a “cleaner” use of energy, others argue that the switch will raise energy costs without impactful change on the environment. Currently, even electric production requires fossil fuels and emits greenhouse gasses. Other cases against electrification include:

1. Slow adoption

Contractors and home builders have a larger say in what energy sources and appliances are used in new homes. The standard has mostly been natural gas since it’s often cheaper and what builders are used to. Switching to new technologies can be slow, but increased demand can help speed up the process. 

2. Lack of incentives

Currently, there is little legislative incentive to switch since current programs favor fossil fuel technologies. The cost is high to switch and electricity tends to be more expensive than natural gas so individuals aren’t financially motivated to convert. Tax credits and rebates could help incentivize the switch. 

3. Conversion costs

For homeowners looking to make the switch, the cost of buying new appliances and converting their natural gas homes to electricity is also a major drawback. Generally, gas and electric stoves are comparable in price but other appliances cost more to run on electricity. When it comes to converting your lines to electric, some estimates to cap off gas lines sit at $350 per line which could quickly add up. Replacing your furnace may cost thousands of dollars to purchase a new one and install it.

The path toward an electric future

It would be a costly investment to propose homeowners completely convert their gas lines to electric. Instead, advocates for electrification recommend making the switch at a natural time like when your furnace needs to be replaced or during your next home-remodel project. Like with all lifestyle changes, you can take smaller steps to reducing your energy use. 

New construction builds are also the perfect time to make the call on what appliances and energy source to use. If you plan to build your own home, talk through your options with your contractor and work out a plan for your family. 

Many “electrify everything” supporters are pushing for policy changes to incentivize the switch to electricity. Initiatives like updating building codes and implementing programs that encourage electric energy use could be a place to start. On a smaller level, local governments or utility companies could offer rebates for homes that run on all electric power. More extreme measures have been taken in some cities like banning natural gas in new buildings. 

No matter where your energy comes from, the best way to limit your carbon footprint is to reduce your energy use at home. Even if everyone went electric, our consumption would still have to decrease to provide the largest environmental benefits. Another benefit of conserving energy is that it can save you money on your utility bills. To cut costs in other areas of your life, compare your home insurance options and find out ways to save.

Infographic

Sources

US Energy Information Administration | Energy.gov | IEA | Vox

The ZebraResource Center